Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My first book pitch

Uh, no, we're not talking baseball!
Myra here. Oh. My. Talk about naive! I’ve lost count of how many conferences I attended before I had the vaguest idea of what it meant to pitch a manuscript to an editor or agent! I suspected something significant was going on when I’d notice writers sidling up to editors and shrewdly sort of segue into a short synopsis of their work-in-progress.

But seriously??? The audacity!

The first clue I had that all this sidling and segueing was de rigueur was in 2001 at my second Mount Hermon conference. As at other conferences, attendees were given the opportunity to sign up for one-on-one appointments with editors and/or agents. And, as at other conferences, my initial thought was, “And what, pray tell, would I EVER IN A MILLION YEARS have to say to such an important person???”

But that year, fortunately, I was attending the conference with the ladies in my critique group, two of whom were published and who actually knew what they were doing. I watched in silent awe as one of them approached a big-name editor from a well-known Christian publishing house and began glibly describing the premise of her book. The editor nodded with interest and invited her to submit the manuscript.

Oooookay. Pitching to an editor. You get him interested. He says send the proposal. That’s how this is supposed to work, huh?

But moi? You want ME to try this? Uh-uh, no way!

So I let another entire conference go by with little more than timid smiles at the editors whose paths I happened to cross, while hoping and praying they’d NEVER ask me to talk about my book! (No worries there. All the glib and audacious writers successfully monopolized the editors’ time. )

Fast-forward to Houston 2003, my first national American Christian Romance Writers conference. That year I had a book manuscript I actually felt hopeful about. So I swallowed my fears (well, not really) and signed up for an appointment with the editor my research had told me would most likely be interested in a story like mine.

My appointment was at 2:00 Saturday afternoon, so I had all day Friday and all Saturday morning to get really nervous. I had a list of pitching guidelines in my folder that someone had generously posted to the loop prior to the conference, and I knew the important points I should share about my story. But no way did I have an “elevator pitch” perfectly memorized! I just prayed God would give me the words I needed when the time came.

Pass the tissues, please!
Finally it was time to meet the editor. Donning my most professional demeanor, I sat down across from her and introduced myself. Then I confessed my inexperience and nervousness, after which I promptly burst into tears!

Not an auspicious first-ever appointment experience.

I’ll always be grateful for this editor’s patience and understanding. Her first instinct (a good one) was to offer me some of her peanut M&Ms. My response (a bad one) was to say, “No, thank you.” (I LOVE PEANUT M&Ms!)

Anyway, somehow I muddled through a description of the book I wanted to propose. She politely declined, saying she didn’t think it was quite what they were looking for. I thanked her, and that was that.

Bummer, huh? My first book pitch a total bust.

Not really. I’d tested the waters, broken the ice, conquered (or at least temporarily subdued) my worst fears. Next time, at least, I’d know what to expect.

Most importantly, I learned editors don’t live to rip off authors’ heads and fling them over the edge of the highest cliff. Editors (agents, too) are real people, not inapproachable luminaries enthroned on high. Most of them (in the Christian book market, anyway) are actually quite supportive and encouraging and want to see you succeed.

As for the manuscript the editor passed on, time (and lots of revisions) heals all wounds. I’m happy to say the story went on to win the 2005 RWA Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Romance Manuscript. Autumn Rains was published by Heartsong Presents in 2009, and was named a Short Contemporary Romance finalist for the 2010 Carol Award. If you’re doing the math, that was seven years after my originally unsuccessful pitch, which just proves you should never, never, never give up!


If you haven’t yet read Autumn Rains, you could win your own autographed copy of the utterly fantabulous book passed up all those years ago by a certain editor who shall remain nameless. Just mention your interest in a comment to be entered in the drawing.
You can also find Autumn Rains in the Barbour Publishing three-in-one collection Gateway Weddings. Three Missouri women enter the gateway to life, love, and longing. Valerie Bishop, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, is afraid to leave her home. Can ex-con Healy Ferguson show her the path to freedom? Sailor Kern is enamored of romance author Chandler Michaels. Will she fall for his lines or find a real hero in Parker Travis? Jilly Gardner has reluctantly agreed to help out her estranged foster parents. Will Cam Lane help the family heal the breach? Will these three couples be open to the plan God has for their lives—and loves?


  1. My first pitch appointment went well, but I've bombed a few since then. There's also one agent that I would move to a different side of the street if I saw her, given how poorly I did.

  2. My experiences thus far have been neither brilliant nor complete bombs. I've gotten requests for submissions from them, but no golden ring yet.

    I love Myra's story, though, because I empthize with her emotional state.

    The coffee pot is set.


  3. Myra, you're my hero for sharing that. I haven't been to a conference yet but I'm afraid I'll have the opposite problem of bursting into tears. I'm afraid I'll start talking and my "nervous chatter" mode will kick in and I won't shut up, or be able to shut up, LOL.
    Seriously, my counselor in college at the end of my third session set his pad down and said "You know, Nancy, you don't have to tell me everything that happens in your life." :-p He really was a great therapist though, but I still laugh about it when I remember.

  4. What a hilarious first experience! I'm glad it all turned out in the end. Your three in one romance certainly sounds entertaining.

  5. My first pitch appointment was a crazy. I told the editor she didn't have dragon talons like everyone led me to believe. Then, the cell phone I had borrowed from my brother only the night before continued to ring. I couldn't figure out how to turn it off. And of course, it was my husband who was driving around the parking lot waiting for me to come out. Of course, I told him to pick me up a half hour later, and of course, he didn't hear that. And of course when I didn't answer the phone he interrupted my pitch appointment with our little chicks in tow. LOL! I did get a full request out of the deal, but given I had no idea what revisions were at the time it's no wonder the editor never responded. *g*

  6. I was nervous for you when you said 2PM Saturday! I've had early pitch appts and those really late ones, at the late ones, the agents always act strangely, it's like their mind is numb and they say strange things.

  7. I'm looking forward to attending my first conference this year (yes, another first), so I haven't had the pleasure of doing a book pitch yet.

    My bathroom mirror has heard several versions, though!

    So, should I gather from the advice here that I should take along plenty of tissues, some peanut m&m's to offer to the editor while I finish crying, and wear a mask in case I bomb completely?

    I think I'll keep practicing in front of the bathroom mirror...


