How Following Up After the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference Led to a Book Deal
Rosa Kwon Easton
This article appeared here, on WritersDigest.com on August 2, 2023.
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My two-book deal wouldn’t exist without the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference Pitch Slam in NYC. But the Pitch Slam just got me started—I resolved to follow up on my leads there, which made a huge difference for me. This is what could happen if you don’t give up!
My First Writer’s Digest Pitch Slam 2022
Last July, I took my place in line with nearly 100 writers waiting for the agent pitch slam to begin. It was only 9:15 am, but there were already dozens of people before me and a steady queue forming behind for the 10 am start. Nervously, I closed my eyes and silently rehearsed the pitch I had been reciting alone in my hotel room in front of the mirror and my phone.
I glanced down at my list of 10 agents that I wanted to pitch. I only had three minutes to pitch each one and an hour to make my way around the room of 30 agents. An organizer finally ushered us into the large conference hall and before I knew it, writers beelined in to their favorites. Heart pounding, I rushed to an agent on my list with the shortest line and waited my turn. I delivered my pitch breathlessly and she asked for my full manuscript!
It was over so quickly and then I was on to the next agent. By the end of the hour, I had only been able to pitch five of my 10 preferred agents, but four said they were interested in seeing more. I celebrated that night with a few new writer friends I met, and we promised to keep in touch. They were the first to hear of my good book deal news later!
After I got home to Los Angeles from the conference in August, I immediately emailed the four agents who had requested materials. After two months of waiting, I heard back from one saying they were passing. Even though it was a no, I was relieved to get a response from anyone at the conference.
Rather than just waiting to hear from the other agents I met, I remembered what the WD conference organizers had said: “Follow up with the agents you couldn’t meet in person and let them know you were at the pitch slam.” So, in October, I queried the remaining five agents I couldn’t get to that day and typed the subject heading in all caps: WRITER’S DIGEST PITCH SLAM 2022. Then I resigned myself to waiting another few months for a response.
Surprisingly, a few weeks later, I received a promising email from Joelle Delbourgo, an agent from the NYC area who I didn’t have time to pitch at the conference. She asked me to send her my full manuscript. A week later, Joelle emailed me saying she wanted to schedule a phone call. After 10 years of working on this book, I couldn’t believe an agent might be interested in representing me!
I signed a contract with Joelle in January of this year, who turned out to be a fabulous person and an outstanding agent. She and I worked together the next several months to get my novel and mini-book proposal in top shape to submit to editors. Although a proposal is typically more common with nonfiction books, Joelle encouraged me to do one for my novel, and it worked. I included an overview, author bio, audience analysis, competitive titles, marketing plan, possible endorsers, a synopsis, and at the end, a short idea for my second book. I checked out over 40 books from my library to find comps and had to buy a new book tower for my office!
So it Begins…
On Monday, May 15th, we began the submission process. “So it begins” is the subject line of an email Joelle sent to me that night. My skin tingled seeing her message. She said that an editor thought my book sounded fascinating and couldn’t wait to dive in. In the same breath, however, Joelle warned me there’s no telling about editor response time. Sometimes it’s weeks, sometimes months. I exhaled and braced for a bumpy ride.
My eyes were glued to my email the rest of that week and I couldn’t focus on much else. I got ready for a long-awaited trip to the East Coast for my college reunion and visit with my daughter. Joelle and I also made plans to meet each other for lunch while I was in NYC. Meanwhile, Joelle sent me updates on the editors she had pitched and the names of those who were interested. There was more waiting and deep breaths. One of my writer friends asked how I was able to sleep at night. I said I wasn’t sure. I was so excited and nervous!
A Second Book?
Joelle called me the day before my trip and said she had some good news. Melissa Valentine, an editor at Lake Union, an imprint of Amazon Publishing, was interested in my book. And she was also interested in my second book—not yet written! Could I draft a short outline for my next book? I was shocked. I had never in a million years imagined someone would want to buy my second book, too. I almost dropped my phone as I listened to Joelle’s eager voice relaying the amazing news. I wanted to jump up and dance.
The next day, on the plane to Boston for my Smith College reunion, I banged away at a draft synopsis of my second novel. I sent it to Joelle and enjoyed a wonderful Memorial Day weekend reunion with my college friends. Afterward, I headed to NYC to see my daughter and have my first in-person meeting with Joelle over lunch later that week.
What Happened in NYC
On Tuesday after Memorial Day, Joelle’s number flashed again on my phone while I was having lunch with my daughter. Joelle had submitted my next book synopsis to Melissa that morning and Melissa wanted to have a Zoom meeting with me the following day. My daughter congratulated me with a big high five!
The Zoom meeting with Melissa went very well. Melissa said she had gobbled up my book and loved it! I really liked her vision for my book, and her belief in the editorial and marketing teams at Amazon Publishing. Melissa said she would get in touch in the next few days with an offer, and was true to her word.
I will never forget seeing the missed call from Joelle while I was walking in Central Park with my husband, who was in town for work. I called Joelle back, and she told me Lake Union had made a very strong offer. “Your dreams are coming true. You’ll be able to tell your family’s story to the whole world.” My husband and I cheered that night at Bemelmans Bar.
The timing couldn’t have been better for my lunch date the next day with Joelle. It was delightful to finally meet her, and we had a great time. We ate at Yoon Haeundae Galbi in Koreatown and chatted about business only at the very end.
Joelle said she would be following up with the other editors and let me know of any additional information. After some back and forth with different publishing houses and Lake Union, we accepted Lake Union’s two-book deal the following week. I couldn’t be happier! It’s a dream come true.
There’s a word called “inyeon” in Korean which means people are destined to cross paths in a meaningful way. I believe Joelle, Melissa, and I have inyeon. Almost a year after I participated in the Writer’s Digest Pitch Slam, I have a two-book deal. Thank you, Writer’s Digest!