life, writing

Who is that Pitch at the Gong Show?

rbgong (800x800) wm2Most of you are probably familiar with this television show from the 70’s & 80’s. The Gong Show was the original America’s Got Talent (or Britain’s Got Talent).

I had a strange crush on the host,  Chuck Barris. I thought he was adorable in those hats and when he danced to Gene, Gene the Dancin’ Machine. But, that’s neither here nor there. I just drifted back to a childhood memory for a moment.

Anywayyy, some of you know I attended a writer’s conference recently. I thought they had an ingenious idea by offering a workshop called The Gong Show Pitch Fest. The premiss was to have authors pitch their novels to a panel of agents and publishers. Like the TV show, if a panel member didn’t care for the pitch they could gong the author. After three gongs the panel members would give the author tips on how to create a better pitch.

The judges gave out scores to each author. The one with the most points won a free pitch with an agent or publisher (there was normally a charge).

I’d been aware of this workshop since I signed up for the conference months earlier. I was dying to try it … dying with fear that is. By the time the Pitch Fest rolled around, I hadn’t had my Gum Girl experience yet and was petrified to sign up as one of the pitch authors.

When I stepped into the room where they were holding the Gong Show, I realized they had opened the banquet rooms for a larger group, at least 100 people. Yipes! I saw authors  signing up near the podium and the panel finding their seats behind judging tables.

I had practiced a pitch back home, but knew my mind would go blank with an audience.

I crept ever so slowly toward the sign-in table. Time was ticking, and I needed to sign-up before they started. I carefully picked up the pen, purposely dropped it, picked it up again and signed my name. I was the last one on the very long list, and the Gong Show Pitch Fest began.

The first author read from notes and didn’t get gonged. The panel gave advice when the author finished. Another author pitched, no gong. The third author  received cheers when she finished. If no one did any better, it was obvious #3 would be the winner.

I think the panel grew tired of the less engaging pitches afterward, because the following authors were gonged. One by one, they got closer to my name as my heart nearly leaped out of my chest. I know, it’s a bit anticlimactic, but they ran out of time and didn’t get to me.

Since I’m just over my 500-word limit, briefly, here are the lessons I learned … don’t use notes. Know your story intimately and share it with passion. Begin with an attention grabbing log line (first sentence). Leave out details. Tell the beginning, middle and end, along with the key conflict. It might also help to tell the emotional arc of the characters. Don’t pitch for longer than 2 to 3 minutes. Research your genre and the agent or publisher you are pitching to. Any questions?


23 thoughts on “Who is that Pitch at the Gong Show?”

  1. I don’t think I could even have signed up at the last minute. I’d be too afraid they would get to me, and then I’d stand there like a deer in the headlights. Bravo to you for having the courage to put your name on the list!

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    1. Thanks, JM. It was very entertaining and educational to watch. I’m so glad I went, because I ended up pitching my novel to one small press, and it went well.


    1. My heart surely was in my throat, but I figured they wouldn’t have time to get to me since I was the last on the list. Despite the terrifying aspect, it seemed lots were willing to try it. It was fun to watch and learn. Thanks for stopping by, Layla.

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  2. That you were prepared to take on the challenge was very brave, and good experience to even just sign yourself up, knowing you could be gonged. Every time you do something scary is an achievement no matter what (or not) the outcome 🙂

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    1. I did prepare, but when I saw the long list I figured they wouldn’t have time to get to me. Thank you for your support, EllaDee. It was an entertaining way to learn. The MC was funny and I enjoyed it, even though my heart was pounding.


  3. You’re a brave woman, Lori! A pitch is one thing, a pitch with a gong, that’s scary. By the way, I had to laugh at your confession. I vaguely remember what Chuck Barris looked like…didn’t he have a tight kinky 70’s perm? 🙂

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    1. You’re right, Jill. A pitch with a gong IS scary. Can you imagine how the person who went first felt? Yikes. Ha, ha. yes, aside from having a crush on David Cassidy as a kid, I had some very weird crushes. Chuck Barris did have a kinky perm, and his hair was gray, so it looked like an old lady’s teased, cotton candy do. Ha, ha. Thanks for reading about the gong show experience.

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    1. Well, I sort of cheated, cause I figured that they wouldn’t get to me since the list was so long. But, I had a pitch prepared just in case. It was fun to observe though. The MC was funny, and it was educational at the same time. 🙂

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    1. Well, you wouldn’t have to stop talking until the third gong. Heh. Heh. I saw how long the sign-in list was and figured they wouldn’t have time to get to me. But, I had a pitch prepared. It was quite entertaining to watch and educational at the same time. The MC was funny. You could’ve gone just to learn, like I think most people did in the audience.

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  4. I was able to pitch one-on-one to agents at a conference, but I would never have dared do an open, gong-style pitch like that. Kudos to you for planning on doing it even though they didn’t get to you. Pitching in front of all those other authors would be terrifying enough, but getting gonged if the pitch stank? Ugh, don’t think I could handle that!

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    1. I know, I was surprised I signed up, too. But, if I’m being honest, I saw how long the list was and figured they wouldn’t get to me in an hour. However, I was prepared with a pitch that I practiced a home. I did do one pitch one-on-one with a publisher. Thanks for your support, Carrie.

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