Sunday, March 22, 2015

The New York Pitch Conference, the third day: Two “Someones” listen to me

Today’s good news is that it’s stopped snowing. Navigating New York City on foot in snow and ice is not an activity for sissies. Last night, to get out of the weather, I cut through Penn Station to catch the 7th Avenue subway. I felt like the ball in a hotly contested Foosball game. I stopped counting after the 32nd commuter shoved me out of his way. OK, so I exaggerate – but not by much. And to think I used to do this every day – somehow it seems like a rougher sport these days.

The city is quieter on a Saturday morning so I sprang for a cab to get to the conference for Day 3. As soon as I got in, the driver launched into a tirade about “these new moron drivers who don’t know how to find
anything.” Apparently what set him off was being stopped in Brooklyn by another taxi driver who asked him how to get to Manhattan. His response, he said, was “What idiot gave you a license?” Hey! This is New York.

He then told me he’s writing a book called “Taxi Tales” in which “I will reveal everything I have seen in the back seat of my cab in the last fifteen years.” I do hope that, if you were ever in his taxi, you either behaved yourself or didn’t give him your name.

But back to the New York Pitch Conference – Day 3.

This morning we made our pitches to Michelle Richter, an agent at Fuse Literary Agency. I incorrectly reported yesterday that she was with Foreword Literary Agency but there’s been a recent name change. Fuse is based in Silicon Valley but has offices in New York, Chicago, Vancouver and San Diego. According to her bio, Ms. Richter is seeking “book club fiction, literary fiction and well-crafted women’s commercial fiction as well as thrillers and mysteries, specifically police procedurals and smart cozies.”

She’s a great agent but what I like best about her is that she’s involved in the rescue and care of homeless cats. This makes her Good People in my book. She’s sharp and funny and, instead of my reading a written pitch to her, she let me just tell her about my novel. Being able to talk like a normal human being made it a much happier experience.

And then came Tom Colgan, Executive Editor at Penguin US, described by our workshop leader as “a god among editors.” With that description, wouldn’t you expect him to walk in wearing a toga and carrying a lightning bolt? Or maybe a $5,000 perfectly-tailored Master of the Universe suit and a big gold watch?

Not a bit of it! He’s Mr. Nice Guy. Mr. Very Put-On-No-Airs. (Actually, you want to know what he really reminded me of? The bartender at your neighborhood hangout who’s willing to sympathetically listen to your sad tale of woe at 3 a.m. while polishing glasses—even though he’s heard it all before. But please don’t tell him I said that.)

Tom Colgan focuses. He hears your pitch and he asks great questions which get right to the heart of the story – questions no one else has thought to ask. I guess he really is a god among editors. Great experience!

Tomorrow’s our last day at the Conference. In the morning, we pitch to Michaela Hamilton, Executive Editor at Kensington Publishing. Kensington is one of the last independent publishing houses in the US. It publishes over 500 books annually in both fiction and non-fiction – hardcover, trade paperback and mass market. Its imprints include Kensington, Citadel Press, Dafina Books, Zebra Books, Pinnacle Books, Brava, Aphrodisia, K-Teen, Lyrical Press and eKensington.

Ms. Hamilton “acquires and edits commercial fiction including thrillers, mainstream mysteries, cozy mysteries, women's fiction, true crime, platform-driven memoirs, and nonfiction and fiction involving animals.”

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