… and now I’m shitting myself.
Last weekend, I spent three FULL ON days at the Romance Writers of Australia’s annual conference. It was their 28th, and my third, and once again it was a wonderful event that left me exhausted, inspired and, if I’m being honest, more than a little overwhelmed. Here’s why.
In a fit of what can only be described as complete and utter insanity, or wishful thinking on my part, when I was booking to attend the conference waaaaaay back in May or March or fricken November (who the hell remembers?) I thought it’d be GREAT to sign up to pitch my current WIP (work in progress) to a publisher, an actual romance publisher with editors and cover designers and international distribution strategies… the works! Don’t ask me why I thought this would be a good idea because I don’t know. Actually, I do know; it’s because it’s high time I got out there and actually gauged whether or not this writing caper was something I could actually do… properly. You know, like a grown up with responsibilities and deadlines and structural edits. The whole shebang.
Sometimes you just have to know, you know?
I nominated three publishers I thought might be interested in a paranormal romantic comedy with touches of magic realism and urban fantasy, because why wouldn’t they???
And then I completely forgot all about it.
Fast forward two or four (or eight) months and I get an email from the pitch coordinators at RWAus advising that my selections have been successful and I’d be pitching to not one, but two publishers, on Friday 9 August, the first day of the conference.
Ho-ly happily ever after, Batman. What the hell had I been thinking?
Naturally, being the consummate professional I am, I went into blind panic and hyperventilated. Not a lot. Just a teeny bit.
I’d never pitched to an editor before. I’d barely told anyone about my novel in the year and a half I’d been researching and writing it, much less presented the concept to people who read books for a living. And published them.
After the panic, though, came the excitement. I was doing this. Would I? Could I? Hell yes! I’d prepare and refine my thoughts, and plan my pitch and write a synopsis… aaaaand then came the panic again.
So, I wrote a terrible draft synopsis (no truly, it was awful), asked two writer-friends for help, then sent it to be critiqued and crunched and finessed into something that might be halfway palatable for the publishers.
What came back was a beautiful little summary that, after a couple more edits and polishes, morphed into a pretty nifty synopsis, if I do say so myself.
(Huge thanks to Nina and Michelle for their help and guidance. You’re awesome.)
I sent the synopsis to a couple of beta readers for final notes, practiced my pitch whenever possible (special shout out to my awesome team at the day job who endured more than one long-winded, rambling conversation about my novel) and decided on what outfit I’d wear on pitch day. I was set!
I was so not set.
Now, before I we go any further, I just want to say that I’m quite a confident public speaker. I’m not saying I could whip up a TED talk in 10 or anything, but I can generally hold my own. I’d been a teacher, once upon a time. I’d MCed business and community events and given toasts at weddings with 250+ guests, for pity’s sake. I am good at talking to people. I WORK IN COMMUNICATIONS!
But boy, was I not prepared for the waffly, rambling, mumbling catastrophe that was my first pitch (that just happened to be with Harlequin–largest romance novel publisher in the world).
What a train wreck.
I’d refined my pitch so it would last around three-three and a half minutes, leaving around four minutes at the end for Q&A. There was, after all a very strict seven minute timeframe.
When the two minute warning came, I’d barely gotten half way through my pre-prepared pitch and was going mentally blank for the eleventy-gagillionth time. I couldn’t look more like a rank amateur if I tried.
It was awful. Just awful. Urgh.
After the first pitch-tastrophe, I had exactly 15 minutes to regroup and try to salvage what was left of my dignity. In the end I thought, screw dignity, and when the second editor asked how I was feeling, I told her I was nervous.
Thank god, because she lead me into a lovely chat about myself and herself and what it was like being bi-coastal (she was born in New York and now lives in LA) and by the time the two minute warning came round, she’d also managed to wrangle my entire plot, heroine’s backstory, the heroes journey, GMC and even a quick sketch about what book two of the series might look like, out of me.
I was soooooo relieved.
Now, when you’re pitching, there are three possible outcomes:
1. Thanks, but no thanks. Your story isn’t what we’re looking for, but we appreciate you playing.
2. Thanks, I like it enough so send me your synopsis and a partial (first three chapters) and then I’ll decide whether or not I want to read the whole thing.
3. I love it. Send me everything. Synopsis. Author bio. Full manuscript. Every-thing.
If I’m honest, I was kinda hoping for option two: synopsis and a partial, but really expecting option one: close but no cigar. But that’s not what I got.
I got two requests for my FULL MANUSCRIPT! Eeeeeeeeee! [cue: happy dance]
I was sooooo excited. I called my husband. I called my mum. I called my best friend. I texted my team at the day job and messaged my family. I was so happy.
I’m still happy. Really happy.
Funny thing, when I was telling all my loved ones and colleagues and writing buddies that both editors LOVED my story (despite all the babbling and tripping over my own tongue #howembarrassment), no-one was surprised. No-one except me, that is.
Seems like the main thing that’s been holding me back these past few years is, well, me. But not anymore.
So what happens next? Well, I settle in and rework my MS and make sure it’s the best damn version of itself that it can be. And then, I send it off to the two requesting editors and get to work on book two.
I know the chances of either publishing house picking the series up is slim. But I’m ok with that. It seems now, I’ve got a bit of confidence and I’m thinking there just might be a future for me in the big, bad world of writing.
And with the support of family and friends as wonderful as mine, now I’m willing to at least try.
In the words of my Aunty Liz, “… no more fluffing around… I want a best seller out of you.”