It was my one shot.
The top literary agent attending the Seattle Conference had just stepped into the room. Never open to submissions, opportunities to speak with this gentleman had been whittled down to pitch sessions booked months in advance. Yet, despite all odds, fate had put the two of us alone in a room together. There was just one problem; we weren’t in an elevator. We were in the restroom.
Hovering over my urinal, I couldn’t clearly recall a class on bathroom pitches. Panicked thoughts severely impeded my ability to follow nature’s course.
It was then I caught his glance. My discomfort had been obvious and so I accepted his gander as an invitation.
I asked if he was indeed the man I assumed him to be.
The smirk made it clear, he was.
“So, what’s your pitch?” he asked.
A quick zip up, and I’m ready. Only, he’s still peeing.
He doesn’t even bother to look over his shoulder. “Just do it. I gotta go.”
There is hesitation on my end.
This time he glances over his shoulder. “Seriously. If you wanna pitch, you gotta do it now.”
I wish my next words were, I had the dignity not to pitch.
I pitched. He pee’d. We washed our hands.
“That is, without a doubt, a first for me.” He tossed his trash and handed me a business card.
“Make sure to email me the first chapter.”
Success never felt so grimy. Like bad sex, I had been taken in the moment and he told everyone about it. People at the conference congratulated me on my ingenuity. I didn’t feel the same enthusiasm.
My book meant the world to me. I wanted him to be interested in the book because it was good, not because there was a great story to share over drinks.
As I had assumed, it took only a few days to receive his refusal. He was, however, quick to remember me as the one who pitched in the bathroom.
At what point did the desperation for my art overcome the art itself? In review of my notes and handouts, I noticed a trend. Lesson after lesson fertilized a subconscious desperation to join the variety show of writers willing to do anything to get the attention of an agent and of the agents willing to indulge them. Lesson after lesson fertilized a subconscious desperation to join the variety show of writers willing to do anything to get the attention of an agent and of the agents willing to indulge them.
Embarrassed, I no longer wanted any part of it. I focused on reading more and perfecting my art for my own sake. I spent my time mentoring, sharing, and listening to a small group of authors.
Over time my manuscript caught the attention of one particular member in the group. July held a large writer’s conference and she invited me to go. I politely refused. She politely refused my refusal. There would be a large private dinner hosted for several agents and VIP authors. Reminding me that there was no embarrassment found with enjoying good food, she reserved a seat at the table for me.
The night of the dinner brought no surprises as authors waited for their opportunity to throw pitches at the agents.
I took to focusing on the buffet line instead. There I met Julie and discovered our mutual romance with food. The evening progressed and so did our discussion: meatballs, to baseballs, to Spaceballs.
It wasn’t until the close of the event that I discovered she was an agent. Regardless, I continued to revel in our discussion of all things Supernatural. When it was time to leave she asked if I wrote at all. I mentioned I had finished a novel, and she asked why I hadn’t pitched to her.
“I was just having too much fun,” I said.
Impressed our connection was genuine, Julie asked to hear my pitch. It didn’t matter I was rusty and hadn’t pitched to anyone in over a year. I was telling a friend and colleague about what was important to me, and she listened.
Eventually, she came to represent me. Our time together was brief as she ended up moving on to greater things, but even today we remain supportive friends and keep in touch.
Now when people approach me, wide-eyed and desperate, and ask me how to land an agent, I just tell them to be genuine. The agent has to love the book, yes, but they are also looking at the business partner they are taking on. Know your story, know your business, but above all be comfortable in your skin.
Work hard, and you’ll get there. In the meantime, enjoy the journey and avoid pitching in the restroom.