In June I booked my July flight to LA to attend the Romance Writers of America conference and meet my new Amazon editor. I let my film agent know I would be in town and we set up a time to have lunch. I’ve worked with my film agent for nine years and we’ve met face to face exactly once, but we’ve corresponded regularly via email and phone. He’s done some pretty great things for me, including convincing Sony to option my BODY MOVERS humorous mystery series for television series development. I adore him and will probably marry him someday (this is our secret, yours and mine).
ANYWAY, when we set up our lunch, I didn’t dream we’d have anything concrete to discuss because the option on my BODY MOVERS series had expired and the pilot script left to languish. And although he’s always actively “selling” my projects, old and new, I didn’t have any reason to think a particular property had become hot. But about a month before my trip, he called with good news: Two production companies were interested in optioning the new mystery series I’d recently sold to Amazon called TWO GUYS DETECTIVE AGENCY. Conference calls ensued, offers were extended. I believe my material would have been in good hands with either group, but we ultimately chose one. (Formal announcement is still pending.)
I was over the moon, of course, and delighted that my agent and I would have something to discuss when we met for lunch in LA. A few days before I was scheduled to leave, my agent announced he’d set up pitch meetings for me with three different production companies. Here were the people I was supposed to meet with, office addresses, various security info to get inside the properties/buildings, etc.
And he said this as if I’m supposed to know what to do once I got there.
Writers are generally not good talkers, which is why we write for a living instead of selling real estate. The thought of standing in front of “Hollywood types” and convincing them my book is worth turning into a feature film or TV series made me a little weak in the knees. I don’t consider myself a good public speaker, but I’m okay if I feel like I know more about a subject than anyone else in the room. So I reviewed “treatments” I’d written of the books I planned to pitch until the characters and settings and situations were fresh and on the tip of my tongue. (After I finish writing a book, my mind sort of “clears cache” to get ready for a new book. It’s hard for me to remember the details of a book I wrote last year, much less five years ago.) And I kept telling myself that no one in the room would know more about my book than I did. I practiced my elevator pitches, and I looked up the resumes of the people I’d be meeting with to try to anticipate what questions they might ask. Still…I was nervous.
So what happens in a pitch meeting? Well the first thing is you have to get there. I have my driver’s license, but I HATE driving and don’t where I live in midtown Atlanta unless I absolutely have to. But the way I would be zigzagging across LA, it was clear I’d have to rent a car. (Let me just say that the GPS was worth ten times what they charged.) I’m happy to report I made every meeting on time. One of the meetings was on the Warner Bros lot, and I have to say when I checked in at the guard shack, it was one of those rare spine-tingling career moments I will always savor. I felt like I’d made it. If I’d had a hat to fling in the air like Mary Tyler Moore, I would’ve let it fly.
My agent was at two of the meetings, but I was on my own in the third. And although he knows my material well enough to pitch it, he deferred to me in the meetings. The pitch meetings themselves were so comfortable and easy, they were almost anticlimactic. I expected harried people with two cell phones going, barking at me that they weren’t interested in that idea, give them something else! What I got instead were cool, casual, engaging people who were truly interested in my ideas because they’d already been fleshed out and vetted by a reading audience. Once the ice was broken, it seemed natural to talk about the characters and situations in my head. Most of the producers had written at some point in their careers, at least one of them used to work for a major NY publisher. Each group asked to read the books of almost everything I pitched. I pitched only one standalone idea and when a producer asked if I had books to back it up, I said no, but if he wanted it for TV and wanted a book series as the underlying material, I’d make that happen. And I would.
My agent said I did “great.” I don’t know about that, but I’m really grateful for the chance to get my ideas in front of people who can bring them to the large and small screen. As far as results, we have some very promising and exciting developments that I hope will be nailed down soon. I will share good news the minute I can!
For now, it’s back to Earth for me, and back to my current book deadline. But when I want to go to my happy, fuzzy place, I think of those two days crisscrossing LA to peddle my ideas. Hey, maybe inside every writer is a bit of a salesperson after all.
Do you remember a “turning point” in your career, when you felt as if you’d made it?