    Myra, thanks for sharing - and I'd love to win an autographed copy of Autumn Rains!

    I brought chocolate chip cookies for the late nighters...have one or two with a glass of milk for a bed-time snack!


    Is it okay to laugh?? When you burst into tears I started laughing at my keyboard! Isn't that just the way it goes- we prepare and prepare and then our body says, 'nope, I think I'd rather CRY.' Or burp or have to go the bathroom...

    I've never had a pitch appointment and I hope I never, never will. Is it possible to get published without one? It soudns awful. Like a 60 second job interview that you've prepped two years of your life for and has about a 2% chance.

  9. Christina, your story made me shudder, but that editor sounds smart to ask for a full. My opinion is that anybody who works or has little kids (or does anything other than sit on the couch eating chocolate) AND writes with all of that, must really, really want to be published. That's drive.

  10. I loved your post! I can totally sympathize with you and your first editor appt. But, you made it through and persevered and now you're published! Thanks for sharing your story and I would love to win a copy of your book! Thanks for a chance!
    tscmshupe [at] pemtel [dot] net

  11. I loved your post! I can totally sympathize with you and your first editor appt. But, you made it through and persevered and now you're published! Thanks for sharing your story and I would love to win a copy of your book! Thanks for a chance!
    tscmshupe [at] pemtel [dot] net

  12. Can I ever relate! The first time I pitched to A REAL NEW YORK EdiTOR I was such a clueless newbie -- he told me not to quit my day job!!! :)

  13. I went to my first agent and editor appointments with the idea that I would just chat and learn, not with the idea it was do or die for me or my manuscript. I only got nervous when I arrived and started waiting and saw the terrorized faces around me.

    I'd definitely recommend going in green and getting that first pitch out of the way.

    seriously, I feel worse for editors and agents who sit and face an endless parade of people who are either a wreck, pushy or clueless or, like everyone here, I'm sure, coming in with big dreams. How exhausting! Sure they are hoping to find something they can be excited about but it must make for a long day.

  14. Myra, you're my new hero. You are braaaavvve!!!! I got an upset tummy just reading the title of your blog! That dreaded pitch is something I can't see me ever having the guts to do!!! My terror is that great that I'm actually relieved that I haven't been able to attend a conference!

    And it's just not my story that I find difficult to pitch. I have a really hard time doing book talks with older grades -- which is really a librarian's way of pitching a good read to a bunch of kids. I just can't seem to articulate why I loved a book, though I can write about it! Weird eh? So what makes a good pitch, anyway?

  15. Jan Drexler - being prepared is one thing, practicing to look like you've been pitching all your life is another. You're supposed to be a bit nervous :) Right, Myra?

    but don't you all think it's just about the story? Editors and agents are practiced at extracting the premise out of you. Take a one-sheet and hand it over if your mouth stops working.

  16. Myra, what a hoot! I think your first pitch experience mirrors mine...only I started waaaaay before you!

    Anxieties are such unnecessary baggage. As you point out, editors do not rip the heads off of unsuspecting newbies. Editors are actually quite nice, pleasant PEOPLE.

    And there has to be some smiddgeon of satisfaction when your book the editor passed on won the Golden Heart. God certainly knows how to dole out encouragement, doesn't He?

    Myra, you really passed on a peanut M&M? I probably would've scarfed down the whole bag!

    and then felt guilty about it. . .

    and sent the editor an entire case of candy along with my thank you note when I got home, LOL!

  17. Years later, my SUCCESSFUL pitch was to an agent at another conference--I just wrote it down on an index card and asked if I could READ it to her. Afterwards, she asked to see a proposal. And although she didn't choose to represent that particular book or me as a result of the pitch, it got my foot in the door--she's now my agent! She says she learned a long time ago to look beyond the presentation as that isn't always a reflection of good writing and storytelling.

  18. Debra M -- You're so right -- the pitch sessions are exhausting for the editors and agents and not always fruitful. Many take up an agent's or editor's time pitching books that aren't even close to finished. I understand it's amazing how many people are invited to send a proposal or a full and never do -- probably because the book isn't finished or maybe even barely started. So kudos to the agents and editors who agree to pitch sessions at conferences!

  19. VIRGINIA -- Yes, you can get published without a VERBAL pitch! You can query editors/agents with your WRITTEN "pitch" -- which is the most common way. Several Seekers (including me) finaled in a contest and the editor-judge asked to see a full. Regardless of the way you get your foot in the door, it will always be your writing ability and the story that catches their eye and snags that contract. Pitches at conferences have the advantage in that you don't have to wait for months to hear back on a written "pitch" and you also help the editor/agent put a name to a face.

  20. Myra, even in tears, you not only survived that first pitch, you went on to see your book in print. That's encouraging news! No matter how badly things go, there's another chance, another time, another editor. Proof things do have a way of working out.

    I love Autumn Rains, even if it did beat out Courting Miss Adelaide, :-) Everyone should know that you got up on that stage at RWA before a huge audience and gave an absolutely lovely acceptance speech, as serene and with the elegance of a pro. I would've been a quivering mess. You did us proud! So how did you go from tears to unruffled?



  21. Oh Myra, YOU CRIED??? My heart is aching for you at the same time I'm laughing. I mean you really cried?

    Now that shows guts and perseverance that you persisted after that experience. I'm so proud of you. And you showed that editor too by winning all those awards and getting the book published. I LOVE IT.

    I work at editor appointments in our local conferences so have the opportunity to talk to attendees waiting their turn. I always give them this advice.

    Practice your one or two sentence pitch and then sit and chat.

    I've seen many who have a 10 or 15 minute session do their one minute pitch and then run out the door. If they like your pitch they tell you to submit the proposal or full. Then stay and chat with them as you would any visitor in town. I always ask them if they are enjoying Arizona. What sights have they seen? etc. Then when I send my work in I can refer to our conversation. That makes them feel good also.

    Sometimes you don't need to chat because they ask questions about your manuscript.

    Really, just pretend it is a visit and they are the stranger in town who needs your special attention.

    And as Debra and Glynna point out, the editors and agents are human and sometimes nervous also. I know they are tired too because it is often a LOOOONG day for them.

