So I know I’ve posted a few times before on pitching and writing query letters but with the Aussie conference just around the corner, I wanted to go over some key points again. Let me tell you this is just from my viewpoint and not fact and will not guarantee you a request but I promise it will help.
For pitching (and in no particular order);
1 – The person you’re pitching to is not going to sprout horns and send you to the pits of hell for stumbling over a word or not knowing what your protagonist hates most about the mother-in-law’s pet dog’s new coat.
2 – Sometimes they are just as nervous as you are!
3 – They gain absolutely nothing by upsetting you and therefore won’t. If you can’t handle the word no though, you’re in the wrong job and shouldn’t have taken a pitch appointment. More often than not, the no comes because they either don’t represent or publish the work your trying to sell, or they don’t believe you have a finished book (you should always pitch finished work if you’re not published), or they don’t think you believe in your own book. If you can’t sell it, they can’t either.
4 – Dress the part. Most women feel more confident when they know they look smashing. You don’t have to wear a ball gown or a power suit but put on some make-up, change out of your trackies and ugg boots and front up. This is kind of like an interview and you should treat it like this person will one day employ you. In the case of a publisher/editor, they will be your boss.
5 – If you do get a no, take it like a man and don’t slap their hand away and storm from the room. Ask them why first. Not in a defensive, am I not good enough way. And then thank them for their time. You have to be courteous.
6 – This should have been the first point... Make sure you do a little research or cyber stalking before the day. You need to know what their tastes are for the moment, what are they reading and loving? Who do they represent or publish already? The best way to piss a publisher/editor/agent off is to know absolutely nothing about them. Would you go to a job interview and not at least know what the company does? They could be selling baby orang-utans to the local Chinese store for all you knew before you sat down. Research!!
Query letters only change a little bit but are mostly the same.
Here’s a chart I worked up.
Now that we have that straight and you understand (even if you don’t entirely agree) let’s see a few examples of actual pitches and queries that I have sent out into the world.
Dear Such and Such, (get this right! Spell their name properly!)
(add a greeting and maybe where you saw they were taking queries)
Scandal's Mistress is a 94,000 word Regency romance that borders on the edge of noir about the stranger in the mirror finding his true self in the arms of a fallen woman. (Tells them that is slightly dark and that hero doesn’t know himself)
Love. It’s the cruelest mistress of all. When you have it, it hurts. When you lose it, it nearly kills you. But what if he doesn’t believe in it and she doesn’t want it…
Italian opera singer, Carmalina Belluccini, has refused insulting offers from the supposed gentleman of society for years not wanting to be squeezed into the mold the ton have created for stage performers. But when a man who is no angel offers her an affare, dignity and desire start to battle within her. She is no courtesan and certainly not mistress material, only, when her beautiful voice fails, she finds herself in a position too difficult to refuse Justin Trentham’s protection. But what is he hiding and why is he so desperate to create the scandal of the season?
Scandal's Mistress is a finalist in Charter Oak's Golden Acorn contest and came third in Chicago North's 2010 Fire and Ice. Also finaling in the Golden Acorn is my almost completed manuscript, Behind The Courtesan, which recently won the Linda Howard Award of Excellence. I am a proud member of Romance Writer's of Australia, South Australian Romance Authors (SARA) and several other small groups. (Incidentally, I came first and second in the Golden Acorn with both novels =))
Behind the Courtesan - 80,000 word Regency (coming out in April with Carina Press)
When Sophia Martin returns to the village she once fled, she knows it won't be all sunshine and happy reunions but she also didn't expect the name calling and insults to come from her childhood friend. Blake Vale just can't accept the decisions she made, the courtesan's life she leads, or the fact he once loved a girl who no longer recognizes her true self. Plain old Sophie Martin has to be inside this hardened woman somewhere and he's determined to bring her out and make her see she doesn't need rich dukes to be happy and that the future has nothing to do with her past. (You can read this from a card or memorise it and use it as your verbal pitch. I did!)
Mixing Business with Pleasure – 55,000 words (sexy contemporary about to be submitted to Carina Press)
When you find yourself naked except for your shoes and backed up against a cold wall mounted mirror, stuck between a rock and very, very hard man. Do you;
A: Remember that your life is threatened and you need this modelling job so you don’t end up a Jane Doe on the six o’clock news…or;
B: Do you throw caution to the wind and let him lick away your protests like the candy shell around a chocolate centre and decide that Mixing Business with Pleasure sounds like a whole lot of fun.
Don’t forget that this isn’t the three page synopsis. You want them to want more. You want them to ask questions because everyone’s perception, how they hear, how they listen, how they take in the words, are all different. You want them to ask questions so you know you’re all on the same page. At this stage, if you’re at a conference and you’re pitching to someone who definitely publishes/represents your genre, you should at least get a partial request. If you really blow them out of the water, you should get a full request. This is the other reason why a completed manuscript is a must. You have to be prepared for them to ask you on the spot if they wanted something to read that night, all lonely in their hotel room, thousands of miles away from home, that you could dial up the net and press send. At the very least, it looks good to have it in their inbox by the time they fly home.
Now that I’ve scared the crap out of everyone who has never pitched before, I want you to do a little exercise. Think about if your pitch needs to have both characters involvement. Generally in a romance, someone has more to lose or does more than the other person. If you think your pitch will be too long with both, pick one, write down their motivation and how they are going to set about it. Then do the same with the other main character. Do you see a pattern? Comes back to who, what and why. Who is doing what and why are they doing it. Simple?
