More Pitching Questions

I am back to blogging after being gone most of last week to a writing conference. My loyal blog readers have posted a large number of very good questions about writing conferences and pitching in the last couple of weeks and I would like to answer as many of those as possible. I am answering these in the order they came in, and we still have quite a backlog.

Barbara wrote:

Hi Randy: I have a general question about pitching myself. I’ve mentioned before that I’m blind. For some of my WIPs I have blind characters. One is a police detective who has been moved to Public Relations — though she manages to keep getting involved in open cases. And some of my stories involve aspects of horror. For these types of stories, I think mentioning I’m blind might help sell the story. But, what about stories that have nothing to do with either blindness or horror; should I mention the fact I’m blind in my pitch? For instance, one story I’ve started is about SAR dogs — my husband had one so I know quite a bit about them. Should I mention my blindness in a case like this? Or simply ignore it?

Randy sez: Barbara, your instincts are good here. For stories about the blind cop, you should definitely mention that when pitching the story. It’ll make it clear that you bring an authenticity to your story that a sighted author almost certainly won’t have. I’m not entirely sure how blindness would tie in to a horror story, but if you can tie it in well, then do so. For your story about search-and-rescue dogs, the far more relevant fact that you should mention is that your husband had a SAR dog.

Susan asked:

Question: Is the one-sheet usually written in first or third person?

Randy sez: I don’t know, since I’ve never done a one-sheet. I’ll ask our guest expert Meredith Efken to respond to this question.

Lynda asked:

What should I say in a pitch? What are the editors expecting?

Randy sez: That’s a nice short question that would take a few thousand words to answer. I’m thinking that I’ll give you a short answer right now and then see if I can talk one of my agent friends into doing a couple of role-playing mock pitches, in which we show you how a typical pitch might go.

The short answer is that the editor/agent wants to answer the question: “Should I ask this author to send me a proposal?” The default answer is “No.” The editor/agent will change her mind to “Yes” if you provide the “right” answers to certain questions, which probably include the following:

* Does this author write in a genre that interests me?
* Does this author have the skills to write a strong novel?
* Can I sell this author to the publishers I work with? (An agent would ask this.)
* Can I sell this author to the niche I publish books for? (An editor would ask this.)

Please notice that these questions are only partly about you, the author. They are also partly about the editor or agent. So a “No” from that editor or agent might mean merely that you and she aren’t a good fit. Conversely, a “Yes” from that editor or agent only means, “I’ll look at it some more, but I’m still more likely than not to reject the manuscript in the end.”

In exactly the same way, when you go to a bookstore, you will probably “reject” the vast majority of books in the store. (I.e., you won’t buy them all.) In “rejecting” them, you are not saying they are all bad books. You are merely noting that you have limited time, energy, and money and you can’t buy them all. You’ll buy the one or two that pleases you most, and there will be a bit of luck involved, because you can’t evaluate all 100,000 books in the store. You just can’t. Likewise, in looking for an editor or agent, there’s a bit of luck involved. If you catch them on the right day and you happen to be the best thing going at the moment, then you have a chance.

9 Comments

  1. Andra M. August 5, 2008 at 4:45 am #

    Great analogy about the bookstore.

    I look forward to reading a mock review with an agent or two.

  2. Robert Treskillard August 5, 2008 at 5:29 am #

    Good stuff Randy. That list of questions the agent is asking themselves is very helpful.

  3. Lynda August 5, 2008 at 5:53 am #

    Thanks, Randy. It’s clearer. I shall look forward to the “role playing.”

  4. Karen August 5, 2008 at 6:08 am #

    I came in to say exactly what Andra said!

    Great analogy about the bookstore.

    Looking forward to reading a mock pitch, that would be great.

    Thanks, Randy.

  5. Paulette L. Harris August 5, 2008 at 9:03 am #

    As usual, some great advice. Thank you Randy.

  6. Susan J. Reinhardt August 5, 2008 at 4:58 pm #

    Welcome home. We missed your posts.

    Susan 🙂

  7. Sally Ferguson August 6, 2008 at 7:55 am #

    That last paragraph is the most reassuring one I have ever read! Not only does it apply to agents, but it helps me to see the competition my articles meet every time I submit to an editor!

  8. Tim Greene August 6, 2008 at 8:42 am #

    How would I go about making an appointment with an editor to get feedback on my manuscript?

  9. Tim Greene August 6, 2008 at 8:43 am #

    Sorry, I meant at a writing conference.

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