Why Pitching is Never a “Make or Break” Deal

Here’s another shot of the eclipse that you can’t tell is an eclipse. Still kind of pretty though.

This week on the group blog I share with other fabulous speculative fiction writers, the Word Whores, we’re talking about the one that got away. It’s the idea that someone or something slipped through your fingers, an opportunity forever lost, the ship sailing away without you.

And I just don’t believe in this.

More, through my career as a writer, I’ve come to see that there really is no such thing as a lost opportunity. You see this advice all the time from editors and agents, e.g., don’t think your pitch appointment is your make or break moment. This is a difficult piece of advice to understand, because it FEELS like it is. Especially at first.

When I was first trying to sell Rogue’s Pawn (Book 1 in the Covenant of Thorns series! Out July 16!! Muppet Flail!!!), and this was several years ago now, I joined RWA expressly so I could go to the National Conference to pitch my book to an agent and editor I couldn’t access otherwise. I signed up, nagged them to give me my PRO status (if you don’t know what that means and you want to, go here), so I could get the early opportunity to snag an appointment. I only went to the conference for a couple of days – flew in from a day job trip and flew out again two days later, right after my pitch appointments. Both requested to see more, the agent 100 pages and the editor the full manuscript. Afterwards, I sat in the bar by myself (because I didn’t know anyone) and drank a glass of champagne, congratulating myself for seizing the opportunity.

Both said no.

I sat on my metaphorical dock, watching that ship sail off into the sunset without me and wondered what to do. Should I sit there for another year, until the next National conference? What if that ship sailed, too.

Clearly that’s just not an option if you’re not the type who’s fond of sitting on her butt, doing nothing.

So I dug up other opportunities, found many avenues to pursue. I can talk about those sometime, if anyone wants me to. But the point I’m attempting to make today is, I’ve talked to SO MANY editors and agents now, that it’s no longer a big deal. Some of them I count as friends. They’re interesting people with jobs relevant to my field. Some I work with directly, some I don’t.

But there’s no longer this huge charge over pitching a project to them. Maybe it will be a hit with them, maybe not. One agent has now read three of my novels and I know that each time she hopes it will be something she can fall in love with. Maybe that will happen. Possibly it will happen with someone else first. But I’ve talked with her about projects for years now. None of those conversations were make or break.

That’s the thing: ships don’t really sail away, never to return. If you frequent a busy port, there are ships coming and going all the time. The idea that just one is for you is ridiculous and self-limiting. We live in the modern era. There are lots of ways to get to India.

And lots of fish in the sea.