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Friday, November 2, 2007

Pitching with Purpose

I love to read other people's novel pitches because it forces me to analyze what my consumer brain finds interesting and what it doesn't.

There are certain things that will automatically get my attention. First on the list would be subject matter. I have no interest in people suffering from depression, child molesters, or flakey women who are lead characters. My eyes glaze over every time. But I will read even a poor pitch if it's in a historical setting, involves mysticism, or has smarter than average protagonists and antagonists in it.

One of my CPs worried that her book might not grab an agent/editor's attention, but in her case it's more a law of averages. The premise is good. The writing is solid. At this point in her career, it's a matter of finding an agent who loves it. My CP has a unique concept so I think she has a better than average chance in the market.

And that brings up another important aspect of a good pitch. Much as you love your story, if there's nothing particularly unique about it, save your stamps. I know that sounds harsh, but put yourself in the shoes of the reading public. I don't want to read what's been done before. Do you?

If you want me to plop down x-amount of dollars for a book you have to make it worth my while. You must mesmerize me with your originality and page turning plot.

It helps to be a broad spectrum reader so you know what is being written now. I made a mistake in the beginning of my career by reading older work with premises that were no longer being bought in today's market. Once I started reading newer stuff---particularly books from newer writers, I had a better handle on what agents and editors were looking for.

You might ask why I singled out newer writers as opposed to established authors. Simple. Veteran authors have a following. Their books will sell even if their work is sub par. But newly published writers have something to prove. Their writing (in general) tends to be crisper, more energetic and more current than their established peers. I think that in itself makes them better role models.

Pitching is hard. No doubt about it. It boils down to a three-sentence commercial about your story. Does that sound crass? Hmm…did you think it was crass when you bought a book based on a terrific back cover blurb?

Same concept. Now go forth and do good.