Friday, May 21, 2010

Pitching (Not the Baseball Kind)

Luckily for writers, three strikes when pitching does not mean that we're out. It just means we need to seriously work on our pitching skills. And we're not throwing baseballs either. We're hurling a bunch of words at an agent or editor and hoping that we don't sound like total morons or end up blathering on and on or, on the other end of the spectrum, freezing up and forgetting what we wanted to say in the first place. So let's face it; we need help. Many of us don't really know what we're doing when we find ourselves face to face with people that can make our book a reality (as in bound pages and people paying to read it). We've heard plenty of "Don't do this" and "Don't do that" but has anyone written about what we should do?

Well, yeah. But you know what? Here's another post by Rachelle Gardner (an actual agent) about pitching that might help you the next time you find yourself at a conference with agents and editors all around you: Secrets of a Great Pitch.

While on the subject, I'd like to add a little something else. At the end of her post, Ms. Gardner informs us to remember that agents and editors are just regular people. I think one of the problems is that we already know this. Writers are fully aware that agents cook their own dinners and deal with crazy 5-year-olds and hate that gas prices are always going up. Just like the rest of us.

Now I don't know about anyone else, but for me, that's not why I'm nervous. I know you're a person. The deal is that you are a person who has the power to change my life. That's right. Like He-Man, You Have the POWER! *cue lightning and thunder* That's why agents and editors turn into, or are, such a big deal for us. They're the most important stepping stone (if you don't mind the comparison) toward getting on the bookstore shelves. We want to impress you. That's why we're terrified of screwing up. And the fact that you're a person means that you have your own tastes as well as professional ideas of what will and what won't sell. We worry you won't like what we've written even if we think it's the best dang thing since sliced bread. We worry you'll look at us like we're stupid for writing such a thing, and we've worked so hard to make the best manuscript possible, yet suddenly it's like we're in fifth grade again and have just done something to make the whole class laugh at us.

I might be getting a little over the top, but you get the idea. That's what freaks us out. It doesn't matter that you have to fix your sink like I do - it's the fact that you can either help make my dreams come true or tell me to shove off.

Now for the record, most agents aren't going to tell you to shove off. Horror stories aside, many agents totally understand how freaked we are and are willing to help us along when we spaz out. I once pitched to the editor of Del Rey, Betsy Mitchell, and was a total wreck. But she knew it. In fact, she knew we were all likely to be total wrecks, having never pitched before. But she was patient, understanding, and not at all rude (though I'm sure she had other things on her mind at the time).

In the end, we're going to have to ignore the gatekeeper/power thing and just focus on crafting a pitch that doesn't suck. Remembering that agents and editors are people can help, but you should also remember a few things about yourself as well; you've just written a book. An entire book. We, the authors, are the reasons that agents and editors exist. They know it - why else do you think they're looking for books to represent? They love books as much as we do, and thus have made it their livelihood (though in a different way). It's a symbiotic relationship - without one, the other cannot be. So buck up, stand tall, and pitch your little heart out. Even if the agent or editor isn't interested in your book, they'll at least appreciate your enthusiasm and confidence.

There's a story behind this, I just know it...