Making the Most of Your Speed Date

by Donna Brennan

You will have a rare and fun opportunity at Push to Publish: Ten minutes of face time with an agent or editor. We call this a “speed date,” and you will sign up for your date at registration on a first come, first serve basis.

In a speed date, the writer spends ten minutes with an editor or an agent, who provides intensive feedback on one to two pages of the writer’s prose (this is what I see as your strengths and weaknesses based on these one to two pages of work, etc.). The agents are always the most popular choice, but spend your time wisely: if you don’t have a polished, completed manuscript, you may not be ready to meet with an agent. There will be many quality editors at the event, and many editors have gone on to publish writers they meet at the speed date.

Below, please find tips that will help you make the most of this time. While this is primarily for novels, many of these tips can be used to pitch stories and poetry as well.

The Preparation

1. Write a one-page synopsis of your work. If you can’t get it all in one page, then take as many pages as you need for the first pass. Then go over it again, making it fewer pages. Repeat this until you get down to about one page.

2. Now, try to condense the whole thing into a paragraph. This forces you to see what the story is really about. You’ll need this for what many people call the “one-sheet” or “one-page.”

Some things that most folks put into a one sheet: author bio, genre, approximate word-count, content (or summary—this would be that one paragraph you just wrote), market-analysis (you can list similar books in the past five years, authors whose writing style is similar to yours, target audience/likely readers, etc.), availability. Print this out and bring it with you so you have something to show the agent/editor.

3. Next, try to condense your paragraph into one (or two) sentences. This is your elevator pitch (i.e., how you’d pitch your novel if you ran into an agent on an elevator, or have only a few minutes). This is helpful to have for conversations you might have with agents and editors you will meet throughout the day. If they ask for more, then you can give them your one paragraph blurb.

4. Last, look at your summary and pull out bullet items. Bring this bullet list with you for a reference while you talk about your story (so you stay in order and don’t miss any important points).

The Date

1. Determine which editors/agents you would like to see, and put them in priority order. The appointments will be made at registration on a first-come, first-serve basis, so have a list handy. You may not see your first choice, but there will be plenty of great people to talk to, so come prepared with alternate choices.

2. Find out what you can about the editors/agents ahead of time. This ensures you are seeing the best person for your work.

3. Bring your one-sheet, synopsis, and first three chapters.

4. Tell the editor or agent what you have with you. They usually ask to look at one of those things—sometimes all of them, as you tell them what your book or story is about. Be passionate about what you’ve written.

5. The agent or editor usually reads or skims your writing sample and can make many helpful comments in the ten-minute time period (usually compliments as well as suggestions).

6. If they do ask for a proposal, be sure to go to their website for their proposal guidelines. If they don’t have guidelines listed, visit the sites of other agents/editors to see what most of them want, and be sure to include that in the proposal you send out. Don’t let the opportunity pass you by! Send that proposal. They won’t buy it if they never see it.

So, to recap, bring:

One-page synopsis, one-sheet, first three chapters, all printed out and ready to go.

  1. Elevator pitch, memorized
  2. One-paragraph, memorized
  3. One-page synopsis bullet list printed out


Have fun – and good luck with your pitches!

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