Convention Report: Pitch-A-Palooza 2012

Earlier this month, at the RT Booklovers Convention, we hosted our first annual Pitch-A-Palooza. Billed as “speed dating for authors and editors and agents,” it was a chance for authors to spend three minutes pitching their next project, book or series to agents and editors in one-on-one sessions. The atmosphere in the room was very friendly, which helped newbie aspiring authors feel comfortable pitching and although there were long lines to meet some of the agents and editors, things moved swiftly and smoothly. The event had over forty agents and editors in attendance, and authors got a chance to pitch an average of about twelve times.

But it wasn’t just about the three minutes when authors were chatting with the editors that were important, the event also had a special Pitch, Feedback & Advice Booth at the center of the room, where a literary agent, Hollywood producer, media personality and image advisor were happy to help aspiring and published authors polish their pitch, to make sure that they were doing the most with the time they had available.

And what did the agents and editors think of the event? We got a chance to chat with several of them after the end of Pitch-A-Palooza and they shared their takeaway!

Alicia Condon, the editorial director of Kensington, told us that she thought that one of the strengths of the event was that, in person, you pay more attention and it’s more immediate (as opposed to email pitches which pile up and it’s easy to put them off). Condon said that she was pitched a wide range of genres including romantic suspense and women’s fiction. But one author that really stood out to the editor was a woman who had taken the time to research the books that Condon publishes and compared her manuscript to one of Condon’s authors. This showed that she had done her research and was truly serious about trying to land a contract with Kensington.

Agent Kristin Nelson from Nelson Literary Agency had a busy afternoon at Pitch-A-Palooza where she requested 12 partials from authors looking for representation. Ranging from YA to contemp to paranormal romance, Nelson said she was most impressed by a humorous sci fi pitch. One thing that the agent found, however, is that several authors pitched her romances without enough conflict.

Samhain’s Editorial Director, Heather Osborn, said that at Pitch-A-Palooza she heard a lot about paranormal erotica that featured psychics (as opposed to the vampires and werewolves that are so popular right now). Osborn said that while being able to discuss your story intelligently and succinctly was important she also knows “that sometimes the level of the pitch and the excellence of the story don’t match and we really are looking for great books.” And in order to judge the books, not by their pitch, but by their content, Osborn says that any book that fit with what Samhain is currently publishing was requested.

Sourcebooks Editor Leah Hultenschmidt said that she heard a lot of Young Adult pitches. She revealed that she requested between three and four partial or full manuscripts at the event and was particularly impressed with “the people who came in with something that was different but immediately sounded good for the market.”

Miriam Kriss from the Irene Goodman Literary Agency said that she heard from writers attempting to sell everything from romance to Young Adult to fantasy and sci fi. Eventually Kriss did request two fulls, a steampunk story and a contemporary YA. What stood out for her with these tales was that they have three-dimensional characters that will hook readers. Kriss says that it is important for writers to ditch cliches and give their characters humanity. Something she also suggests is that during a pitching session is that writers be as clear as possible and begin the pitch with the story’s genre.

Eric Ruben, from Ruben Literary Agency, said that he was surprised to get fewer pitches for historical romances than he expected, and the majority of stories he heard about were YA and paranormal books. However, there was a non-romance that he was interested in. Ruben said that he always likes getting a chance to meet potential clients in person, because, he told us, “part of what matters is the kind of person who is pitching, in this job it’s not just about the book, it’s a work relationship that matters and when you meet in person you get a sense of each other.” He really liked seeing so many aspiring authors who had full manuscripts and “understand that this is a business.” Ruben said that there were several “pitchees” who were very smart about marketing themselves.

Angela James of Carina Press told us that during Pitch-A-Palooza, she saw an overwhelming amount of paranormal shifter romance. James ended up requesting all of the stories that fit within the guidelines of Carina Press, however, she does require that a full manuscript be ready to read. James also let us know what got her attention in the sometimes noisy room. “I look for authors who give clear hooks, sum up their stories quickly and the absolute most important thing is if the writer has confidence in their book.”

All in all, Pitch-A-Palooza was a great success and a chance for authors, agents and editors to build good connections! If you’re an aspiring author looking to learn more about the do’s and don’ts of getting published, be sure to check out our Aspiring Authors Page.