Friday, October 19, 2012

My Top Two Tips for Dealing with Pitch Session Jitters by Keli Gwyn

A writer’s journey to publication often involves attending conferences where one can bond with people who share the same passion, learn more about the craft of writing, and meet with professionals in the industry. It’s exciting to get an appointment with a dream agent or a favorite publisher. But it can also be a nerve-wrecking experience. Author Keli Gwyn offers comfort and encouragement by sharing her personal stories. ~ Dawn

My Top Two Tips for Dealing 
with Pitch Session Jitters
by Keli Gwyn

What two words can give a writer the heebie-jeebies quicker than any others?

Pitch session.

Yup! The pressure to pitch perfectly can be intense.

So, what’s a writer to do?

I’ve come up with two tips I learned as a result of my flub-ups.

1. Forget the advice about first impressions being your one opportunity to wow a publishing pro. It’s not true. They know we don’t know everything when we begin writing. They know we grow. And they will give us second chances.

Back in my florescent green newbie writer days, I queried an agent. The story wasn’t ready. I know that now, but at the time I was clueless. The agent sent a well-deserved rejection.

Two years later I met the agent at a conference. She invited me to tell her about my work-in-progress, stared long and hard at my nametag, and asked, “I rejected you, didn’t I?” I gulped, certain I’d lost any chance of interesting her in my story.

Once I regained the use of my vocal cords, I said something clever like, “You remember that?” She smiled and said, “We don’t forget.” Great, I thought. Scratch that agent off my list.

What came next blew me away. The agent handed me her business card and invited me to send her my story when I finished revising it, proving I hadn’t burned any bridges after all.

2. Remember that publishing pros are people, too. Nice people. Understanding people. People who will cut us slack even if we make utter fools of ourselves.

During the Q&A portion of a publisher spotlight, I asked a question. One of those questions, the kind that caused the editor’s face to freeze and the room to become library quiet. The editor responded, saying the information I’d requested was confidential. Oops!

In an effort to redeem myself, I tried rewording my question in a more acceptable way. I blew it worse than before, being told my question was out of line. I slunk out of the spotlight with one thing on my mind: I had a pitch session with that very editor the following day.

The next morning I sat across the table from the editor, wondering if she remembered me. She began by saying she’d seen me at the spotlight. Yikes! I apologized, explaining that I hadn’t meant to ask about something that was off limits. She said it was fine and that she just felt badly that she couldn’t answer me. I’m sure she heard my sigh of relief.

That pitch session ended up being one of my best ever. And I learned a valuable lesson. Mercy exists—even in the publishing industry.

Pitch sessions can bring about the jitters, but these tips, coupled with plenty of prayer, might help keep them at bay.

Questions for You

Have you ever blown it in a pitch session but had good things happen in spite of your less-than-stellar performance?

What are some of your best tips for dealing with pitch session jitters?

Click to reach Amazon.
Keli Gwyn writes stories that transport readers to the 1800s, where she brings historic towns to life, peoples them with colorful characters, and adds a hint of humor. A California native, she lives in the Gold Rush-era town of Placerville at the foot of the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains. When she's not writing, she enjoys strolling past stately Victorian houses in her historic town, burying her nose in reference books as she unearths interesting facts to include in her stories, and interacting with other romance readers.

To learn more about Keli, you can visit her new Victorian-style cyber home at, where you'll find her parlor, study, carriage house, and more, along with her blog and her social media links.


  1. I pitched at RWA last July and beforehand, a good friend sooooo helped me get ready. I found I was way too wordy with my first effort and needed to kick things back a notch. Oh, we writers and our words LOL. Was I nervous? A tad; she was very nice and relaxy, however. Wish me luck...she asked to see the full.

    I'm gonna check out your books right now. Placerville is one of my favorite places and 1800's stories, my favorite reads.

    1. Tanya, aren't friends who help us and encourage us the best? I'm glad the pitch session went well and hope the request for the full leads to some exciting news.

      I love living in Placerville, where I'm surrounded by Gold Rush history. The town my story is set in is just a few miles from where I live. I had such fun bringing the El Dorado of yesteryear to life on the page.

  2. You give some good advice here, Keli. Sometimes we forget that agents and editors are people too - they do understand...and forgive.

    I'm a nervous pitcher haha.

  3. Loree, it's hard not to get anxious about pitching, isn't it? Finding out firsthand how nice the publishing pros can be really helped me relax.


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