Literary Liaisons

A blog about writing and all things story…


BOO! Don't scare the agents.

BOO! Don’t scare the agents.

If you’ve ever been to a writer’s conference where there are agents and publishers who accept pitches, then you know what speed-pitching is. Everyone is nervous, holding their notes, sweating, pacing, memorizing their short pitch as if it were the end of the world and the beginning of the next, which of course for the very few it is. Having your pitch go well and receiving  a request for your manuscript is exhilarating. I’ve been there. But I’ve also been there to see hundreds of writers be rejected. It isn’t pretty.  It’s important that we writers take ourselves seriously, but seriously, speed pitching is not for the faint of heart.  Don’t be afraid, and for heaven’s sake, don’t scare the agents. 

A few years ago at one conference where I worked as a volunteer a woman who wrote a novel, pitched it to her favorite agent who declined to review her work saying, ‘it’s just not for me’. This is a standard response and doesn’t mean anything personal (usually) it’s just ‘not for them’, like a classic western is not for a sci-fi agent (which is why researching your target agent is critical). But instead of moving on to the next agent, Plan B, she sat in the bar at the conference hotel and got gut-bloody-blasted for the next two days. She cried, no, sobbed into her wine in the lobby bar in front of everyone, bemoaning that agent who rejected her. That poor agent stayed clear of the lobby, the bar and any and all festivities for fear of running into that rejected writer.  

Speed-pitching at a conference is a lot like American Idol; people either come out of the pitch room with smiles, tears of happiness, or shouting, threatening to beat someone up, kicking the registration wall (me standing behind it) and demanding a refund for the entire conference because, as he made clear, “You’re all just stupid!”

Suffices to say, some writers don’t handle rejection well. Is it any wonder some agents may be reluctant to attend these pitch sessions?  Have you ever given any thought to what the agent/publisher experiences?

Read this excerpt of the Writer’s Digest article titled  ANSWERS TO 14 QUESTIONS YOU’RE TOO AFRAID TO ASK LITERARY AGENTSby Barbara Poelle – I laughed out loud when I came to the section about speed-pitching. wd

Dear Agent:  What do you really think of speed-pitching events at conferences? Do you secretly hate them? And how many of your new authors do you find at writing conferences, versus the slush pile, versus other methods?

Well, let’s see. Here are some things that have happened to me at speed-dating-style pitch sessions:

• After I said I would not be interested in looking at a man’s poetry collection, he said he would kill himself—and the police had to be called.

•  An octogenarian and his wife pitched his mystery and she mouthed his memorized pitch next to him the whole time he talked, and then clapped and cried when he was done—and I had to sit there knowing from the start that a 42,000-word World War II mystery (which is far too short to be viable, for starters) was something I was for sure about to say no to. To this octogenarian’s life dream. In front of his lifelong soul mate. Thank goodness the bar was within sprinting distance.

• A woman sat down across from me and opened with, “Jesus already told me you would be my agent, so I’m not nervous at all.” I said, “That’s weird, when we had coffee the other day, he didn’t mention you.” And then I chuckled. She did not. And then my bladder loosened a bit in fear. To read the rest of the article click here…

So next time you think about speed-pitching, think about what the agent is experiencing, and seriously, don’t take yourself so serious, just move on to plan B, C,D,E,F… this article on how to survive rejection and remember;

Twilight was rejected 14 times – J K Rowling of Harry Potter fame was rejected by five publishers – Stephen King’s first five novels were rejected numerous times – the script for M.A.S.H, one of the most successful television series in history, was rejected 21 times – Dr Seuss rejected 23 times! Keep pitching and don’t frighten the agents with easily loosened bladders; that’s not pretty either.


  1. Deevra Norling
    May 4, 2013

    LOL – brilliant post and love the humour. To be honest, I’ve never heard of speed pitching!

    • Mindy
      May 4, 2013

      Deevra, Thanks for visiting my blog and taking the time to comment. Pitching is an activity found at most large writers conferences where writers seek an agent for their completed works. If pitching is of interest, I wrote more about it on a previous post at – Lit-Liaz- pitching.
      And here’s a good Writer’s Digest article on pitching an agent, if you’re interested. Cheers, Mindy

  2. Chubby Chatterbox
    April 6, 2013

    I’ve gone to several conferences and pitched various projects, but until now I haven’t really thought about this process from the agent’s point of view. Thanks for the perspective.

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This entry was posted on April 6, 2013 by in Uncategorized.
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