    The publishing world is such a small one really. An editor might be working at one house this year and you might bump into them another year at a different publishing house. Since you work so extensively with them, I like to meet the people I work with. So I go to as many sessions as I can to get to know them. Its very helpful.

  22. LOL, MYRA!!!! You cried ... you actually broke down and cried??? PLEASE forgive me, but I'm with Virginia -- I imagined you sitting there crying and I couldn't help but start laughing because I can JUST see you, my friend -- your sweet, shy personality quivering like Jell-O. And, oh honey, if that had been me you pitched to, I would have bundled you up in a hug and took you to lunch!!!

    Honestly, Myra, your post today is SO important for aspiring authors to read because it helps to put the crazy fears in perspective, helping us to realize we are all human beings who shudder at the thought of pitching. Not the puking kind of pitching, although that certainly comes to mind, but the editor-kind of pitching that can reduce the best of authors (ahem ... YOU!) to tears.

    I am SOOO glad you didn't let a few nerves and tears stop you, my friend, because as an award-winning author, you are PURE inspiration to aspiring authors everywhere!!


  23. I'm enjoying reading all the pitch experiences and for some of you, the determination to never do one. :-) I can relate.

    For me, one blessing of publication was not having to sign up for a pitch session. I never felt comfortable. Actually pubbed authors do pitch to other houses. Can't understand why they don't use their agents to pitch the story. Do you suppose writers exist who enjoy pitching?


  24. CHRISTINA, OH MY!!! You really and truly said the "dragon talon" thing??? And the cell phone ringing like a death toll??? I'd say that's a pretty scary pitch, my friend, and would definitely have made me "pitch" ... literally!!

    Wouldn't it be fun to vote on the most awful pitch situation??? So far, I'd say you and Myra have it sewn up!!


  25. It's SO fun to talk about those awful first pitches, that I decided to repeat mine. I wrote about it in a Seeker blog called "Buckle Up ... It's Going to be a Bumpy Ride," but here's the main gist of the actual pitch, which STILL makes me laugh today:

    “Come in and make yourself comfortable.”

    I blinked. Comfortable? With sweat on my palms and an eye twitching to the beat of my pulse??

    She closed the door with an ominous click and extended her hand. “I’m Zsa Zsa Gabor (name changed to protect the innocent), Acquisitions Editor for Steeple Mountain.
    And you are …”

    A basket case … on her first conference pitch ever. I swallowed hard. “Lessman, Julie Lessman.

    She nodded and settled in on a worn paisley couch with all the grace and dignity of a queen on her throne. “Tell me about your manuscript,” she said.

    I sucked in a deep breath, genuflected in my mind, and let it fly … “Well, you see, it’s a story about an Irish-Catholic family in pre-World War I …”

    She extended her hand in the air, palm facing me, and for a moment I thought she was going to do the princess wave. The air fused in my throat when I realized she was halting my spiel. “I’m sorry, we can’t have Catholicism in our stories …”

    And there you have it. My maiden pitch to an editor … a glorious seven seconds long! I went back to my hotel room and did what I'd been doing all conference long — cried my heart out and wanted to quit. God help me, the room maid had to think I was pilfering Kleenex, but I got through it and the conference intact, thank God!

    Fun post today, Myra-kins!!


  26. I'm so glad my first pitch was done in a chat room. Face to face I can just see myself: coughing, sweaty palms... uh, uh...

    Last spring six of us won an online pitch contest. We got to spend five minutes in a chat room with a senior editor. The excitement in the 'waiting room' was contagious as we waiting for our turn. I was supposed to go first but one of the girls had a schedule conflict so they asked me if I minded going second.

    No, no I don't mind at all!

    I needed more time to duck tape the kids anyway. I was sure a fight over who had more of something or other would erupt during the most crucial point of my pitch.

    (one of the girls did share that her four year old dumped a glass of OJ on the floor during her pitch but she didn't let it stop her)

    The hostess assured us that the editor was nice and not to worry about typos.

    I panicked thinking for sure I'd be too nervous to type so I had my pitch ready to c/p if needed.

    Five minutes goes by fast. I answered all her questions but as they called time I decided to make sure I hadn't missed anything. I c/p my whole pitch.

    All the other winners were asked for a full manuscripts. I was asked to send a full with a detailed synopsis. I guess sometimes less is better.

    I would love to be entered in the drawing for your book Myra.

  27. Myra, I so appreciated your post. I haven't yet pitched to anyone, but I'm nervous about doing it. I'll take a note from you and accept any food (as long as my diet restricte body can eat it!) that is offered. :) Thanks for sharing so openly. :)

    Jeanne T (Google isn't letting me sign on)

  28. I think one thing to remember is that pitches are NOT hours of agonizing torture. They're over pretty quick -- and the editors and agents aren't out to shoot down your dreams or humiliate you.

    Except for the one guy who concluded the pitch session with "don't quit your day job" (which I can understand now why he'd say that even though it was an uncalled for dig) everyone has always been SO KIND and so encouraging and so understanding.

    Often if something you pitch isn't a "fit" for their house or line, they'll ask what else you might have and can tell them about. So keep in mind even though you're going in to pitch a particular book, be prepared with your others as well!

  29. Great idea for a first, Myra. Lots of use have stories that used to make us cringe that we can laugh at now. Like my first agent appointment with Paige Wheeler years ago. I had laryngitis, of all things. Too much yacking with people, I guess.

    She was very understanding about it, and we mostly talked about the gorgeous rock on her hand and her upcoming wedding so I wasn't nervous once we got started. She didn't sign me up, but her gracious attitude left me with a wonderful impression that has never faded.

  30. No bombs, Helen? That's amazing! Once those requests turn into contracts, you'll be ready :)

  31. Myra, this is so funny. I can so relate.

    I attended my first conference this past summer and researched the agent/editors. No one quite fit but I found one that was looking for historicals. As the time drew closer I wondered if she liked Westerns. She'd never said.
    They offered a question/answer session before my appointment where I was able to ask. No, she didn't read Westerns.

    I decided to pitch a wip that I only had the first 15 pages written. I tend to talk 90mph when I'm nervous. I pitched in less than a minute. She smiled big and requested the full. I awkwardly got up and walked out, the next appt. looking a little surprised I was out so early.

    My stomache knots up just thinking about it.

