authors-what-went-wrongWe write plenty about what to do right as an aspiring or emerging author. But what about when it goes all wrong?

As we well know, it’s sometimes easier (albeit painful) learning from our mistakes or, as author Steve Piacente put it so eloquently in a comment the other day, from those things that have fallen flat.

My favorite “bad pitch” story actually came from more than one female literary agent who’s shared that aspiring authors slid their manuscripts under stall doors in the women’s restroom. For the record, we’ve yet to hear a happy ending to this urban pitch legend…

Famed author Sandra Brown told a fun one at a writer’s conference about her first book signing. She sat outside a mall all day without selling a single book, despite alluring folks to the table with brownies. At the end of the day, before she was going to pack it in, a woman came running across the mall to her table and Sandra thought she’d finally land a sale. But no, the woman was simply after the last, lone brownie… (See, it can happen to the best-selling of us, too!)

I think my own worst experience was at a bookstore event where I was asked to do a demo and speech. I started talking, a bit nervous, and paused to take a sip of water… that went down the wrong pipe! Spitting, sputtering and coughing, I tried to continue but (as it always does in such a predicament) it just got worse. Red-faced and watery-eyed, I must’ve looked a mess, anything but the perfect image I was hoping to project! (Note to self: Breathe deep, speak slower, and if all else fails, have a good joke at the ready.)

Now, here’s your chance to share, vent and otherwise exorcise the demons of your own pitches or promos that fell flat. Forgot your bookmarks? Lost your voice in a reading? Tell us your funniest, most embarassing or awful story with your comment below… AND what you learned from the experience.

Don’t be shy; we’ve all got ’em!

6 thoughts on “Tell Us Authors: What Went Wrong?!

  • September 7, 2014 at 7:12 pm

    Years ago I attended a Romance Writers of America conference in which participants had 15-minute sessions with agents for pitching new projects for representation. I had barely settled into my chair with the first agent – a man in his 50’s – when he leaned forward and confidentially whispered, “They’re here among us, you know.”
    “Uh – who?” I asked.
    He glanced around and whispered, “Vampires.”
    Okayyyy. I was tempted to laugh out loud but I figured it was just a quirky schtick to see how I’d react.
    “Is that so?” I replied, feigning a keen interest in his disclosure.
    “Oh yes,” he continued. “There are more here than you’d think and they’re only after one thing.”
    “No, no, that’s what they want you to think. What they really want is to break into the publishing mainstream so as to advance their agenda for world domination.”
    And so it went for my full 15 minute session. I never did get to pitch my latest romance novel but the entertainment value of his revelations about the undead was priceless. I wish I still had his card which he secretly pressed into my hand as we parted company. The only thing I remember from it is that under the name of his one-man literary agency were the words Vampire Hunter.

    • September 8, 2014 at 12:11 am

      Oh, THAT’s priceless! So, what can be learned from this – wear garlic to a pitch?! 🙂

      • September 8, 2014 at 11:27 am

        Hmm…I don’t know that a necklace of garlic bulbs would have helped in this case. Perhaps the object lesson is that just because you see someone sitting at a table at a conference doesn’t mean they really belong there. S/he could just be a kook who wandered in for free refreshments (not unlike wedding crashers who assimilate by paying attention to names and feigning connections). But in a serious vein, you never want to waste your time or an agent’s if what they’re looking for isn’t what you’re seeking to sell. Since then, I’ve made a point of checking out bios and companies in advance and passing on those that don’t seem like a smart match.

        • September 8, 2014 at 11:40 am

          EXCELLENT advice — knowing the preferences of the agent/editor in advance will save both sides a great deal of time! Thanks, Christina!

  • September 7, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    The worst was when an old high school girlfriend showed up and while we were talking, she leaned against my vertical banner thinking it was going to hold. It didn’t and neither did she. She fell on the banner and bent the aluminum stand. I don’t know who was more embarrassed–her or me.

    • September 8, 2014 at 12:35 am

      Ah, the vertical banner mishap…At least no one was mamed! Recently while at the Writers Digest conference in NYC I brought my vertical banner, but for some reason one of the pieces (uh, the base) was missing from the rest… Happily I was in a corner where it leaned nicely, but learned a lesson to pack carefully… and maybe to seek a new booth display option! (The ladies from Wise Ink put me onto an uber-cool option… check out )

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