RWA 2018 – Speed Pitch event and the Industry Marketplace

~ By SteStephanie Haefnerphanie Haefner

This year, more than others in the past, my main goal for the RWA National Conference was to make connections with agents and editors, and boy did I ever! The main sources for amazing networking this year were the Speed Pitch event and the Industry Marketplace.

In past years, RWA members attending the conference had the opportunity to sign up for two ten-minute pitch sessions. One with an agent and one with an editor. Prime picks were often gobbled up quickly and attendees had to move on to their 2nd, 3rd, sometimes 4th picks, even if they weren’t one-hundred percent right for us. There were opportunities to do more, if you waited around the day of the pitch sessions and someone happened to have a no-show.

This year, RWA made some huge changes, and I for one was incredibly happy about them!

First I’ll talk about Speed Pitch! I was lucky enough to get the session I wanted with some agents and editors I knew would be a good fit for my books and style. The day of, I signed in and at 9 a.m. on the dot we were led into a “room” fashioned out of pipe and drape with twelve small tables, each with an agent or editor at it. You picked a seat, plopped yourself down, and the three-minute time limit began.

hourglass and roseI had been practicing what I would say, but in that moment, the words just kinda fell out of my mouth! Before I knew it, time was called and I moved to the right to the next table. After the first couple, I got the hang of it and organized my thoughts a little better, perfected what to say in such a short amount of time. It really makes you narrow down the main plot points of your book.

Most of the agents and editors seemed interested in my book and told me how to contact them. Only one didn’t, because that publisher in particular does not publish my heat level. But she was extremely friendly and said she loves to read books like mine and wished me luck.

By the end, I walked out wondering what the heck had just happened. It sure was a whirlwind. But in a good way. It was quick but hopefully I was memorable and I plan to submit to all who requested. I’m not sure how others felt about it, but I liked it. One-on-one time with multiple agents and editors—even though brief—was a big plus in my book.

Later on that day I attended the Industry Marketplace. I got there about a half hour after it started and whoa! It was already jam-packed. There were tons of tables set up, agents and editors intermingled. It was tough to maneuver through and was a little intimidating at first, but after I strolled around a bit, I started to talk to people.

I spoke with editors and asked if they were looking for what I write. If they were, they gave me information on how to submit and if there was a particular editor I should send to. Most of the agents had pretty long lines. I waited for the ones I wanted to talk to. I didn’t mind. At least I had the opportunity. In past years, I never would have had the chance. It was a far better situation than trying to approach them in elevators and bathrooms. That is so not my style. No judgment if it’s yours. I’m just not that brave! But this set up gave me a great opportunity to talk to agents in a setting where they wanted to hear about my books.

Overall, I thought both events were wonderful. A little hectic, too! But I almost think that worked for the Speed Pitch. You really didn’t have much time to be nervous. You had to just spit it all out. No time to overthink your words. I hope RWA continues to do events like this in the future.

Huge kudos to all the agents and editors who gave their time during the chaos to listen to us talk about our stories. I hope it was as beneficial to them as it was for me.

Stephanie Haefner is a wife, mother of two, and contemporary romance novelist from Buffalo, NY. Her titles include her Classy ‘n’ Sassy series: Try Me On for Size, Size Matters, and One Size Fits All, as well as her Karma Series and various novellas. A member of Romance Writers of America and the Western New York Romance Writers subchapter, she loves creating sassy heroines and tossing them into sexy circumstances. When not writing, tweeting, or blogging, she celebrates her sassiness with dance and zumba classes, and her nerdiness with boybands and Disney World.

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  1. Alyssa Henderson - July 31, 2018 Reply

    Wow fantastic Stephanie!!!! I volunteered at the Speed Pitch and I thought it was insane! LOL but you’re right it in 3 minutes you really need to hone in what you’ve got. I did attend he Market Place too and thought it was great as well. Good luck!

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