This coming Friday I’ll be attending a Writers Conference. If you’ve never attended one, you should know that conferences are the wellspring of great literature.
Badges are color-coded. Editors and publishers are the rarest form of life at these things; there may be a half dozen of them and several hundred writers. To control the deranged behavior of the writerly mob, ‘pitch sessions’ are organized; editors and agents, the gatekeepers, are seated in a ballroom. They have little tables with their names displayed along with a pitcher of water, two glasses and a handy periodical in the event your pitch proves less interesting than the current cover of People Magazine.
The ‘pitch’ is typically ten minutes long. The writer has coughed up about twenty bucks for the opportunity to reduce years of work to a pithy ‘hook.’ After a quick handshake, it’s important to remember your name (it’s on your badge), title and genre of your work, reasons why you wrote it and your qualifications. For fiction it’s helpful to be really famous; if you’re on the cover of People that week, your pitch will go extremely well.
A waiter from an exotic land may stop by to spill water on your synopsis; don’t panic. Most literature is water soluble.
After your pitch, volunteers will lead you away to a crying room. There you’ll compare notes with other writers who suddenly recall in vivid detail what they’d intended to say during the now completed pitch.
You’ll lurk in the hallway while famous agents and editors speed by on their way to the restroom; even you’re trained in downfield tackling, it’s not recommended you leap at them with a story idea.
Thus refreshed, you sign up for another pitch. The atmosphere changes and a hush comes over the throng; book people retreat because THE FILM PEOPLE ARE HERE.
Pitching to ‘film people’ is different. First of all, they talk fast. The sunglasses they wear reflect the ballroom lighting in a weird and distracting manner. When they ask you see in the film version of work, say something like ‘Charles Laughton.’ Go ahead, it’s fun. Thumb through People; strike a pose.
A film pitch is kind of like receiving CPR for a heart attack you haven’t had yet. If they remove their sunglasses at any point during your pitch, make eye-contact. It builds trust.
This is how deals are made, careers launched, books and movies are bought. Adam Smith once said the marketplace is efficient; of course, he’s never been to a Writers Conference.