Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Pitching Day 3 - Professionalism

First of all, I realized that I missed the date on yesterday's post. Woops.
Anyway, now on to professionalism.

I rant about this one all of the time and frankly, it still amazed me watching people at this conference, even outside of pitch sessions, and seeing how unprofessional these writers were. In dress, in attitude... it didn't matter. This is a business, and this is a professional organization and therefore, we need to treat it as such.

When it comes to pitching, whether it is in person or via mail/email, professionalism still needs to be there. It is the image you give to us as editors and agents that tell us you are a person we would want to work with.

Letters and query letters are business letters What more do I have to say? You have appropriate headings, and well structured body of the letter and your closing paragraphs. Come on now people - no excuses here. Your 6th graders are taught business letters and they know what to include. The same goes for your queries.

Yes, you should have something snappy in those opening paragraphs to get our attention but telling us, "I know you get letters like this all of the time but hopefully mine is different," or "I could tell you all the amazing things about this story but..." just doesn't work. We don't have time for witty comments and we certainly don't want to hear you treat our business as anything less than that.

Pitching is an interview Same thing here. You only get one chance to make a perfect impression and if you sit there and can't honestly demonstrate why your story is so good in person, then you put doubt in our heads.

I spoke to one editor about this and they commented that this was why they requested manuscripts from everyone. "Some people just can't pitch well, the editor said. I asked this person, "How many of these people, that pitch poorly, they've signed." The answer - NONE. In fact, the people they signed were people that "impressed them" and their writing did as well.

When you go for a job interview, you don't read your resume, do you? You don't sit there and just hand them your job packet and say that this says it all. You sell yourself? Well guess what, you need to do that here as well.



  1. Hello Scott,
    It is a real pleasure to hear about the conference from a professional who was there. SF is still one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
    Meannwhile, the one oonference I attended was strictly business and well worth the money. Excellent presentations that did not repeat the same beginner information available in dozens of books and magazines everywhere for sale
    I agree with you about the tonr you want to see, but to be fair, these big events are promoted as one big brawl, from the near-stripper male displays to the goofy outfit contests, and it's not surprising attendees are confused as to when the fun stops and business begins. I'm not sure the organizers can have it both ways. A couple of drinks while hooting the beefcake and all judgement is gone. I do agree the stakes are too high to be so careless.
    Meanwhile, about women's fiction. When you have covered the conference, could you give us a definition? I keep reading statements from agents and publishers that they "will not look at or publish romance, but these are the SAME people that took on "Water For Elephants," and "The River Wife, " and "Shadowbrook." What?
    Are these considered historicals containing a romance?
    What else is WFE but aomance?! Not fair. What degree of concentration on the romance tips the balance?

  2. Scott, I have been a lurker on your blogspot for quite some time.

    I agree with you 100% on everything, as well.

    And today's post is no exception.

    A writer needs to realize that editors/agents are looking for the "total package". Which means, someone who can write, looks good, a great speaker, professional, etc.

    These agents/editors are looking for a "go-getter". Someone who will promote their debut novel themselves (because most of the time editors/publishing houses cannot do much for a debut author).

    And Scott, you've said it before: These writers need to do their homework! In everything!

    And you are right! Once you step foot outside your hotel room, you are "on".

    It amazes me too, Scott. That so many writers just don't get it.

    And, sadly, that's why they will remain unpublished.

  3. I personally believe (and yes, this is my humble opinion) that I have the clearest definition of women's fiction. As I see it, women's fiction is writing that focuses on the female journey and gives the women reading the books something to learn from. These are not stories that are lacking in a romance, but focus on growth. Too often, I see stories submitted in this genre that have characters readers simply cannot relate to. We are not looking for characters that are over the top and too fictionalized, but characters that are just like us.