  32. "When you do common things in an uncommon way, you command the world's attention." George Washington Carver

  33. Myra! Oh, girl! (((Hugs))) Those nerves are horrible things, aren't they? I'd love to be included in your drawing. I'm gearing up to send out another batch of proposals. *trembling*

    Anybody for a cup of hot tea? I'm heading over to the Yankee Belle Cafe.

  34. I was extremely proud of myself that I didn't break into tears during the meeting with the editor.(before and after not so good). But then, my agent at the time went in with me.

    As for the elevator pitching and the sibling up to share my pitch pitches, I still have a time with that.

    My first conference... Denver.2004, I believe, they were actually making writers to give editors some privacy while in the restrooms.

    I should have never slid my one sheet under that stall door. LOL.

    Honestly, I wouldn't have the guts.

    Tina Pinson

  35. Good morning, Seekervillagers! Sorry to be late--again!!--but we had a small family emergency this morning. Our daughter had to take our s-i-l to the ER with a racing heart, so I got called in for grandparent duty with our 9-month-old granddaughter. She's napping now, so I'm getting ready to catch up with comments.

    More later ...

  36. I meant sidling and spell checked wanted sibling. Yeah that's where you push your sister in to do the pitching for you...

    Tina P.

  37. What fun reading everyone's pitching experiences and/or personal fears about the whole crazy idea of it!

    WALT, I feel for you, man! There are a few editors for whom I'd cross the street before facing in person again. ;>D

    HELEN, thanks for starting the coffee, um, in the middle of the night! You night owls/early birds just blow my mind! And that golden ring? Just keep reaching for it, because you never know when God will move it into grabbing distance!

  38. Oh, Myra!! What a cute story!! :) And easy to talk about it now--after the book sold. :)

    But so painful in the beginning.

    Thanks for sharing. I'm sure it'll be encouraging for anyone scared to ever attempt a pitch! I know I was such a bundle of nerves I was almost sick. And that went on through several conferences!!

  39. Myra,

    I can so relate! My first pitch was in a small conference a few hours from home to an agent. I was so unsure of my work, I couldn't dream of talking about it, so I just talked to her about why a writer needed an agent. She was great, but I was still SO NERVOUS.

    This year at the ACFW conference, I had 3 appointments and was so calm I amazed myself. I think it was because I had my VERY PRETTY one-sheets with me - a prop! Not much came of the appointments, but it was good experience.

    Thanks for the encouragement!

    I'd love to be in the draw.

    sbmason at sympatico dot ca

  40. NANCY, I do understand about the nervous chatter! One point that has been stressed numerous times about pitching appointments is to just briefly describe your book and then be silent and let the editor/agent ask you questions.

    TRACY, believe me, it wasn't funny at the time! I'm just grateful that book finally made it into print--AND led to the opportunity to write those next two books in the 3-in-1.

    CHRISTINA! I can just picture your husband arriving with all the kids! Nice that you got a request out of the appointment after all. And now, at least, you have a better handle on what this writing business is all about. ;>D

  41. Kav, it's basically a one line pitch--kind of like a teaser for a movie. One line that intrigues the one you're pitching to so they'll want to know more.

    Although I've usually pitched with more like a back cover blurb, highlighting the main conflict between the characters.

    My one line pitch for my new book (that's finally available on the Harlequin website!! woo hoo!) is:

    A widowed mom of four who's put her life on hold until her kids are grown finds hope of love in the most unlikely of places when the former bad boy who ruined her sister returns to town seeking redemption.

  42. MELISSA, you're not kidding! After hours and hours of listening to pitches, I can't even imagine how those editors and agents keep their sanity. You have to feel sorry for them--and it's just one more reason to keep your visit light and professional, and maybe extend a little sympathy and understanding.

    JAN, thanks for bringing the cookies--a perfect accompaniment to pitch appointment sob stories! Keep up the bathroom-mirror practice. It will pay off one of these days! And you're going to get so much out of your first conference--how fabulous! Will it be ACFW? I hope so! Would love to meet you in person!

  43. VIRGINIA, so you were laughing at me???? Not that I can blame you--LOL! The real benefit of doing pitch appointments is becoming an actual face to go with your name when you do get a chance to submit a proposal. I put way too much pressure on myself the first few times. It's hard, but once you try just relaxing and making pleasant conversation, the appointments seem much less threatening. (And if you believe that, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you.)

  44. (((hugs))) for sharing that, Myra!

    May agrees - NEVER give up. She turns it into a positive and calls it persistence!

  45. SALLY, thanks for the sympathy! Honestly, in the writing business, you have to be determined to persevere. Otherwise, we'd be ready to quit about once a week!

    GLYNNA, how cruel was that--"don't quit your day job"! Well, the sad truth is, even after publication, most of us would be hard pressed to quit a "real" paying job. I admire anyone who has the stamina and determination to do both!

    DEBRA, you definitely have the right attitude for approaching pitching appointments! And you're so right about how draining an appointment day is for those editors and agents!

  46. KAV, many writers (including me) simply aren't comfortable expressing themselves any other way. I'm a rotten conversationalist, especially with people I don't know well. And even if I have something "meaningful" to say, it usually comes out garbled!

    A good pitch? What works best for me is to WRITE OUT a clear 1- or 2-paragraph summary that delineates the heroine, hero, and central conflict. I then either read this to the editor or create a one-sheet that I can hand to her and let her read. Then I try to be quiet and let her ask questions.

  47. Yes, DEBRA, exactly!!! Hand them your one-sheet and be quiet!!!

    Uh, yes, AUDRA, I passed on those M&Ms. Silly me. Sheesh!

    GLYNNA, I had no idea your experiences with "our" agent went back that far! How fun! (Another story: OUR agent also turned down AUTUMN RAINS when I first sent her the proposal.)

  48. Oh, and an addendum to that story: This was AFTER the book was already a GH finalist!

  49. JANET, thanks for your sweet words! I could never have given that acceptance speech off the cuff. Every word was written down on that note card! Actually, when I'm "reading" a speech like that, the actress in me sort of takes over. It's like a "calm, eloquent" persona. Just don't take away my script!

    SANDRA, great advice: "Practice your one or two sentence pitch and then sit and chat." If the editor/agent doesn't seem interested right away, you can start asking them questions about what does interest them.