Now for the contest part of this enlightening post J If you have less than a 3 page synopsis and would like some help with your pitch or query letter, leave me a comment on what scares you the most about pitching or submitting and I don’t want to see the word rejection in any of the answers. Just get it off your chest and I’ll pop your name in a hat for one of my girls to draw. I’m also offering an ARC of my debut novel out with Carina Press on the 13th August to a lucky commenter. If you only want the ARC, then comment with ARC. All comments for the pitch/query will also be entered. You might win both! Good luck and remember, don’t be nervous. Be professional. Smile, shake hands and say thank you.
I realised today that even though this Romance Writer’s of Australia conference will only be my third, that I also have some conference tips. Most of them you would have already heard and with RWA’s US conference just wrapped up, they aren’t new. This is just my spin on classics...
Dress nice. Even if you aren’t pitching or looking to rub elbows with an agent or editor, others will notice the effort you make with your hair and makeup and clothing. You don’t have to wear sequins to Bob Mayer’s workshop but don’t wear trackie dacks either. Me? I’ll be rocking the heels every day much the same as the last two years. Mind you, they look uncomfortable to the height, age and conservatively challenged, I could run a marathon in them if I had to. And let’s face it, I’m going to be on my bum for most of the time so I could wear 5kg clogs and still be good.
P.S. Sorry in advance if you have to bend your neck to look up at me.
Dress up! The cocktail party on the Friday evening is one of the best kind of icebreakers I’ve ever been to. Even though sessions start running from about Thursday, by the time Friday night rolls around, most are only just starting to catch up with conference buddies, more are finally putting online names to real faces and so on. If you haven’t organised a roaring 20’s outfit yet, what are you waiting for? Do you think more people will notice you if you don’t dress up? Think you’re too old, too young, too introverted, to unnoticeable? You’re not. The perfect start to a conversation last year for me was, “Do you want to see my guns?”
P.P.S. My gun is even better this year!
Caffeine. If you’re anything like me, you love coffee but caffeine is not necessarily your best friend. Ask for decaf. If you’re into instant, every hotel and conference venue will provide it. If it’s not on the table, ask for it. They don’t bite and I won’t laugh. I promise. At my first conference, I was so worried I wouldn’t be able to have eight cups of coffee without throwing up that I packed a little container in my handbag with decaf Moccona. There, now you’re probably laughing at me.
Introductions. If you forget names easily—in one ear and right out the other—try using their name as soon as they give it to you. “My name’s Mary.” “Hi Mary, I’m Bronwyn.” Get it? Got it? Good!
Business cards. Are. Awesome. I love mine but don’t hurl them at people. I always have a few special ones with my mobile number on them just in case but the rest I only give to people who either ask me if I have a website or ask for my email addy. Otherwise, put those badboys away. This doesn’t count for bookmarks and postcards. Get them out but put them on the freebie table where others can grab the ones they want.
Mingle. This one is very important for me. I love the gals at SARA (South Australian Romance Authors). They rock but I can see them anytime, converse with them anytime and be blown away by their helpfulness and brilliance anytime. I can’t meet new people and hope some of their cleverness will rub off on me every time. Approach a stranger, tell them your name and take it from there. Awkward silences are a given but are easily filled with silly giggles and lots of head shaking.
Pitching. Please don’t be scared. Agents and Editors are there to take your pitch, not blow up your dreams or shoot down your ideas. They don’t eat aspiring authors for breakfast with their bacon and bagels despite what you may have heard (unless you pitch to them while they’re in the loo, they don’t like that). Do some research. One of the visiting OS eds, who I’m not pitching to this time, drinks decaf, likes pink stuff and buys alcohol mostly based on the pretty bottle rather than taste (don’t buy one for a bribe, they may like it but conference organisers might not). One agent has only ever taken on two clients from conferences and would like it if you asked questions once she’s done with hers. Also make sure they represent your genre!
One of the most important things to remember is that not every agent and editor will love your idea. Just like not every reader will love your book and not every person you meet in the world will love you. Don’t get upset and pour your coffee on her head. Say thanks for your time, back out respectfully and save it for someone who does love it.
Oh and if you buy a stack of books or win heaps on raffles or whatever, don’t despair and think about the squillions in oversized baggage it’ll cost you at the airport. The bookseller at the conference usually has post paid red satchels for the books you get from her (she comes well prepared) and since we’ll be in the centre of Melbourne, find a post office and send them to yourself. I had to post 5kgs of books and I had another 5kgs in my carry on last year but I just had to have every one of those books! That’s my type of hoarding =)
I think that’s it. I’ve already started packing my bags (so I don’t forget the iPad for the Firefighter’s raffle. BUY HEAPS OF TICKETS!!). I’ve worked out my costume and nearly all of my outfits too so I pack them away early. Now I’m off to unravel another of the plot kinks my manuscript seems to be attracting.
I'm a published author but I'm still mostly stumbling about in the dark looking for the right paths so this blog is about that, though sometimes something will give the me the shits and I'll have a bit of a rant. I'll try not to be offensive but occasionally my mouth opens without asking my brain's permission so I'll apologise in advance.