It's hard out here for a pimp

Submission protocol, query etiquette, and strategies that work
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brian_crawford
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It's hard out here for a pimp

Post by brian_crawford » January 14th, 2010, 8:41 pm

I sit down at the table, elevator pitch in hand, book manuscript in my lap. The bell rings. I have three minutes. The agent across from me is already skeptical; that's his job. I have to find a way to make myself -- and my novel -- stand out. It reminds me of that scene in the movie "Hustle and Flow" when D-Jay is trying to get Skinny Black to listen to his demo tape. Welcome to Speed Dating with Agents at the San Francisco Writers Conference.

The Speed Dating event is just like it sounds: you have a dozen literary agents in a room full of conference attendees who, like me, paid an extra $50 for the hour-long event. The agents stand up and tell the attendees who they are and what type of work they're looking for. Then you sit down with an agent, and you have three minutes to pitch your book, including time for the agent's response. You give your spiel. A bell rings. You stop talking. The agent responds. Then – ding! – a second bell rings and you move to the next one. Pretty intense, huh?

The rest of the SF Writers Conference is intense, too. Last year, it consisted of three days of workshops, Q&A sessions, key note speakers, and book signings, but what it was really about was networking, networking, networking. There's something paradoxically comical about writers trying to sell themselves in every breakout session, bathroom, and buffet line. If you want to feel like a god for a day, fashion a name badge that says "editor" or "agent" and stroll around a writers conference. Jesus himself could've floated through the crowd, and he would've been trampled on the way to the agent's table. Witnessing the milieu, I gained a deep respect for editors and agents, and a better understanding of what it's like on their side of the table. One agent told me he gets 600 emails a day, most of them book queries (proposals). 600 emails! And we're not talking about a "thx" message from Jim in accounting; these are emails with entire manuscripts attached.

As frenzied as the hallway schmoozing was, the scheduled pitch events, such as Speed Dating, were even more intense. I can't imagine what it was like for the agents and editors. They sit at a table for hours, and every three minutes, a bell rings and another eager-eyed scribe sits down to pitch a book. I would have bashed my head against the table after the first half hour, but these professionals remained engaged, polite and responsive. I was extremely impressed, and I'm not just saying that in case one of them happens to be reading my blog. Are you reading my blog? Anyone? Remember me... we met at the SF Writers Conference... I'm the biotech thriller guy... remember?

Last year, the conference ended up being a huge success for me, and well worth the price of admission. I connected with several writers and freelance editors. And I pitched my book to three agents and one editor, and all four of them liked my idea and asked me to send sample pages! So I'm doing the conference again this year (Feb 12-14). Wish me luck. Because it's hard out here for a pimp.

Sophie Minter
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Re: It's hard out here for a pimp

Post by Sophie Minter » January 14th, 2010, 8:51 pm

Oh God, funny as hell. I always wondered what it would be like to go to a writers conference and if the $500+ bucks would be worth it. From reading your post--yes it would be worth it. I love writers.

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Re: It's hard out here for a pimp

Post by THB » January 14th, 2010, 8:55 pm

I love the title. I complained to a non-writing friend once about all the self-promotion writers are required to do in order to sell their work. She interrupted my lament and said, "Oh, get real. When you finally finish that book, you'll whore yourself any way you have to in order to get it out there." And I shut up, because she was right.

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Re: It's hard out here for a pimp

Post by brian_crawford » January 15th, 2010, 12:37 pm

sophie --
if you've never been to a conference it's definitely worth the money to go to your first one -- because you learn so much. I'll let you know if it was worth it the second time around.

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Re: It's hard out here for a pimp

Post by Sophie Minter » January 15th, 2010, 12:42 pm

Thanks Brian:)

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emilycross
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Re: It's hard out here for a pimp

Post by emilycross » January 15th, 2010, 2:18 pm

Wow, excellent post. I can definitely see how these conferences are worth the money (networking etc.) but can i ask a stupid question, do these conferences happen outside the U.S. as well?

