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People ask me how I found Algonkian’s New York Pitch and Shop Conference , but I honestly don’t remember. I think I Googled something like circumvent literary agents and somehow there it was. An affordable three and a half day conference in the publishing Mecca of the world that would teach me how to sell my book. Best of all, after I felt comfortable with my pitch, I’d have four opportunities to sell my story to editors at major publishing houses.

So why is the pitch so important? If you’ve ever written a query letter, you know how difficult it is to say everything effectively in one page. The problem is, it’s just a piece of paper with words on it (or an Email) and agents get hundreds of those little pieces of paper every week. But when you pitch an actual editor face-to-face, it’s the difference between just picking something off of the menu and hearing the server’s enticing description of the nightly special. I knew enough about marketing to know a good pitch should do the same thing, but didn’t have a clue how to write a one.

Prior to the conference, I was guided  through the pitch writing process. In New York, Susan Breen,  a wonderful writer and teacher, led our group of 19 Women’s Fiction writers. The first day, she critiqued our pitches, made helpful suggestions, and briefed us on the editors we’d be pitching. She encouraged us to read our pitches, which was good because I suck at memorizing stuff.

The second day we sat down with one editor, pitched our project, and answered any questions she had. Afterwards, we reviewed our pitches based on the feedback we got from that editor. The third day we pitched two editors. By then all of us were more comfortable with the process. The last day we pitched one editor. Three of the editors let us know the day they heard our pitches if they were interested in reading our manuscripts, the other one we found out a few days later.

If you’ve read this blog, you know what going to New York to pitch my novel meant to me, but to come home with three out of four editors asking to read all or part of my manuscript was amazing. Even the dreaded query letter was easy to write after the conference; it was basically my pitch with a first paragraph that said I was seeking representation for my novel and named the three editors who’d already agreed to read my work. Out of 57 Email queries, 18 agents asked to read all or part of the manuscript and 6 asked for exclusives. In the end, I had three offers of representation and chose a wonderful agent.

Did the conference make my dreams come true? No, but without the conference, I’m convinced none of this would be happening. So if your book is ready to sell, let me recommend the New York Pitch and Shop Conference, with a saucy belief in your work and a side of hard work and perseverance. The desert that follows is delicious.

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About Kim Boykin

Kim Boykin learned about women and their hair in her mother’s beauty shop in a tiny South Carolina town. She loves to write stories about strong Southern women, because that’s what she knows. Kim is an accomplished public speaker and serves on the board of the South Carolina Writer’s Workshop. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband, three dogs, and 126 rose bushes.
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