  50. Myra, good job at conquering your fear and giving the first pitch a shot! We've all failed at something the first time! I'm not a writer but we all learn something from these posts! That's why I love coming to Seekerville every day to read them and enjoy all the comments after. Good thing you kept on trying.

    I would love to win your first book and see how it "turned out"!!!


  51. AMEN!!!

    This is a wonderful success story.

    I do horrible at one on one pitches.

    I can't unstick my tongue long enough to make sense.

  52. Oh, Myra, you poor thing!!! but I can relate to that. The first time I pitched I was scared to death. And I was pitching to a man, which somehow made it so much worse. How do you pitch a romantic story to a strange man you don't even know? Of course, it was also my first-ever conference, and I was so green. I barely got through it. I was practically hyperventilating, I was so nervous. I did get better after that. But that first one was oh so terrifying.

    But congrats on getting it published! You are so right about never giving up. So important!

    I also missed an appointment at my first conference because I fainted and was taken to the hospital. This puts me in a very small (and therefore very elite?) group of authors who can say they fainted at an ACFW conference. Right, Mary?

  53. Aw, JULIE, you are so sweet! The thing is, if you want to be a writer badly enough, you'll subject yourself even to the dreaded editor/agent appointment--AND YOU WILL SURVIVE!!!

    JANET, I've talked with my agent about the whole "after you're published and have an agent" pitching thing, and she keeps telling me the main purpose is to become a face with a name. A real person the editor will have a harder time saying no to. They will still sometimes say no, but at least they won't forget meeting a talented and professional author.

  54. LOL

    Who knew Radcliffe had sticky ton%ie syndrome while pitching. You don't seem to be afraid of anything here.

    Honestly... I get that ailment sometimes too.

    Go figure

    Tina P

  55. Oh, JULIE, we should have bought stock in a tissue company!!! As we keep saying here, you've got to be determined, dead certain you want to be a writer, to put yourself through this agony.

    JAMIE, your experience sounds really interesting! Glad it worked out for you. I think I'd be almost as nervous in a chat room setting as in person, though. As you said, the fingers may not cooperate while you're typing!

    JEANNE, I think one of the reasons I turned down the M&Ms was the fear of talking with my mouth full! Nothin' like smiling at the editor with chocolate and peanuts in your teeth!

  56. Myra, thanks for sharing something so personal! So glad you conquered your fears and the publishing world! :) You should be so proud of yourself and I hope you've inspired some people today! I haven't had the... Um...pleasure... to attend a conference yet :)

    Eva Maria Hamilton @ gmail dot con

  57. Myra wasn't it you who in one pitch appointment just handed over your written notes for your little pitch?
    Instead of talking you let the editor read?

    I think that's great. Brilliant even. Editors love reading. Writer's love writing. NO ONE likes giving speeches and if the speeches are bad that doesn't help sell the book so the editor has to wade through our SPEAKING skills to try and ascertain our writing skills.

  58. LOL! Walt, I'll join you on that side of the street, my friend. I scared a few people...

    and I'm not proud of that.

    But hey, newbies are newbies. We learn. As long as we don't quit.

    MYRA! What a nice post about a trying experience. That which does not kill us may only serve to make us stronger...

    My kids got SO SICK of hearing that.

    Helen, good coffee. Thank you!

    I love that Melissa is calling editors strange and Virginia is burping and possibly heading for the bathroom..

    Okay, after my first pitch appointment, I summoned all my sales experience from TUPPERWARE PARTIES and selling bridal gowns and did the 'fake it til you make it' thing.

    And it made me so much more confident. In my head, I was a peer. In my heart, puddle of mush, but as long as my head ruled the day, they went fine.

  59. Okay I give spell check just isn't my friend today.

    I meant sticky tongue syndrome.

    I must have Sticky finger syndrome I guess. Or big finger small key syndrome. Something.

    Tina P

  60. GLYNNA, you make a good point. Be prepared with a couple more ideas if the editor/agent doesn't express interest in your first one. That's a sign you are a productive writer, not a one-shot deal.

    MIA, that's another good point. Just talk with the editor/agent and learn a little about them personally. Who wouldn't want to show off her ring and talk about her upcoming wedding?

    CONNIE! Oh, my, getting a request for an unfinished ms.! That would definitely be nerve-wracking! I hope you eventually finished it and had the chance to send it in!

  61. Melanie, did you get a note from your doctor to explain your absense.

    "Melanie was unable to come to her pitch appointment today because she was unconscious and strapped to a guerney."

    I've heard the note helps smooth out the missed appointment.

  62. LINNETTE, congratulations for getting those proposals ready to send out! In person or on paper, putting our work out there and risking rejection takes real guts. Hoping one of these is a real winner!

    TINA P, I was at Denver. Yep, I remember those warnings not to slide mss. under the bathroom stall door. Really!!! Who would actually try something like that?

    MISSY, I have to honestly say the nerves don't ever go away entirely. Which is why I'm not happy that my agent STILL wants me to make appointments and meet editors. But whatever she tells me to do, I obey without question!!!

  63. One of my really sweet pitch appointment memories was after I won the Genesis contest with Petticoat Ranch I lost the certificate they handed me.

    At the time this was no only the most precious win of my contest life but also I wanted to have it because when I pitched I might produce the certificate, refer to it certainy, possible rub it for good luck. But it was GONE. I had no idea where.

    Then I walked into my pitch appointment with Rebecca Germany from Barbour and before I was even across the room to her table she lifts the certificate up. I'd dropped it and someone had found it and ... I can't remember how Becky ended up with it. Did she find it? Did someone find it near her and she said she had an appointment with me and would return it?
    I don't know. But I have this memory of Becky, smiling, holding up that certificate adn saying something like, "Did you lose this?"
    And I was so happy to have it back that I'm sure I smiled nicely and was an enthusiastic pitcher.

    It was a great ice breaker for our first meeting and I always thought it made the meeting more memorable for her...oh yeah, Mary Connealy...The Certificate Loser.

  64. SUE, I'm so glad (and envious) you've been able to tame your pitching nerves. But you're so right--a beautifully crafted one-sheet is a GREAT prop! I have been using them for years!

    MISSY, great example of a one-sentence pitch! I have never been particularly good at those--at least the memorizing and then reciting aloud part!

    KC, I'm glad May agrees with me! Persistence is vital in this business!

