Can-Con Saturday: A Tale of Two Pitches

If you were hoping for a well-rounded overview of the con as a whole, today’s post may disappoint. I did get to a few rooms, but my selfish focus was on pitching my novel. With that in mind, my first must-have event was the How to Pitch Your Novel panel with all four of the relevant editors: Gabrielle Harbowy for DragonMoon, Sandra Kasturi from Chi-Zine, Caroline Frechette from Renaissance, and Hayden Trenholm of Bundoran. The stand-out comment for me was Hayden’s desire to hear a single sentence describing what the book is about. This is harder for a writer than you might understand. I had to put myself outside my work to describe it as a reader might, if he were mentioning it to a co-worker.

This novel is about the uneasy symbiotic relationship between two human cultures; spacefarers that can live forever and pre-industrial planetary colonists that can reproduce.

That sentence was hard to write, because while it is my premise in a nutshell, it drifts into inaccuracy in two places. For forever, read indefinitely. For pre-industrial, read non-industrial or agrarian. Anyway, armed with this new sentence and a short page of key points about the protagonist and the relevant world-building, I felt ready to attempt my first pitches ever. Of course, they were still hours away.

I took a lunch break and missed the 13:00 hour panels. This is a fact of life at Cons. Unless you want to go all day on coffee and snack food you have to sacrifice some sessions to eat.

I made it back in time to sit in on The Engaging Author Reading. Marie Bilodeau talked about trying to do a reading on a day she had no voice above a whisper, and Erik Buchanan spoke about how to handle a readings with different sizes of audience, and what to do if turnout is disappointing. A recurring theme at this con has been Don’t Be a Dick. If people are making time in their lives for you, make them glad they did.

Three o’clock came, time for my appointment to meet Gabrielle Harbowy in one of the conference rooms. Ms. Harbowy was accompanied by her assistant, Fanny Darling, who never spoke, but she did take notes and help to project a welcoming and friendly atmosphere. The room was way larger than needed for three people to meet, but I was seated with my back to the empty space, so it was comfortable enough. I performed better than my own expectations. I remembered to include my premise, managed to stick to the rough script of my notes, and included my Elevator Pitch: “It’s Windhaven meets Old Man’s War – without the war.” I did not try to talk non-stop, I made time for questions and feedback. It went well, and I was invited to submit my manuscript for consideration. 116,000 words was not a length that bothered Dragonmoon. In my own mind, I was effective, persuasive and as cool as James Bond. More about that later.

To wind down for the remainder of the hour, I chatted to some of the other writers waiting their turn to pitch and then Nicole Lavigne dragged me off to the Can-Con Chocolate Fountain for a little time free of pressure.

Next hour I went to the panel on Let’s Stop Counting Adjectives, a discussion on the current expectation that writing should be lean and clean makes it too bare. My favourite part was a question from the audience: What mainstream literary author would you like to see writing genre fiction? The panelists were not expecting that one, but responded gamely. Thomas Hardy was mentioned, I think, and some other classic writers. I had more time to think about it, and wished for cyberpunk written by Elmore Leonard.

Time for my meeting with Hayden Trenholm. It did not go as smoothly. Mr. Trenholm is polite, but businesslike. Remember, he owns Bundoran, so the unspoken question in the room is not “can you tell a story,” but “can you improve my bottom line?” We were interrupted twice, I think. Once by someone poking their head in, and again by someone who actually entered the room and had to be told by Mr. Trenholm that he was in the wrong place. I’d like to believe that I would have done better without the distractions, but I suspect that my nerves were showing already. Mr. Trenholm was a gentleman, and kept me moving with questions. I fumbled my short explanation of what the book is about and forgot my Elevator Pitch completely. Bundoran is less enthusiastic about the length of my manuscript, seeing it as nearly fifteen thousand words too long. Even so, I was invited to submit the first three chapters as a sample.

Later, I had chance to catch up with Gabrielle and Fanny in a less formal environment, and they told me I had been visibly nervous at their presentation, too. I’m glad I didn’t know that until after the second session!

Two pitches of variable quality, two invitations. This is as much as I would have dared to hope for, and certainly more than I expected.

Somewhere in here, I went to a reading by Andrew Barton, one of the contributing authors in Bundoran’s Strange Bedfellows. Attendance was modest, but the reading was intriguing and I had a chance to chat with Andrew afterwards.

Last event of the day for me was the popular Getting Noticed… In the Slush Pile. The good intentions of the panelists to be helpful were soon overwhelmed by humorous tales of epic fails.

Supper break, and then back for an hour or two of the evenings publisher party hosted by ChiZine Publications. Book prizes from the hosts, and good conversation all around. It was a long day, and I still missed so many things! I didn’t get to go to the paper airplane contest, the Worst Readings, the Feminist Exploration of Female Villains (packed), Face-Palms of World-Building, or Exploring the Solar System, just to name some things I had highlighted on my schedule.

2 thoughts on “Can-Con Saturday: A Tale of Two Pitches

  1. You did fine, Tim. You persuaded me to take a close look even though I was initially doubtful. And the fact that you are open to change — based on incorporating some suggestions into your pitch on short notice –was a great sign.

  2. Pingback: Can Con Reflection: Day 2 | Brandon Crilly - Writer, Teacher, Human

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