By Bonni Philipp
I had done my research and meticulously picked out the agent for my PPWC pitch appointment who I knew would be the perfect person to represent my book. I then spent countless hours honing my pitch, practicing it in the shower, in the car, to anyone who would listen. At last the morning arrived for my appointment and I was so nervous. For the half hour before my allotted time I paced the parking lot of the hotel, rehearsing my pitch, coming up with potential questions the agent might ask, what I would say when she told me she thought my book sounded brilliant…that it was exactly what she had been waiting for.
After applying a fresh coat of lipstick and popping a mint in my mouth, I tossed my notes into my bag and marched towards the hotel doors. I streamed past the crowds of people who were milling about in the lobby, drinking, laughing, relaxing on the sofas, and walked purposefully past them, thinking how in the next twenty minutes my whole life was going to change. I rode the elevator up to the seventh floor and emerged into a crowded waiting room of people.
After checking in, I sat off to the side, where I once again began to mentally recite my pitch. I found it hard to keep focused, however; the level of tension in the room was so palpable. Some people chatted to each other nervously, while others seemed to be like me, silently practicing their lines; still others mumbled to themselves, their eyes closed. One woman even started doing stretches while taking large gulps of air and telling everyone in the room in a shrill voice, “I’m just so nervous!” It was what I had imagined it would be like auditioning to be on American Idol or for an acting part in a movie—exciting but at the same time completely nerve-racking.
One wave of people was called, disappearing single file through the hallway. After a few short minutes passed, it was my group’s turn. Sincere cries of “Good luck!” were uttered as we filed down the hall. For a brief moment we waited, as the next group was not yet done. Then as if a were race beginning, the woman who had led us down the hall shouted, “GO!” and darted out of our way. The clocks had started. We had exactly eight minutes.
I scrambled with the rest into the room and quickly located my agent, wasting no time in delivering my pitch. After I was done, my agent looked at me with a strange frown and said it didn’t really sound like a thriller, sounded too boring for that. My eyes bulged. I felt a lead weight drop inside of me. “No, no…it really does get quite exciting,” I tried to convince her, blubbering on for a minute about it, not quite sure how much sense I was really making. At last my agent shrugged, not really looking convinced. “I guess you can email me the first couple of chapters…”
Next thing I knew, my agent was shaking my hand and saying with a large smile, "Well, it was nice meeting you.” I looked around the room, where all the other writers were still chatting eagerly with their editors and agents. I had no idea how much time was left, but I didn’t want to say goodbye just yet. “So,” I said, trying to think of something, anything, to dissolve the awkwardness that was growing between us. I asked my agent a question or two, and then suddenly she grew very excited. (I couldn’t help but notice how much more so than when I had pitched my book.) “Have you ever watched the TV show Bones?” she asked. I shook my head. “Has anyone ever told you that you look exactly like the character Daisy? I mean exactly!”
As I had never watched the show, I had no clue which actress she was talking about. And then to make matters worse, an elderly woman on the couch close by, overhearing our conversation, agreed. She and my agent talked on about the TV show, about the similarities between the character and me. Apparently even our smiles were the same, including the way I tipped my head a certain way to the side. I couldn’t quite believe it—not knowing how to respond besides with an agreeable smile, a fake laugh. But inside all my hopes and dreams of finding the perfect agent and getting a book deal were getting squashed by the second. Everyone else in the room was talking about their books, and here I was spending my precious eight minutes talking about my resemblance to a TV character.
For the next few hours I had a hard time getting past what had happened, not sure whether to cry or laugh about it.
It wasn’t until about a week later when I realized that this experience hadn’t been a complete waste. It caused me to look again at my pitch, which was consequently a major part of the query letter I had sent to countless agents over the past year with little success. I realized that I had perhaps not been pitching my book in the best possible way, and that my agent may have been right in pointing out that the way I was marketing it didn’t quite fit the genre in which I categorized it. It also made me realize that even though my first pitch had gone so differently than I had envisioned, the experience only made me stronger as a writer; because that is after all, a part of the process, the long road to getting published. It is about learning to stand up and keep going no matter how many times we get knocked down. It is about believing that our work is valuable, is worth our time and effort, and with persistence and a little bit of luck the day will come when it will be recognized as such.
About the Author: Bonni Philipp is a recipient of the 2014 Pikes Peak Writers Conference Scholarship. She has written for Women’s Edition Magazine and is currently working on a collection of novellas centering around love and diners. She lives in Colorado Springs with her husband and cats.