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brian_crawford
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Re: It's hard out here for a pimp

Post by brian_crawford » January 15th, 2010, 7:08 pm

There are definitely writers conferences outside the U.S. I just don't know which ones are reputable, popular, etc.

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Re: It's hard out here for a pimp

Post by rose » January 17th, 2010, 2:53 pm

Brian and THB, I'm glad I passed by your street corner this morning. I'll be laughing all day, whether my Jets win or lose. Thanks.

rose
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Re: It's hard out here for a pimp

Post by TimP » February 11th, 2010, 9:11 pm

Funny as hell, yes, but about a day in hell.

I can't think of anything worse. <shudder> However, I do have first novel and love for sale, so I will no doubt tart up as best I can and see who's buying. I'll wear my hemline high and exude literary Shalimar.

But I will not like it one damn bit, and that will no doubt show.

Today, while researching agents by genre, AAR status, representation lists, phobias and diets, I came across an interesting story about another author who, without literary or educational credentials produced a book and failed miserably in getting an agent to even sniff his neck.

He spent a year at it without even getting kissed much less... well, without getting kissed.

Then, on his own, he convinced a small press to do a 2,000 copy run. He won a first book contest with it and that led to a drop-dead gorgeous national review. Top-flight agents started calling him. He says it became annoying. Imagine having a slush pile for agents' inquiries to the author.

His book's second publication kicked a Stephan King title off number 1. He was represented by an agent who does not accept queries.

I'd never heard that story before and I've been thinking about it all day.

I wonder: Can 100,000 aspiring novelists all be this wrong?

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christi
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Re: It's hard out here for a pimp

Post by christi » February 11th, 2010, 9:45 pm

This was quite the amusing insight. The other day a friend said that sending in queries is like speed dating, trying to figure out if you're a good fit. I said that I feel more like a ho looking for a pimp. Either way, it's all a learning experience. I wouldn't be the same person I am without the failures and successes. Then again, maybe I do want to be someone else. I want to be... Cher. Yeah, Cher. Singing, acting, hawt at 127 years old. Okay, maybe not hawt. But she's almost hawt.

Ramble done. Will you marry me? Oh... okay, wait. NOW my ramble is done.
Would you sign my story for a Klondike bar?

http://christigoddard.blogspot.com/

TimP
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Re: It's hard out here for a pimp

Post by TimP » February 12th, 2010, 12:40 am

Dear Christi,

Thank you for your recent proposal and for reading my post, I appreciate it. I regret to say that I don't feel that I'm the most appropriate agent for your work.

However, opinions vary considerably in this business, and I wish you the best of luck in your search for connubial bliss.

Smiles and sighs,

TimP

Ramble over and out.

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christi
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Re: It's hard out here for a pimp

Post by christi » February 12th, 2010, 8:36 am

Dear TimP,

What if I were to re-query in six months with a whole new proposal. One that is shiny and exactly what you are looking for? Is it bad business etiquette to resubmit myself in a whole new package?

I appreciate any consideration and thank you for your time.

Best Regards,

The Ho to your Pimp
Would you sign my story for a Klondike bar?

http://christigoddard.blogspot.com/

TimP
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Re: It's hard out here for a pimp

Post by TimP » February 12th, 2010, 1:21 pm

<insert the sounds of crickets who no longer chirp>

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PoppysInARow
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Re: It's hard out here for a pimp

Post by PoppysInARow » February 13th, 2010, 12:54 pm

Man that sounds awesome. <3 I would love to go to a conference. Sadly there aren't many up here. I'll have to take a trip down to the states at some point.
Insert Witty Signature Here.

bcomet
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Re: It's hard out here for a pimp

Post by bcomet » February 13th, 2010, 4:39 pm

Wow. That was so entertaining to read and informative too. Thanks for sharing.
BTW, I have a sneaking suspicion that this is going to be your Big Year.
You are just too good not to be noticed.

Do you attend conferences in Canada or Michigan?

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