Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Please welcome Nicole D'Arienzo Managing Editor, Historical Division and Kathy Cottrelle, Senior Editor, Last Rose of Summer, The Wild Rose Press
Perfecting your Pitch
This past weekend, my fellow senior editor, Kathy Cottrell (Last Rose of Summer line) and I traveled to the New Jersey Romance Writers conference in Iselin, NJ. Meeting so many of our authors and spending time with fellow TWRP editors was a lot of fun. It was such a delight to hear from so many of you who love what we do and are grateful we’re here. Rest assured, the feeling is mutual!
As the conference closed and Kath and I headed back home, our discussion turned to our conference experiences. One of the things we both noticed was a lack of preparedness on the part of many of the authors pitching to us. I admit I was quite taken aback by this; I’ve been around the publishing industry for some 20 years and one of the first lessons I learned was “perfecting your pitch.” This is not to say that the authors who came prepared to pitch had any more of a chance of being asked to submit their story than those who were not prepared, but I think a little bit of practice might have helped put them at ease. And it certainly would have helped me to understand what type of story they were pitching.
Let me explain. I had several authors sit down and immediately say “Okay, my heroine has long auburn hair and big green eyes. My hero is tall with dark hair and light blue eyes…” STOP! Hold the presses. While I would never interrupt an author sitting across from me babbling nervously like this, it is at this point my eyes begin to glaze over and I think: this is going to take a while. Honestly, if the first thing you can tell me about your characters is what they look like, it makes me wonder why I should care about them. Saying something like “my heroine is a spoiled socialite who has just lost everything. My hero is the guy who has been hired to kill her” would certainly grab my attention a lot faster.
Also, know ahead of time what it is you want to pitch. Don’t simply plop yourself in the chair and say “I’ve been writing since 1982. I have about 40 stories written. What are you looking for?” Instead of showing me what a polished professional you are, this makes me wonder why, after 40 stories, you are still not published and what on earth have I gotten myself into?
Being prepared will also help you avoid prattling on and saying “and then this happens…and then this happens…and then this happens…” over and over.
Luckily for you, two highly intelligent and capable women (at least we used to think we were!) managed to get ourselves hopelessly lost driving in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and had many, many long hours to discuss this very situation. *G*
Here is our two-for-the-price-of-one blog on Perfecting Your Pitch.
Greet the editor with a firm, confident handshake and introduce yourself. “Hi, nice to meet you.
Nicole, Kathy my name is Rose Author and I’d like to tell you about my ninety-thousand word contemporary story entitled The Great American Novel. It’s set in New Jersey and is about two highly intelligent women getting themselves hopelessly lost and the heroes who save them.”
Then give us a 25 word blurb about your story: “Scarlett O’Hara really just wants to get home. But she can’t get off the New Jersey Turnpike to save her life. Rhett Butler offers to give her more than just directions.”
Then sit back and let the editor ask you some questions. I might say something like “Describe the conflict for me.” Or “What is Rhett’s goal?” “How do the secondary characters, if any, help move the plot forward?” Be prepared to talk about these things.
Also, be prepared to answer questions such as: who you like to read, who you think you write like, which line at TWRP you’re targeting. Also if your story contains a lot of technical details (medicine, nursing, law enforcement, DA’s, history) be prepared to tell us a little bit about how you have come to be an expert in this field. For example, if your story involves Faberge eggs, you might say: “I’m a member of Faberge Egg Makers of America and regularly present online workshops on Faberge eggs through history.”
So as nerve-wracking as pitching can be, try to remember that you have something to sell and the editor is looking to buy.
A little bit of prep work goes a long way toward perfecting your pitch!