  65. VALRI, thanks so much for your kind words about Seekerville! We love both readers and writers, and there's much about persevering as a writer that translates into success in other areas of life. Thanks for pointing that out!

    TINA, you and me both. Which is why we are writers, not professional public speakers.

    MELANIE!!! Thanks for NEVER letting Mary forget that incredibly memorable conference moment! ;>D And talk about perseverance! So proud of your continued writing success!

  66. EVA MARIE, conferences are wonderful experiences--even your first one. And just think how many Seekerville friends you'll already have when you finally attend!

    Yep, MARY, just hand 'em the one-sheet and shut up. Amazing what a great conversation starter it can be. Writers are not professional salespeople, as our agent keeps telling us, right?

    LOL, RUTHY, I was also a complete failure at Tupperware parties, Amway, and anything else that involved sales and people skills!

  67. Love your story! I remember my friend and I were pitching at a round table, and the agent wasn't exactly what I'd call *comforting*. I went last, and I was ready to toss my cookies waiting to see what barb she'd fling at me. Luckily, she was worn out by then :)

  68. TINA P, if I didn't know better, I'd think you were typing on your smartphone. My tiny keyboard gives me fits! I love some of the substitute words it suggests when I make a typo. If I let some of them go through, NOTHING would make sense!

    MARY!!!! That's such a wonderful story! (I mean you and the GH certificate, not your involvement with Melanie's fainting spell.) Seriously, your accomplishments since then have just been aaaamazing! Proud to know ya, girlfriend!

  69. Persistance pays off! Glad you finally got your story published.
    Would love to win a copy of Autumn Rains.


  70. SHERRI, a worn-out agent may just be a receptive agent. "Just send it, okay? And let me go to bed!"

    News on the s-i-l is that he might have SVT. I had to Google that to find out what it was, so y'all can too, if you're curious. Baby is sleeping soundly (for now).

    Keep the pitch stories/fears/suggestions coming, y'all!

  71. Great post, Myra! I honestly haven't given the idea of pitching my book in person much thought yet, so thanks for making me nervous! :)

    I'm hoping, though to do that at ACFW this year (my first conference!), so I better start getting my pitch down!

    stephludwig at hotmail dot com

  72. Can't BELIEVE you turned down the peanut M & Ms! (LOL). My first pitch (and only, by the way) went all right. Got a request, but nothing beyond that. I probably talked too much - cuz that's what I do.

    Encouraging post ;)

  73. Thanks for the encouragement Myra. Especially about never giving up. Haven't actually made my first pitch yet. Hopefully I'll get up the nerve. :)

    Jodie Wolfe

  74. LOL! Mary, I didn't get a doctor's note, but someone told the editor I had the appointment with that I missed that that was me she saw get wheeled out of the room while the rest of the almost 400 people were trying to get on with the morning session. She offered to let me pitch in the lobby during her down time. My book was a missionary story, and she told me very gently--probably hoping I wouldn't pass out again--that missionary stories don't sell well and they wouldn't be interested in a crazy person writing for their house. Okay, no, she didn't say that last part, just the part about not being interested in missionary stories.

    You know, it's extremely amazing that I would have ever gone to another conference again after that experience. The fact that I went back the next year, even getting on a plane to get there, is a testament to my, um, determination. (Hush, Mary.)

  75. Myra said: Thanks for NEVER letting Mary forget that incredibly memorable conference moment!

    Myra, honey, you're kidding me, right? Do you know how many times Mary has mentioned that incident on here? When I would have rather forgotten it? She probably talks about it IN HER SLEEP! When she actually does sleep. She LOVES to bring it up. Me, never letting Mary forget it? Oh my.

    Mary's brand of self-deprecating humor is why she so loves to tell that story as the reason why they don't let her mentor people anymore. LOL!!! I am just now, after six and a half years, starting to have fun with it. Mary? She didn't have to wait long AT ALL.

  76. Thanks, Myra! Yeah. It's really hard to put myself our there right now. Need all the encouragement I can get. I mean. How do you really know when your writing is where it should be at the point of sending it out? People tell me its great, but every time I look at it, I find more stuff to fix!

  77. Myra, have you ever in the years since just walked up to an editor and started talking to them about a MS? I was just wondering if you ever got enough nerve to do it? I wouldn't be able to in a million conferences! An appointment, I could do, but I can't do pushy.

  78. Oh, and please enter me. I've been wanting to read Autumn Rains.
    lostie815 at hotmail dot com

  79. I agree Joanne!! LOL I would have taken the M&M's, stuffed my mouth full, and then have not been able to talk at all. :)

  80. Oh Myra,
    I can so relate.
    Even now!
    And the first time I pitched, I had NO CLUE what I was supposed to do. Had my entire novel in hand and slapped it down on the table.
    (shudder) still cringe when I think about it.

    She asked, "May I see your synopsis?"

    It was pretty obvious from my blank stare that I had NO idea to what she was referring. Who needed the synopsis-thingy when I had the whole stinkin' book right there?!?


    Poor lady.

    After meeting with Lauraine Snelling, though, the depth of my embarrassment became clear. She told me what editors expected.

    I still had yet to meet an agent.
    That's ANOTHER story...and equally as embarassing.

  81. Thanks, PATTY! I don't want to even think about where I'd be today (or what I'd be doing) if I hadn't stuck with it.

    STEPHANIE, sorry for making you nervous about pitching. But if I survived, so can you! ;>D Hope to meet you in person at ACFW!

    JOANNE, if you got a request, that's the whole point! Glad your first pitch went better than mine!

  82. Btw, I LOVE the one-sheet.
    It really does help give a jumpstart.
    And it can be pretty too. A lot prettier (and less daunting)than a 300 page clump of novel :-)

  83. JODIE, when the time comes to pitch your ms., I bet it'll go great! Just think of all the great advice you've been getting in Seekerville!

    LOL, MELANIE!!! We just have to keep giving Mary a hard time about her first and last mentoring assignment! But look how many writers she's now mentoring in Seekerville. (Of course, they all have 911 on speed dial.)

    LINNETTE, I don't know if we ever really feel ready to send out our work. But if you're getting strongly positive feedback from critique partners, etc., that's certainly a good indication.

