Friday, 8 August 2014

Bright Lights, Big City Pt. 2

Saturday morning, I was feeling much more refreshed and spent the majority of the early hours (I wake up with the sun) revising my pitch and getting my time down to ninety seconds.

Early morning excitement! This is what happens when I have too much caffeine. 

Ten minutes to nine, I rushed to the elevator so I'd have plenty of time to get to the Fifty Shades of Publishing session in the Vanderbilt room on the second floor. Because many attendees were staying at the hotel and going to and from sessions at the same time, finding an elevator with enough room to ride had become a Herculean task. As I raced to the elevator, I spotted a woman walking toward me, her lanyard bouncing off her chest. Dang it! I had forgotten mine. I dashed to my room and back to the elevator. The woman was kind enough to hold the elevator for me, and we shared a laugh at how disheveled I was.

She told me she was a literary agent, and in effort to drive the conversation away from pitching (because it would be kind of expected that I'd pitch her if she represented my genre), I started babbling about the obvious.

"Are you going to the Fifty Shades of Publishing session?" I said.

She showed me her badge. "Yes, I'm the speaker!"

And then I died a little inside. I should probably know or at least recognize the names of the people I'm about to watch speak.

Anyway, her session gave me a lot of insight into the world of publishing as it stands today. There used to only be traditional publishing (through an agent and the Big Five) and self publishing, but there are now so many different options. While there, I met a woman from Wise Ink, which is an indie publisher out of Minneapolis. There's this whole new wave of publishing coming around called partner publishing, which uses crowd funding companies like Pubslush to help raise the overhead costs of printing. Then the partner publisher helps the author build a grass roots effort to cultivate an audience and bring their book to the masses. It offers another opportunity and some hand holding for new writers in a way that's begun to disappear from traditional publishing. I didn't even realize that was possible until attending this session. Some food for thought.

Finally, my pitch rolled around. In years past, the Pitch Slam was one large three hour session where you formed lines in front of the agents you wanted to pitch and waited. I'd read several blog posts about the experience and made the rough estimate that I'd get to pitch 2-3 agents. I had my list of five to work with. This year, the session was split into three 1 hour blocks with 1/3 as many people. And boy, did it work!

Lines were much shorter than I anticipated. I pitched to six agents and received business cards from all SIX requesting material! I even had a request for the full manuscript. My strategy was pitch the #1 on my list and work my way down. I thought it would be like ripping a bandaid off, in that I would be  relieved and laid back after pitching my first agent.

No! Not at all. My anxiety just got worse. Halfway through, I was sweating and fanning myself with my schedule. As I accumulated more and more cards, I worried about finally getting a "no." With several minutes to go, I found myself standing in the center of this room frantically reading through my pamphlet to find agents looking for New Adult, thriller, or suspense. At six minutes to go, I decided to call it a day (a great one, at that--pitching was a total success) and head out.

Then I was floating on cloud nine. I had a stack of business cards bouncing around in a pocket of my shoulder bag. I had people, who were in no way related to me or friends of mine, who might actually want to read this thing I'd been working on for years. WHAT.  The rest of the afternoon blurred by until Harlan Coben's keynote speech.

In the grand ballroom waiting for Mr. Coben to arrive.

Now in all my years of reading, I've never read a Harlan Coben book! He's published twenty-six of them, by the way, and sold over sixty million copies worldwide. So he's kind of a big deal. He's also incredibly tall and super funny. He shared all the horrific covers his publisher came up with for his first few books, one of which included a bloody football.

They seemed to like bleeding sport equipment? IDK. 

He'd shown up a bit discombobulated, claiming he'd forgotten the subject of his speech, and had written some basic do's and don't's of writing to share with us while in his cab. After his speech, I tweeted him that it's nice to know you can be a bit of a mess, but still successful. He favorited my tweet! So I'm basically famous now.

After the keynote, there was a cocktail reception with free booze (huzzah!), and the air buzzed with an almost summer camp/college orientation vibe. Everyone was interested in hearing what genre you were pitching, how your pitching went, what your background was, and how you were working toward publishing. I met some cool writer friends, even one from my hometown of Raleigh, NC!

Oh hey, Grand Central! 

That night, I met my freshman college roommate and her girlfriend out for a fancy pants dinner in Tribeca. They met me in the lobby of the hotel and showed me the ins and outs of riding the subway in NYC. After dinner, we had drinks at a swanky dark bar. You know the type, the one where the bartenders are mixologists and wear suspenders. We have a lot of those in Asheville.

I don't know which building that is, but it looks great! 

Fun Facts:

1. My hotel was down the street from Grand Central station.

Ew, tourists. 

2. If your bartender has to open another bottle in the middle of pouring your glass of wine (and tells you that you would be smart to drink some of what you're already got while he's preoccupied), do it.
3. Fluke Crudo means raw fish. And it's delicious.

The restaurant where we had dinner: Telepan Local

4. Eye contact goes a long way when pitching an agent. Don't read from a card.
5. Everyone else is as nervous, if not more, about explaining their book to a stranger.

So that was my Saturday in NYC. Stay tuned to hear about the rest of the conference and my NYC adventures on Sunday!

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