A Prepublished Novel in the Process of Revisions and Rewrites

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!


  1. Excellent advice, Nicole. I've found from my experience pitching that I just forget everything I'm supposed to say and feel like an idiot. Talk about stress! I suggest repeating the major story GMC a million times before sitting down for a pitch. Or go with pitching in a query letter ;) I hate wasting busy folks' time.

  2. It's a great idea to bring index cards to read from. I would never have a problem with that if it made an author more comfortable, and it certainly makes it easier to find out about her story. *G*

    Thanks, Skhye.

  3. Hi NIcole and Kathy,

    I agree completely. Having been on both sides of the fence, it is disconcerting to not know what to say or have a prospective author not know their work.

    Sure, being nervous can make you babble but sometimes, it is good to just believe in your work and pitch it from the heart.

    Faith V. Smith

  4. Great points. I like the idea of index cards, too.

  5. Very useful information. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Hello, Nicole and Kathy,

    What an excellent post. Your perspectives on this matter is invaluable, to say the least. It's amazing how the process can be so intimidating.

    Thank you for sharing your experience and insight.

    Blessings, Laura

  7. Haha, I'd love to read the story about getting lost on the Turnpike. Even us NJ drivers have problems with NJ roads. *shrug* sorry!

    Great advice, Nic, but it's so hard remembering all that when your nerves are trying to eat your brain. Next time, index cards!

  8. Pitching can be nerve wracking. This is great advice. Thanks!


  9. It really is hard to remember all that stuff, LOL. That's why the note cards are such a big help.

    Case in point: On the editors panel at NJRW Saturday afternoon, I was Miss Confident. Patiently waited my turn to introduce myself (second from last out of 15 editors!), knew exactly what I was going to say, had rehearsed it over and over. And then the microphone landed in my hand. And out came lots of gibberish and "uh's" and "um's". LOL. Had I made it a point to bring notes with me, I probably would have sounded halfway intelligent. *G* So I highly recommend cheat sheets!

    Thanks everyone for stopping by!

  10. Hi Nic, The first year I went to a RWA conference I volunteered to escort people into meet editors and agents. This was a great learning experience because each one walked into the meeting trembling and in a panic, but when they left I noticed most of them had great big smiles. Point here, editors and agents are nice people and they understand we are nervous when we pitch our stories. They, like us, want those great stories to be sold and published. What I find difficult is hitting the right highlights and explaining my ideas in a clear and precise manner. Like one of my CP's says, you know, now tell me in a way that I know who your characters are. Thanks for sharing your ideas with us. It helps a lot when we know ahead of time how to put our best foot forward.

  11. This is such great advice. Thanks, it is wonderful to hear exactly what editors want.

  12. I have never pitched to an editor at a conference before. Thanks for the great first hand advice.
    I almost feel like I'm cheating to know it.
    I know, I'll have a recorder in my pocket and press the button to introduce myself, to prevent my falling all over. Then when I am less nervous I'll turn it off. I just have to remember to move the lips!
    Seriously though, I often wondered just what the best way to begin in a pitching session. And with sincere thanks to you, now I know.

  13. Hi Nicole and Kathy. It was great to see you and so many Wild Rose authors in New Jersey. And I agree with Christine. That's what makes New Jersey special. A short trip can turn into an other-worldly aventure! But I do hope you come to visit us again.

    Wonderful advice in your post today.

  14. Thank you, Nicole,

    I had no idea using index cards would be acceptable. That is so good to know.

    Now to write the perfect pitch!

    Blessings, Laura

  15. Thanks everyone for stopping by! And special thanks to Dayana for having me.

    See you in the garden, everyone!