|Zorba Publishers Edition|
Anyone who's been in writing and publishing for any time knows there's no truth to that image.
Nope, writers have to write the book, sell the book (this can take quite some time with or without an agent - and oh, yes, woo an agent if the writer wants to work with one), then help in the selling while writing another book. Whew, that was a lot to cram into a sentence and that's just the easily visible part, remember all the subheadings that come under each heading. Things that include book tours, virtual or physical, maintaining a website and maybe a blog, spending time on social networking, sending out queries and yes, perhaps visiting conventions.
So, this round I'm going to talk a bit about pitching your manuscript to an editor or publisher, or perhaps an agent you'd love to have represent you.
Conventions, whether a national do or a local conference, are great places to exercise your promotional muscle. It can be frightening or stress-inducing, depending upon how shy you are and how much you do or don't like presenting in front of others.
But, contacts at conventions can be a great shot at getting your manuscript on front of editors and agents so you want to make your time spent with these folks count.
So, what's a pitch? They use them in the film industry to sell a script and in the book industry to sell manuscripts - or at least get them read. It's a short description of your story, the plot narrowed down to one or just a few sentences (one is best).
How do you do this? You break it down into smaller bits that you can handle. Know who you're pitching to. Take the time to research who will be at the convention, of them who you want to pitch to, who of that group you can actually get a chance to pitch to and then check those people out. Know about the publisher or agency they're attached to, the types of books they're interested in (hopefully you won't pitch a SciFi novel to someone who only reps or publishes romances). You can find a lot of information online and you might ask other writer friends, or you might call the company directly and speak for a few moments with a receptionist or secretary to get information. Take the time to know who you're talking to and you'll put yourself above all those who don't bother to find out anything about whom they're going to see.
Research on who you're going to pitch to completed, you need to work on your actual pitch. You'll need to be able to tell the person what genre or subgenre your book falls into. They'll want to know that for marketing purposes. You'll need to tell them where and when it takes place and of course about how long it is - an accurate word count. Pitch only stories you've already written and can send a complete copy of. Very few things frustrate agents and publishers more than a great pitch followed by "I haven't finished it yet". Don't sabotage yourself.
Write and bring along copies of a short page that tells your story. A synopsis. Also have as a separate sheet or at the top of that one, the VERY short, one sentence or maybe two condensation of your story. Make it a very succinct statement of a story premise which would hopefully induce the editor/agent to want more.
Once the pitch is ready you need to practice. Do it out loud. Train your voice to be enthusiastic, filled with the power of your story, not strident, or stuttering. Go over it until you know it front, back and up-side-down. Be ready for a full blown pitch session, or if the fates point a finger in your direction and you find yourself in the buffet line with that editor or agent you want to pitch to and he or she turns to you and politely asks, "So, what do you write?" you'll be able to answer without considerable stumbling.
Oh, and don't forget to dress well. You don't have to be perfect or flashy, just clean, neat, you know, business casual. You can bring your single sheet with your story synopsis to the meeting, but don't try to load that person down with more like disks or complete manuscripts. You can always mail or email other materials later. And don't forget to ask for one of their business cards - you need that address whether to contact later or to have an accurate address to send materials that have been requested.
And remember these folks are people just like you. Smile, draw a nice deep breath and try to relax. And if you mess up? Don't worry, keep going and remember, the more you do it the easier it will become.