WDC Success StoriesKatie Wells: Her Advice - "Be prepared, listen to your gut, and go for it!"
Colette Martin: A Mom's First-Hand Experience and Solid Research Puts Her Ahead of the Game at the Pitch Slam
Lynn Taylor: An Expert on Difficult Managers Learns to Manage Her Own Writing Career with Aplomb
Naturi Thomas: Face-to-Face Agent Meetings Lead Writer to Quick Success at Writer's Digest Conference
For me, the weeks leading up to the slam were more stressful than the event itself. I read books on pitching, rewrote mine about a hundred times, and even practiced on friends so I wouldn’t freeze up when pitching to something other than my empty living room. The website posts a list of the attending agents ahead of time, and after doing some research I had whittled their list of sixty down to my top ten. My initial strategy was to start with one or two from boutique literary agencies, then work my way up to the reps from full service management companies, like ICM and Paradigm. Apparently my gut thought a better strategy was to get my long shots out of the way first, because as I reread the agent bios earlier in the day, it was screaming at me to head straight to Kari Stuart from ICM.
Determined to be the very first person at Kari’s table, I lined up outside of the conference room about an hour early. Being the first one through the door gave me an unexpected edge that I now believe made all the difference in the world. By the time everyone else had settled into seats, I was half way through my pitch. And by the time that three-minute clock had officially started, Kari and I were chatting in much more detail about my book. I’m not sure whether it was our mutual excitement about the day, the extra time we had to get to know each other, or the pitch I had agonized over for weeks, but Kari handed me a business card and requested that I email her my manuscript right away.
There were so many wonderful agents at the conference, and I would have been lucky to sign with any one of them, but when Kari emailed me ten days later, asking if she could be the one to represent me, I literally burst into tears. My gut may have known it was going to be her all along, but the rest of me had been vacillating between bracing myself for rejection, and hope. Louis Pasteur, a 19th century French scientist, said something that has always resonated with me. “Chance favors the prepared mind.” The seminars and panel discussions at the Writer’s Digest conference are already worth the price of admission, but if you’re looking for an agent, participating in the pitch slam should really be a no brainer. Here’s my advice to anyone who’s still on the fence: Be prepared, listen to your gut, and go for it!
About KatieKatie Wells has been a television producer in Los Angeles and New York City for over ten years. She’s worked on commercials, music videos, indie films, and just about every type of reality series you can imagine—including Intervention (A&E), Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition (ABC), The Ultimate Fighter (Spike), Say Yes To The Dress Atlanta (TLC), and Iron Chef America (Food Network) – to name a few. She was also the Supervising Producer of the award winning feature documentary, Little Man (Showtime), about a couple who struggles to hold their family together when their son, Nicholas, is born weighing less than one pound. Katie graduated with a Communications degree from the University of Connecticut, but she attributes most of her education to a love of travel that was instilled in her by her parents at a very young age.
On The Wrong Ship is Katie’s first novel. This magical-realism romp through the glamor and heartbreak of Hollywood – think The Devil Wears Prada meets Sliding Doors – raises the paralyzing, quarter-life-crisis question: Can one wrong move at the beginning of our careers veer us so off course that it’s nearly impossible to become the person we’re truly meant to be?
I had no idea what to expect when I attended my first Writer’s Digest Conference. I nearly passed on the Pitch Slam, but a mentor encouraged me to go for it. I left that conference with cards from three agents. Before attending WDC, I thought success was walking away with an agent’s business card—but I soon found out that there was much more to it.
By the time I completed my first book proposal, I realized that I was writing the wrong book. But the exercise of writing the proposal was effective and I set about writing a new proposal for Learning to Bake Allergen-Free, a resource for families with multiple food allergies. I knew that I needed to finish the proposal by the time I attended my 2nd Writer’s Digest conference in January 2011. Going into this conference, I was very confident and I had a plan. I researched the agents prior to the conference and had my list narrowed down to eight that I wanted to meet, based on what they were looking for. I was ready. When the doors opened to the pitch slam, I was the first in line at Shawna Morey’s table. I knew within seconds that she liked my idea and we spent our three minutes strategizing. When another agent passed, I didn’t feel rejected. It’s not just about whether you have a good idea; it’s about whether you can make the right match. I left that session with strong interest from three agents and I sent my book proposal to each of them the next day. While I was confident that I had a great idea—that there was a market for my book and that I was the right person to write it. I was not so confident that I would find an agent and a publisher. Needless to say, I was thrilled when Shawna called with an offer to represent me and even happier when I signed with Folio Literary Management.