  84. Um, DONNA, no. I have never just casually introduced my story into a conversation with an editor when it wasn't a formal pitching appointment. Nope, no way, nada. Never would have the nerve to do that in a gillion years!

    PEPPER! Oh, girl! At least you had the complete! So many unpubbed writers go with just a pitch and a few chapters, and then when they get a request for the full, they have to say it isn't ready! And Lauraine Snelling was one of the first authors to give me solid professional feedback on a ms. That was at Mount Hermon in 1999.

  85. Myra,
    Lauraine was great...although she did look like she was about ready to burst out laughing the entire time she met with me.
    Wonder why? ;-)

    There is a mercy in the fact that I've made an idiot of myself enough that by now, it doesn't sting as much.

    If I can walk across a college campus dressed like Cpt Jack Sparrow (goatee and all) or Pippy Longstockings (complete with stick out ponytails) maybe I can handle pitching to an agent.

    I think dressing as Cpt Jack and Pippy were easier ;-)

  86. Melanie, sweetie, how many times must I tell you it made you FAMOUS.
    How could you NOT use it?

    EMT intervention is golden for pitching books.

    I'm glad you've come around....after six years.

    LOL on the editor not wanting 'crazy people' writing for them.
    I know quite a few authors.....if editors didn't let crazy people write they wouldn't be able to turn their printer on.


  88. Editors are so used to nervous authors and so kind. I mean not always but honestly, they usually are just hoping like crazy to find a new author. they're rooting for you. And if you aren't going to work out for them, they are almost always so nice about breaking your heart and crushing your dreams.

  89. I promise I'll read through the other comments later...

    I actually did pretty well at conference this year.

    I credit that to being a teacher for over a decade. I started teaching college at 24. Because of where I teach, ten years later, I'm still younger than a couple handfuls of students every year.

    Talk about nerve wracking.

    I had an unexpected editor appointment this year when a friend had a chance with a different editor at the same time instead. It went really well. Even after she said no and I started crying :p.

    Seriously, she was really sweet and we talked for a few more minutes about other authors, including one Mary Nealy [whoever she is].

    It was late Saturday and I'm quite sure that's the reason why I burst into tears. Otherwise, I'm usually pretty good about breaking down in private ;).

    Thank you so much for sharing, Myra! It takes a lot of nerve to share those stories with us!

    I have Gateway Weddings waiting on my shelf :).

  90. What a crazy first-pitch story, Myra. I'm pretty sure I would have tossed my lunch if I had to do my first-ever pitch under "normal circumstances." Thankfully, I didn't. But I was so nervous for my entire first ACFW conference that I couldn't sleep, and I felt like getting sick several times. Though thank heavens I never did. :)

  91. MYRA, I laughed out loud, then shuddered at the thought of chocolate being all over my teeth from those peanut M&M's. :) Must think this one through. Maybe I'll bring lots of breath mints or jelly beans to munch on, just in case. :)

    I forgot to mention that I would love to be entered in your drawing for your book.

    MELISSA J. Thanks for the idea of getting an earlier appointment. I think I'd rather get it over with early anyway. Then I'm not chewing my nails all day waiting for my few minutes to share my story. :)

  92. Pitching does sound AWFULLY scary, but reading your post helped make it a little less so. Thanks for sharing! Your book looks wonderful, btw!

  93. PEPPER, did you really dress up like Cap'n Jack??? Oh, I hope you have pix!

    Amen, MARY, on the crazy author thing. I am certifiable!

    CAROL, fatigue does strange things to the emotions. I'm much more likely to cry if I'm exhausted.

    NAOMI, I think most of us can relate to first-conference nervousness! The first one I went to, I didn't really know anyone, which made it extra hard. And I NEVER sleep well at conferences! I just get too wound up and my brain won't shut down. Um, which leads to more likelihood of breaking down in tears at the drop of a hat.

  94. JEANNE, it's true--the longer you have to wait for that appointment, the more the nerves kick in. I've just hated the conferences where I get my appointment schedule on Thursday and have to wait until Saturday afternoon! By then I've worked myself into quite a state! Unfortunately, you usually don't have much control over when they schedule you.

    NATALIE, if I've helped at all to ease your fears, I have done my job. :>D

  95. I will never forget Melanie Dickerson's first conference.

    To this day we still blame her mentor.

    That would be Mary Connealy.

  96. You know what, I totally get Myra turning down the M&M's because then you have FRAGMENT TEETH...

    Bits of red, yellow, green... brown...

    Between your teeth. And if you have big front teeth.... Oh my stars, you can imagine how pretty that is.

    The first time I ate lunch with Melissa Endlich I splashed her with soup... Like an ocean wave, minimal... trying to get a clam out of the shell. Who puts whole clams in soup?

    Fancy NYC restaurants, that's who. What these poor editors go through...

  97. I didn't even know you gals at that conference, Ruthy. But I do recall very clearly when the EMS showed up at lunch that day!

  98. Well, Mary, I don't mind becoming FAMOUS, but I didn't want it to happen THAT way!!!

    But I am over it now. Six years later, I can look back and laugh.

    And I never blamed Mary. Until I found out she was bragging about it being her mentee who passed out cold right after breakfast while Brandilyn Collins was delivering the morning announcements. The ambulance people got there with the gurney right when Cynthia Ruchti was doing a devotional--her big debut, speaking in front of a large audience. Surprise! You have a teensy distraction going on. Try to be spiritual and maybe nobody will notice! BWAHAHAHAHA!

    Poor Cynthia. She was scarred for life and is still mad at me TO THIS DAY.

  99. Did we ever get the EMS story publicly?

    I know I've heard of it but I have not heard it...

  100. Was it breakfast? Shows you how good my memory is. I just remember looking across the dining room at all the commotion.

  101. This was so much fun to read, Myra! Not that you burst in to tears, but just the trip down memory lane.

    Reminded me of my first pitch. I was at a very small "secular" conference, for lack of a better word, and everyone (like all 20 of us) were in a workshop.

    They had managed to get an editor there from a small publishing house that published work much, much MUCH steamier stuff than I write or read.

    She had very few people making appts with her. The lady who organized the conference was beside herself with embarrassment that the EDITOR was just sitting there, in the center of this basketball-court size room (really!) with no one to talk to.

    She begged us to go talk to her, and I kept saying... we have NOTHING to talk about.

