Saturday, July 19, 2008

Do You Believe in Love At First Sight?

You've heard of speed-dating, right? That incredibly shallow phenomenon where a group of men and women get together and rotate through an "interview" every three minutes, and on the basis of those three minutes, attempt to ascertain whether anyone in the whole slightly desperate crowd might be worth spending an entire evening with on a real date?

I did that a week ago last Thursday. Sort of.

If you think there's a lot of pressure trying to convince a slightly bored, mostly uninterested chick to have dinner with you, imagine trying to convince a slightly bored, mostly uninterested literary agent that the manuscript you have obsessed over in a manner that's far too unhealthy for the last several months, or even years, is something that could be sold to a publisher, and even more importantly, sold to a slightly bored, mostly uninterested reading public! I know. Scary.

On Thursday afternoon, July 10, between 2:30 and 5:30, I rotated through various high-powered New York literary agents in a huge room inside the Grand Hyatt in Manhattan. I had three minutes in front of each one to pitch my manuscript, then a bell rang and I had to get up and move on.

I discovered a few things:

1) Put 45 literary agents and roughly 200 nervous aspiring authors, each of whom is looking at this as potentially his or her big break, inside one big room - even if it's really big - and inside of fifteen minutes, it begins to smell like the inside of the locker room at the YMCA after an afternoon of basketball and weightlifting. In 95 degree heat. With the showers broken.

2) Three minutes is simultaneously a really long time (if your pitch is bombing), and the barest sliver of an instant, if the agent seems interested in your manuscript.

3) What seems like an intriguing concept for a book can sound really lame, silly even, when you're explaining it to a seasoned New York literary agent who is looking at you with something between amusement and pity on his or her face. I found out at that point all you can do is soldier on, knowing the agent on the other side of the table is as anxious for three minutes to be up as you are.

I did get to the point where I calmed down somewhat eventually and only felt as though I was going to hurl prior to introducing myself and sitting down at an agent's table, rather than the entire time. By then, of course, the three hours was almost up and the whole chaotic affair was just about over.

The good news? Three agents are now reviewing my complete manuscript, and several others are looking at partials. Whether anything will come from this is anyone's guess, but I did learn one thing - Agents are just people, like you and me, even if they do have the power to make or break you as a writer. Yikes. Now I feel sick again.

No comments: