In June 2018, I went to a Literary Speed Dating event in Melbourne, Australia, for the first time. Representatives from Australian literary agencies and publishing companies sat in a circle and writers had three minutes to pitch our manuscript idea to them before joining another queue for a different publisher. It was daunting and exciting, and here’s what I learnt:
1. Agents and publishers are human
This was the most important thing I learnt. When submitting a pitch online, it can be daunting because you’re submitting it to a big, scary company. When I sat down across from the representatives, I realised they’re human—they’re friendly and passionate about books and eager to hear my idea. Knowing this made it easier to pitch my manuscript to them because I felt more relaxed and it felt more conversational. Although, it also made the rejection I received from one literary agent a little harder.
2. Prepare answers to questions they may ask
I’d spent all of my prep time memorising my pitch—a short version and a longer version, so I was caught totally off guard when they asked me questions about my manuscript like ‘What happens in the rest of your book?’ and ‘What’s the message?’ I had to stumble my way through an answer I hoped sounded convincing. After the first representative asked me that, I was a little more prepared when the others asked me the same questions. Three minutes is a long time when you’re sitting there, so prepare answers prior and also ask them any questions you have about your pitch or manuscript or the publishing industry in general. I paid for the event, so I wanted to soak up every second I had.
3. Network with other writers
Networking is important as a writer, especially when you’re emerging and you want to get yourself out there. Literary speed dating is the perfect opportunity to network with the writers waiting in line around you. As it was my first time, I was nervous, and my eyes pretty much stayed glued to my pitch. I spoke to two writers, because they spoke to me first, and had a decent conversation with each of them about the manuscripts they were pitching and we practised our pitches on each other. It definitely calmed my nerves and made me feel better. Other writers aren’t your enemies, they’re your friends. Networking is definitely something I should’ve done more, as it’s an important skill to have to break into the industry and work your way up.
4. Embrace rejection, it’s not personal
Rejection is a scary part of being a writer because it feels extremely personal that someone rejects a piece you’ve poured your heart and soul into. But it’s not personal. If your piece gets rejected it’s usually because publishers can’t accept every manuscript they receive, they’ve just published a novel that was very similar, or something simple like you didn’t follow the guidelines. I got rejected by an agent because my manuscript didn’t fit their style. After I sent my requested manuscript to two publishers, I never heard back from them. I was a little disheartened because I’d paid for this event thinking this would be my big break. But it was a great experience, and I definitely learnt a lot, so I’m more prepared for next time if I do it again, and I can apply these lessons to other aspects of my life.
Question: Have you done Literary Speed Dating before? If so, how did it go? If not, how can you apply these lessons to the aspects of your life?
Featured image source: https://unsplash.com/photos/dWyNHQbk45k
Julie is currently studying s Bachelor of Arts (Professional and Creative Writing) at Deakin University in Australia. She's a hardcover book and journal collector, she owns way too many planners, and she keeps telling herself that one day she will go to Paris.