Friday, August 8, 2008

Pitching Day 4 - Come prepared

This one should seem obvious but when you arrive at a pitch session, be ready.

I know, you all have your note cards and your business cares but that is not what I am talking about. When I say to be ready, I mean mentally and professionally.

First of all, if you are pitching a story, you better have a clear sense of where you are going to as a writer. Too often, I ask writers about their goals and they give me this huge, stunned look. "What do you mean I have to know where I am going? I thought that was up to you?" Nope, you have to know your direction. This partially deals with your knowledge of your writing and the business but mostly it deals with your knowledge of how you plan on achieving these goals.

The second thing to have in your back pocket is your future writing. We have talked about this before but agents are into this for the long haul and we want to see if you have a sense of direction with your writing. Are you beginning the process of "branding yourself as an author?"

I mentioned this writer earlier but it is time to bring her up again. She is the only person I requested a full from in SF. In fact, she had a request for 2 fulls. The reason was her sense of direction. Not only did she have two stories that were similar in voice and style, she knew where she wanted to go to.

Now, on the other side of the equation, I had a writer pitch me a story at a small chapter gathering. Remember I told people they could submit stories to me in a folder at the conferece. (For those of you that missed this, shame on you. Writers could simply hand me the first three chapters of their story at chapter meetings. No talking required). Anyway, she had two stories in that folder. One I liked and the other I didn't like. Why? They were two different genres and directions. There is simply no way I will be able to market a brand that goes both ways.

I am hoping that what you are getting from all of this is the simple fact that pitching is a job interview. Sending submissions to an editor or agent is no different than sending in materials to a future employer. Most writers are simply getting rejections due to stupid mistakes in the submission.

Now, here is my offer to all chapters (land based or online). I am more than happy to make a trip out (or work on line) and help out with those pitches. Just ask.

O.K. I'm actually on vacation now and I hooked up with a wireless to post this. I'm going to enjoy myself for a little bit (although that stack of submissions is looking pretty tempting).



  1. Let me get this straight. Writers must:

    1. Write a killer novel;
    2. Be different, but also
    3. Be the same;
    4. Write another killer novel immediately, but simultaneously
    5. Invest a lot of personal time promoting one's book.

    And the payoff may not come, or it may, and if it does, chances are it won't be enough to even live on.

    I think I need to see a shrink.
    : )

  2. Thank you for the definition of women's fiction. That is not at all what I would have expected to hear.
    The light dawns on The Trail.
    When a leading agency says in their PM listing that they receive "over 10,000 unsolicited queries a year," I can only conclude that most new writers will not be published.
    By definition, a "great story" is a very rare event. At best most people will produce a competent, useable story. No longer good enough. Abd to think that Jacqueline Mitchard sold "Deep End of the Ocean" for several million with film rights. on the strength of a shoebox full of notes and less than one hundred written pages. Those days are surely gone. And that's the way it is. Back to The Trail.

  3. Although that sounds daunting, that is the direction you need to take with your writing. Now, it doesn't need to be that extreme, but is is crucial that you always produce something fresh and original and have something else on the way.

    And yes, the odds are still against you for a while.


  4. Glad to help on the Women's fiction issue. Understand this is just my interpretation of it, but I think it is a pretty darn good one.

    One thing to consider about the comment regarding the "leading agency." You need to understand that in all likelyhood, that number of submissions includes a huge range of books in all genres, fiction and non-fiction, trade books, screenplays and movies. That tends to make the numbers look they way they do. Remember, also, if there are 10 agents in the house, that is only 1000 submissions a year for each. That is easily done. In the end though, it doesn't matter. You are right, there are a lot of new authors out there, many of who just don't get it.