Tuesday, June 10, 2014

I often see two huge mistakes by authors when it comes to pitching and submissions. The first is to pitch to an editor or an agent because "there is an open slot at a conference". The second (and this involves both conferences and general submissions) is to send something to an editor or an agent because they represent the genre the author has written. Let me explain.

At a conference, editors and agents are there to listen to your pitches. The conference coordinators do a great job of bringing in a diverse group of those professionals to give authors a chance to present their material. But, just because they are there and just because there is an opening is not a good reason to make that pitch. If that editor or agent is not the right fit for your project you will get a rejection. It is a guarantee! I don't care how good your story might be, or how good your pitch is, if you and the editor/agent are not compatible, don't expect positive results.

I don't know how many times I have people pitching things at conferences to me that I simply do not represent. I also have people pitching stories that just aren't what I am looking for. This information is not hard to find either. Check out:
  • The conference handouts that show the bios
  • In many cases, the board posted outside of the room pitches are taking place that show what editors and agents want.
  • The editor and agent panel most conferences have where we talk about what we want and don't want
  • And certainly the submission guidelines found on our websites.
Writers also make this mistake when they start submitting projects through the standard submission process. They make a quick scan on all of those great sites for "Agents open to submission in historicals" and start firing off those projects. For the most part many of those people they just sent the project to are not a right fit. For example, Greyhaus will often show up under the category "acquiring historicals" but if the authors would read further, they would see that there are specifics. These have to be historical romances or historical women's fiction. These have to be in certain time periods... I think you get the idea.

I feel like I am saying this a lot, but submitting projects to editors and agents is not rocket science. Just because an editor or agent is open to submissions or just because they are "free at that moment to hear a pitch" does not mean you should do anything about it. 

Think of it this way. If I am not qualified to be an computer programmer at Microsoft, do I send in my resume and apply for the job because there is an opening at the company? Of course not! When we apply for a job, we take the time to review the requirements for the job, we review the skills the company is looking for and IF we have those skills and IF this is a company we would want to work for, THEN AND ONLY THEN would we apply for the job.

The same goes for pitches and submissions. 

I am bringing this up because we are now into the "BIG" conference season. There are some of you who signed up for pitch sessions at RWA Nationals with editors and agents who I can guarantee you, will end up rejecting your projects because it isn't what they are looking for. You signed up because there was an opening. When I attend the PNWA conference the week before RWA and we have the open pitch sessions, there will be a ton of you diving at every editor and agent you can get your hands on with your projects. Again, do not expect a positive response.

Look, don't get me wrong. This is a business of taking advantage of opportunities. You should do that. If there is a chance to get your project in front of an editor or an agent that is a great fit with you, your career and your writing, you should take advantage of it. But only if it is a right fit!

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