Literary Speed Dating

Posted on June 1, 2007

Here's a new concept for you: literary speed dating. It's like speed dating, but instead of trying to make a love connection you get three minutes to sell your book to an editor.

Several dozen agents and editors were taking pitches at Wednesday's "pitch-slam" at the end of a one-day seminar that also included workshops on writing the perfect book proposal.

"Don't feel like you're a failure if you don't come out of here with a contract," Lauren Mosko, editor of writers' guide "Novel & Short Story Writer's Market", told her workshop.

Analyzing a pitch for a book of women's letters about lessons learned in adversity, she said: "It sounds like a really 'nice' book but there's nothing that really grabs me emotionally."

Among the other pitches were a memoir of raising kids in the "hotbed of commercial sex" that is Bangkok, a novel about Internet geeks, a memoir of police corruption, an expose of the adoption system and a parody of Fox cable show "The O'Reilly Factor."

Meg Leder, editor of nonfiction books at Penguin imprint Perigee, said by the end, "Everything's kind of a blur."

The weird thing about speed pitching is that your success will depend on your ability to deliver a succinct, interesting, Hollywood-style pitch. That means that before you participate in one of these little ego-bruising sessions, you'd better smarten up your appearance and plow through a few sales books.

Oh, and you'd better practice your pitch on everyone you know. No babbling, no rambling, and no whining. Breath mints couldn't hurt either. And if you have some extra cash, you could always get a starving actor to impersonate you and do the pitch for you. Not that we'd ever engage in something so deceptive ourselves, of course.

Remember: This book pitching knowledge won't go to waste. It is also very useful when it comes to marketing your final book product to booksellers and readers.