    Finally, I gave in, and went down to talk to her. I don't even remember if I pitched or not....

    But over an hour later when they all came out of the (probably boring) workshop, me and my new BFF were happily chatting away...

    probably eating peanut M&Ms... lol

  102. Since I haven't attended a conference yet, I haven't given a 'first pitch'. It scares me just to think about it but I'm sure when the day comes the Lord will guide me through.

    I would love to be entered to win a copy of Autumn Rains. Thank you for the opportunity.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.


  103. PAM, you brave soul! Don't forget, we've watched you stalk editors and practically tackle them in the hallway to pitch an idea! Not at all surprised this editor became your new BFF at that conference!

    CINDY, you're so right. God has a way of giving us the words we need exactly when we need them. Of course, that hinges upon our ability to think clearly enough at the time to hear Him!

  104. Gosh, my first conference pitch was so long ago I don't even remember it. I do remember the conference and because I was a Golden Heart finalist, I was just positive people were going to be begging to buy my manuscript. HA!

    I remember another one where I pitched the story I loved and then happened to mention another one that was merely an idea. THAT, of course was the one that intrigued the editor. I remember grabbing a friend and sitting in the cafe brainstorming the new story.
    That editor left the publishing house a few months later - before I ever finished the story.

  105. Bragging?
    Excuse me, Miss Melanie???
    I was not BRAGGING?????

    I was so worried. Why I could barely finish my eggs and bacon and the fourth cup of coffee wouldn't go down until I used a ridiculous amount of cream.

    I was FRANTIC!!!!

  106. i actually got a Autumn rains not long ago. still to read.
    I like hearing these stories and about pitching the story.
    Just got back with some bargins from the story got plenty of turkish delights and montie Carlo Cookies to share.

  107. Mel, I can't believe Cynthia could be mad at anyone. She seems too nice. I remember you fainted at breakfast, not that I knew you then. But then we all got to know you. :-)


  108. MARY C, I know what you mean about being a GH finalist and thinking those publishing doors are going to burst wide open. I had to wait 4 more years!

    Leave it to MARY CONNEALY to be thinking about breakfast instead of her unconscious mentee!

    AUSJENNY, thanks for the yummy treats! Perfect bedtime snack here on the East Coast.

  109. Great stories came out of this post!
    Anyone facing their first pitch this year should feel prepared (and a bit more relaxed!)

  110. Oh Myra! I had to smile and (even chuck a *bit*) because you so PERFECTLY described every stinkin' one of my emotions at this last ACFW conference. Super nervous, no WAY was I going to run an agent/editor down and pitch and about the only thing I didn't do was cry.

    Until later. ;-)

    But not about my pitch.

    I just hate that our story premise and the concept while sitting and speaking with the professional hidges on how we give it! Then I learned from some of said professionals that they get that pitches are not the best and they want to get talking and read the story a bit.

    That helped!

    THanks for sharing, Myra. :)

  111. If I make it to ACFW this year it will be my first writer's conference. Just thinking about meeting an editor or agent makes me weak in the knees.
    One good thin, Myra, at least you didn't throw up. It could have been worse, and I hope I'm not the example of worse.
    Okay, I've got to quit thinking about it.
    congratulations on being published, and thanks for sharing!

  112. Good story, Myra. I'm wondering if the story had changed a lot by the time it was published. Then did the editor ask for much of a rewrite?

    I'd love to win the book.

  113. Good story, Myra. I'm wondering if the story had changed a lot by the time it was published. Then did the editor ask for much of a rewrite?

    I'd love to win the book.

  114. I know Mary will deny this, but she was very sweet. And concerned about me. And the jokes she made about it were really funny.

  115. Thank you for sharing your first book pitch Myra. I found it fascinating!
    And, please enter me in your generous draw as I am very interested in Post Traumatic Stress.
    Thanks so much,

  116. I'd be terrified. This is such a big deal.


  117. Myra - what a great (and encouraging) story! I have never read Autumn Rains but would love to!

  118. DEBRA, I hope you're right! At least better prepared than I was!

    CASEY, you're right. Editors & agents do realize that writers aren't always great at pitching. What really counts is how well you can write the story.

    JACKIE, throw up???? That definitely would have been worst case scenario!

    CATHY, the plot and characters didn't change materially from the original concept, but for Heartsong I had to change the setting from Texas to Missouri and also update a few key details to reflect current events. I also had to shorten it quite a bit.

  119. JANET K, thanks for your interest in my book! The PTSD angle came about because I wanted another kind of "prison" to play off what the hero had gone through.

    MARYBELLE, there's a lot about this business that can be terrifying, but I love writing too much to give in to those fears when they arise.

    CINDY, glad you found some encouragement here. Sometimes what scares us most turns out to be not quite as scary as we expected. (Or...maybe not. ;>D)

  120. Just before attending my first conference I read that you should take business cards with you, BUT if you didn't have any just put your info on a 3x5 card. So I signed up with an editor and later went to my appt with her. I smiled, pushed my 3x5 card across the table to her and told her I had brought some sample pages of what I'd written. At the time, the editor's name meant nothing to me; remember this was my first conference. It was Karen Ball!! She was interested in my samples and took them with her. Ultimately Tyndale House contracted me for two books. I went from Alabama to Tulsa, OK for that first conference, didn't know anyone, and only received what writing knowledge I had from Writer's Digest and The Writer. So try to be bold (or ignorant like I was) when you meet with editors and agents. And NEVER give up!

  121. Wow, that sounds like quite the experience. I'm just a reader, so I have no idea what being a writer is like :)


  122. JO, that's a wonderful story! Getting a request from Karen Ball must have been really exciting (even if you didn't realize HOW exciting at the time)!

    BETHANY, where would writers be without faithful readers? You're welcome in Seekerville anytime!

  123. Myra, My first 2 pitches both occurred in 2009 at the ACFW Conference. I had done my research, as you did, as to the appropriate agent/editor to see. Honestly, my teeth chattered and I stuttered so badly from nervousness that they probably thought I had a permanent speech impediment! Neither pitch was accepted so I continue to tweak, edit, delete, add, delete some more...

  124. EDWINA, that's all we can do in this business. One of these days you'll hit the right editor or agent at the right time with the right idea. Then the rest will be history!