Well, I didn’t “knock it out of the ballpark” as far as my face-to-face query session went, but I sure didn’t choke this time. Most notably, I managed to speak with a quiet mind. No inner monologue paralyzed me this time; I just sat down with the agent, and told him about my novel.
Two days before my pitch, on the day before I left for Dallas, I settled on pushing Saundra as a super-hero novel. She gains specific magical powers, her friends and enemies do as well. There’s a costume change involved; it all works.
After some meditation and prayer, I came to two decisions. The first was to heed the advice that the incomparable Ru Paul regularly gave to students on Drag U: ask yourself what your inner drag queen would do. Well, my inner drag queen is a dragon (and not much of a queen per-se, but he sure is fabulous!). Every time I got nervous, I just reminded myself, “I’m a dragon, bitches!” The second decision was to remember that I am a pretty damn good customer service rep / salesperson, and the agent is my customer. So, rather than imagine that I was putting my heart and soul on the table to be judged, I put my novel out there to be bought.
Bolstered, I found that I could pitch to my husband with courage and charisma, when previously the mere thought of it petrified me. “Keeper of the Worldgate is an offbeat super hero story about a plus-size, pacifistic woman who must defend an extra-dimensional portal from a sociopathic computer hacker, who would use it to bring the most horrific nightmares from the internet to life.” Bam! There it is.
When my time came, I stood up tall, reminded myself to be a dragon, and strode into the meeting with strength and confidence. If saw the shade of doubt flutter across my customer’s expression, I dropped an attractive tech-spec on the table: “My test readers and editors have praised my suspense as being genuinely suspenseful.” If I saw his brow quirk with interest, I reinforced the topic that so moved him: “This manuscript definitely passes the Bechdel test.”
We had only ten minutes, and while it’s tempting to think that I could have landed a full manuscript request given just a few moments more, the truth is that my approach was scattershot. I spent far too much time experimenting with how to best describe my novel in superhero terms, and far too little driving home the uniqueness of its story. By the end of my sit-down, I think I confused the agent more than interested him.
My approach was clumsy, but he invited me to query him anyway. While I expect this was just a courtesy, he flinched when the time-over gong cut him off. He was still speaking, and looked like he wanted to know more. Did I detect a hint of dithering? Curiosity?
Whatever the case, I walked away proud in the knowledge that I’d not made a fool of myself. I will be querying him, and not unsolicited. Will my writing stun him and reverse his decision not to request a full? I doubt it. It’s a great story, and it will appeal to pacifists, and feminists, and big people. If that’s not his usual fare, though, he might not have the best connections to push Saundra out as far and wide as she needs to go. He may know someone who is, though, and I may get a referral out of this experience.
The agent hunt continues, and as the weather in central Texas has taken my day job offline, I’ve nothing to do today but write, research the next batch of agents, and compose another set of queries.