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Many were asked to submit their projects, and a few signed with agents.

And because these were workshops, and not pitch sessions, the authors whose work was not as ready as they'd hoped could go home, make the changes that resonated, and submit a stronger project to these same agents later.

Singles aged 35 to 55 who love to read and are looking for that someone special, are invited to attend and participate in the speed dating.

Once I stopped congratulating myself for not fainting, farting or collapsing on the floor in a puddle of flop sweat, I realized that the only thing I'd done was risk being turned down for what I said about the book rather than the book itself." When my business partner, Christopher Graham, and I organized the first Backspace Writers Conference in 2005, we scheduled formal pitch sessions for conference registrants. Pitch Sessions The next year, we offered "Skip the Pitch" sessions: small-group workshops in which agents made comments on authors' opening pages in a relaxed, informal setting.

However, we soon discovered that this yielded a line of waiting authors who looked like they were about to undergo root canals, and a passel of agents who complained about how much they disliked pitch sessions. Authors got individual feedback, and by listening to the agents' comments on the other' materials, they came away with a better sense of what worked and what didn't.

This workshop format has become a regular feature at our conferences ever since, and forms the heart of the Neverending Backspace Writers Conference that's now available online.

Agents have a wealth of experience and knowledge about the industry that aspiring authors are hoping to enter.

Says author Teresa Hayden: "The absolute most an unpublished novelist can get out of a pitch session is to be told to go ahead and send the manuscript -- an outcome that's hard to distinguish from the normal submission process." Forms of Rejections "Most agents are too polite to say 'no' to your face," Scott Hoffman of Folio admits.

"You can pitch them a book that they know -- 100% know -- they would never in a million years sign up.

Tamworth Regional Council Manager Cultural Services, Kay Delahunt, said Library Lovers' Literary Speed Dating was a popular event when it was held for the first time at Tamworth Library last year.

"It is a fun event and something a little different - a fun way to celebrate reading choices," she said.

Authors, however, often find them to be tense, angst-filled meetings in which only the most confident can easily put their best foot forward.

Stressful for Authors and Agents "On several occasions at conferences," says Folio Literary Management's Jeff Kleinman, "someone sits down across from me, we introduce ourselves, and then the writer on the other side of the table bursts into tears.

I guess I'm not so nice, because I say 'no' a lot -- especially when they're pitching me for something I don't handle.

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