The third, and final day of the 2011 Writers’ League of Texas Agents Conference commenced with a general panel session, The Birth of a Book.

This was billed as being “a glimpse into how a book comes into being then gets published,” and while it was certainly informative in that regard, it soon became clear that this was the session where the agents (and editors) turned the tables and made their best pitch to us writers as to why we need their services. They talked about how important it was to find an agent who connected with you and your work, and who could both sell your book and protect your financial interests. To press the point home, they told us about all the complex issues with subsidiary rights and the difficulties in getting your work sold in the many foreign markets around the globe. (We should be so lucky to have those problems!)

There was also some discussion as to how the publishing industry has changed over the last few years, with the advent of epublishing, and the way editors now have to pitch their selections to their company bosses much more than they had to in the past (it’s all about the money, don’t you know?).

Then came the final session of the weekend, Last Pitch, which took the same format as the First Pitch session the day before–the critiquing of randomly selected pitches. I’m guessing that this has been a very successful format in the previous conferences (with good reason), since over two hours was devoted to doing this, altogether. A different panel of agents was in the firing line (or perhaps were the ones firing the shots) this time, and they added a new wrinkle to the format. Any panelist could stop the reading of a pitch as soon as they had heard enough. That probably made the session a little more brutal on those whose pitches were selected and then summarily halted, but again, overall, it was one of the more entertaining and informative sessions of the weekend.

In case you were wondering, I did submit my own 250 word pitch, but it wasn’t picked out of the box in either of the two sessions. By the end of the second session, I was almost relieved that it wasn’t selected. After reading an article about writing pitches (in a WLT publication, no less!) before the conference, I had followed one agent’s advice to begin my pitch with a “What if” question. Well, wouldn’t you know it, but after one of the pitches that was drawn began with that very question, one of the agents held up his hand to stop the reading and declared his strong distaste for pitches which start that way. I suspect that after that point, if my pitch had been pulled out of the the box, it would have suffered a similar fate.

The bottom line advice from all the agents involved in the pitch sessions was:

  • Only pitch to agents whom you believe will be interested in your work–i.e. do your homework
  • Get right to the point, which is telling them about your book
  • Keep it short and keep it simple
  • Funny is good, but don’t get too cute (see above)
  • If you have had some contact with the agent before, remind them
  • Be humble when comparing your work with the books of established authors
  • Be very cautious about likening your book with the work of the giants of your chosen genre

Then, after one lucky writer was randomly selected to win a free entry to next year’s conference, it was time to say our farewells.

I will be writing one more post about the conference, summing up my overall feelings about the weekend, how it went, how it was run, and what I took away from it.

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