We’ve been talking about pitching your manuscript (as well as yourself) to editors and agents. One commonly used tool for this is the “one-sheet”–a sheet of paper that summarizes the high points about your book and you.
I’ve invited novelist and freelance editor Meredith Efken to answer some of the many questions posed by my loyal blog readers. Meredith is the author of the popular e-book Writers Conference Survival Guide, which tells you how to get the most out of those all-too-expensive writing conferences.
I have a hard time finding the right publisher for a narrow niche. Is it time to self-publish? At writers’ conferences, my work has been praised, but not for their market.
I’m thinking about doing some e-books. What are the pros and cons of e-books vs. “real” books?
Randy sez: Self-publishing can be a good idea if you have the skills to carry it off. You need to be able to get your manuscript professionally edited, of course. And most important, you need a marketing platform big enough to make it worth your time. If you are speaking to thousands of people per year (and can sell books at the back of the room) then self-publishing almost always makes sense. If you have a web site or blog with similar exposure, then again it makes sense. If you don’t have that kind of marketing platform, then you need to team up with somebody who does. That “somebody” is a royalty-paying publisher.
E-books can be good, and I think the Amazon Kindle is going to make it (finally) work for fiction. But again, an e-book will only earn you money if you have a marketing platform. If you don’t, then you need to team up with someone who does.
My daughter recently sold her historical novel to a rather new publishing house which is taking a new tack in publishing. Here are some things about the house:
It is a Christian publishing house, fairly new, that encourages first-time authors. The editor seems to be well-respected. They only print on demand and offer no advance, but give 25% of profits to the author instead of the usual 10-15%. They do little PR, leaving a lot of that to the author. They sell only on-line, but sell through the “big” companies: Wallmart, Target, Barnes & Noble, Borders and Amazon.
I recently asked an agent (on his blog) what he thought about this venture. He wasn’t very encouraging. He seemed to regard POD publishers with “vanity” publishers. I realize that agents are by-passed with this type of publisher, so he might not “approve” for his own economic reasons, although this agent is a respected one, and I would hope he would give an honest evaluation.
What is your take on such a publisher?
Randy sez: POD is not the same as a vanity publisher. At present, I have too little information to evaluate this, since I don’t know the details. The question I would be asking first is whether there are upfront fees that the author has to pay. Also, whether a POD publisher can really get a book into Wal*Mart, Target and B&N.
Meredith commented on this question:
The thing with self-publishing is that the distribution is extremely difficult. And e-books are still very limited in sales. You also lose the opportunity to have a traditional publisher pick it up because most of them won’t want something that has already been published in any form. I would advise being patient, keep working on other projects, develop your craft, adjust your sales pitch, and don’t settle for anything less just because it’s taking a long time.
I have always been able to speak in front of groups with not problem. I taught English and sponsored Student Council groups for years, served as president of a number of groups and minored in public speaking. I even direct a conference here in Houston. Why is it that when I sit across from an editor I am suddenly tongue tied or babble like a child who doesn’t know what he’s saying without or without a one sheet, and with my “one liners” memorized. After years of attending conferences, I have yet to “sell” a manuscript to an editor. And I know several editors personally, but when it comes to getting them interested in what I write…
I feel your pain, honey! I, too, am comfortable speaking in front of people, but I am acutely uncomfortable pitching or even discussing my own work. I can’t answer your “why is this” question, but I can tell you what helps me. First, do use a one-sheet. Second, take a bottle of water with you into the pitch session. My mouth gets very dry when I’m nervous, so the water is a must. But you can also use it to give yourself a break. If you start to babble, stop and take a drink. Gives you a way to get control again without being too obvious about it.
This past April, I pitched for the first time in quite awhile (having an agent means I don’t really have to pitch, so I’ve avoided it). I, too, tend to babble or get tongue-tied, so what I did was let the editor guide the conversation. We exchanged a few small-talk remarks and then she asked me to tell her about my book. So I gave her my pitch line (use that one-sheet–which I wished I’d had!) and then told her “I don’t want to unload the entire plot line on you–what would you like to hear more about?” She actually wanted to hear more details! And it helped turn it into more of a question and answer session, which was somewhat more comfortable for me than trying to give a big presentation. If I’d had a professional looking one-sheet, I would maybe have handed it to her after giving my pitch line, and then taken a BIG swig from my water bottle while she perused it. She asked for me to send three sample chapters and a synopsis, so I’d say it was a successful pitch. But I was still nervous.
In my Writers Conference Survival Guide, I have some other suggestions for how to handle pre-pitch jitters. But don’t get too down on yourself about being nervous. It’s quite normal, and there is nothing wrong with you. Editors and agents generally understand how nervous writers can get. If you plan out some coping mechanisms in advance, you can learn to get through it. I just accept the jitters as part of the process
and work to keep them under control. Having experience pitching successfully, I now don’t let it bother me because I know I can be successful in spite of it.
Randy sez: I think it simply comes down to practice. You will get better at pitching by pitching. If you don’t feel confident, then going in with the goods is essential. Then you don’t have to talk much. Just show them your work. Listen, if it sings to that particular editor or agent, then you win. If it doesn’t sing to that particular editor or agent, then the best pitch in the world ain’t gonna fly.
OK, enough for today! Tomorrow, I’ll continue working through the backlog of questions that you’ve asked, so be patient. We should be able to get through them all in the next week or so.