Shawna worked with me to refine the book concept and I spent the next two months creating more sample content for the proposal. In the end, I had more than we needed, but that allowed Shawna to choose the content she thought best represented the book. Shawna sent the book proposal out to publishers in April 2011. She was sure we had a winner; I was still very nervous. Not too long after Shawna began shopping it out—Matthew Lore of The Experiment wanted to speak with me. The Experiment is an independent publisher and I wasn’t familiar with it. After a little research on The Experiment’s existing catalog of published titles, I was very excited; I knew right away that this was the right home for my book.
I wake up every morning energized and grateful that I found the right team of experts to lead me through the process of publishing my book. Best of luck to all of you and keep writing!/p>
Colette Martin is a food allergy mom and an expert on how to bake allergen-free. When her son was diagnosed with food allergies to wheat, milk, soy, eggs, and peanuts, she had to re-invent how her family ate. Having first learned to bake in her grandmother’s kitchen with wheat, butter, milk, and eggs, Colette understands first-hand what it means to transform her kitchen to accommodate multiple food allergies. As she modified her recipes to eliminate the top eight food allergens, she discovered her own intolerances to wheat and soy. Her son is now 20 and thriving. The whole family eats the same allergen-free baked goods and loves them!
Colette blogs at learningtoeatallergyfree.com and is a contributing writer at livingharvest.com. When she’s not creating recipes in her own kitchen, she enjoys taking baking classes at the Culinary Institute of America. Colette is currently working on her first book.
About LynnLynn Taylor is a leading national expert and spokesperson on career and hiring subjects, and currently serves as an advisor and consultant to executives facing workplace management issues. She is a speaker and the creator of the TOT series, which includes the book, Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant™ (TOT) Lynn’s message to managers - through the TameYourTOT.com community forum - is for them to work in greater harmony with their most valued asset: human capital. For employees – it is designed to help them manage up, while they take proactive steps to humanize their workplace.
My advice? Go to every single workshop you can fit in, then find the longest, rowdiest line at the Pitch Session (preferably one in which everyone is laughing hysterically) and GO FOR IT! That's exactly what I did and I couldn't be happier about my results."
About AlysiaAlysia Sofios is an award-winning journalist who is known in the Fresno area for her exclusive stories about the Marcus Wesson murders. She was the first reporter to hear about the story from police and the only reporter to obtain interviews with most of Wesson's family.
Sofios majored in journalism at Michigan State University. In 2000, she became a reporter and anchor at Fox affiliate WSYM in Lansing, Michigan. She was recognized by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters for her work covering the local impact of the Iraq War. She later accepted a reporting position at Fox affiliate KMPH in Fresno, California, where she remains as a reporter. She has covered the Scott Peterson and Marcus Wesson trials. Several of her stories have appeared on Fox News and CNN.
After I pitched my manuscript, 5 agents expressed interest. Unbelievably, within a week, I was signed with Jamie Brenner from Artists & Artisans. This led to the publication of my memoir, How to Die in Paris. http://www.howtodieinparis.com/ which was released Dec.1. Nothing compares to walking into a bookstore, or clicking on Amazon, and seeing your book. I highly recommend the Writer’s Digest Conference for any writer who wants their career to take off!
About NaturiNaturi Thomas grew up in New Jersey and spent her twenties in the wilds of New York. During that time she held a variety of jobs, including TV actress, factory worker, children’s book author, tennis teacher, and that receptionist who kept disconnecting you.
Upon returning from a 10-month stint in Europe, she returned to college to study writing at New School University in Manhattan. She currently lives near Notting Hill, and is pursuing a master’s degree at City University, London.
Naturi Thomas is the published author of a children’s book, Uh-Oh! It’s Mama’s Birthday! (Albert Whitman & Co., 1997) Booklist called it, “appealing…one of those stories with a universal premise.” She also sold first rights to her full-length comedic play, Hating Raymond. She was a SAG actress, appearing on Nickelodeon, “As the World Turns,” and way, way off-Broadway. Her fiction, poetry and personal essays have been published in: Barrow St., The Subway Chronicles and Underground Voices and Children, Churches and Daddies, among others.