Picture this. One room containing five (I think it was five) publishers, editors or agents, each seated at a school desk. At a distance of some 10 metres from them, five queues, each containing ten jittery wannabees (apologies to anyone there who was way beyond wannabee status) making nervous jokes and mentally rehearsing what they might cram into three short minutes with their chosen guru. As seventh in line, I had more time than most for the jitters and the jokes.
One big plus was an air of strict organisation by the conference marshalls who insisted everyone stay behind the start line, and made sure no one could over-run to the detriment of anyone else. At each change over the orders were barked and the next contender moved up into starting position. By the time I was second from the front I started to remember those theme park rides where I queued happily for an hour (or more) only to baulk when the car taking me over the big drop pulled up alongside.
But the drop, when it came, was a gentle one. ‘My’ publisher was charm itself and made encouraging noises all the way through, although an excess of adrenalin made it unlikely I’d dry up. In fact in my enthusiasm I completely missed the ‘thirty second’ call and had to be elbowed out by the next contender.
Outcome? Okay, I have not been snapped up just yet, but I did have a prompt, courteous and encouraging response to the material I left behind for my ‘date’ to peruse away from the maelstrom. And I do feel I gained a lot from the opportunity to have what was in effect a ‘dry run’ for other approaches I might make. I may not have a deal, but I’ve had a good confidence boost. Taking into account the cherished prize, not a bad return on a conference fee of £50.
To others considering this or similar ventures, it worked for me because it came at the right time. As I do final polishes to A Kettle of Fish, I realise I do have a grasp of the book as a whole and its likely markets. I also did several hours preparation for my 3 minutes, including prompt cards and a full dress rehearsal with my writers’ group, all of which was definitely worthwhile.
All in all, the pitch was a lot more fun than I expected, and maybe that’s the clue. Be serious about it, but keep a sense of humour. Otherwise those three minutes might seem quite a long time!
For anyone who wants to know more about the day, take a look here.