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Art of the Pitch: Sell Yourself

Since I’ve started down the road of pitching my book I’ve learned a few things. And within the past few months I’ve had a realization. There are two halves to pitching a book to an agent or editor.

What’s the first-half?

Well that’s selling them on your book. Which I’m sure we all knew. This is your opportunity to get them excited about your idea. Here you want to know your work inside and out. Develop different ways to describe it to others. Tailor it to different types of people. Not everyone is drawn to the same thing. But if you’re able to hook them with one bit, they’ll be more likely to follow you on the rest.

What’s the second-half?

Selling them on you. It is a part of the equation we often forget about. You may think I’m off base, but consider your favorite author. Not only do you know their body of work, but you probably follow them on social media. You’re obsessed with what they’re up to and want to know more about them. John Green of “The Fault In Our Stars” has a huge following on YouTube and a great personality.

And this great personality helps his agent, manager, and publisher sell books.

This is similar to George R. R. Martin. Certainly his work speaks for itself in depth, creativity, and character. It can stand on its own. But people still flock to his Live Journal page to check in for updates. He interacts with his fans and builds a dialogue with them.

Take a moment some time and read through Patrick Rothfuss’ blog and twitter.

So then how do you sell yourself during a pitch?

By being you. No one else can be you, but YOU! And who you are has been needled into the very fabric of your book. When an agent or editor can get a sense of you they’ll also be able to get a sense of how you write. So when you’re ready to type up that query letter you need to follow Rule 1 — follow the query guidelines. But find ways to interject a bit of who you are within those guidelines. Let them get a sense of YOU!

Recently a close writing friend of mind stepped out of the usual query formula — the very professional and serious tone. She found ways to stay within the guidelines but also inserted a large portion of her personality into the query. And the response was incredible, and opened a door. By being herself, by being human and personable, she found success.

My last bit of advice, and where I’ve had the most success, is to go to conventions and workshops. Meet agents and editors face-to-face. This is your chance to really let them see who you are. Sell them on your book idea, and sell them on you.

Be bold, be awesome, be you.

Atlanta Writing Workshop Wrapup

Finally got some time to sit down and talk about my thoughts on the Atlanta Writing Workshop.

A few of my WC friends and I attended the workshop with no real expectations. One of the major draws, for me, was a chance to pitch in front of some agents — more on that in a bit. Now, it did cost extra to pitch and extra per agent. I was apprehensive at first. But after  looking over the attendees made it seem like a good deal, so I picked two that fit my genre.

I’ll be honest, having to pay to pitch some agents at a workshop felt a bit like being taken advantage of. But, looking at it now, I believe it’s a way to offset the cost of the one-day workshop. I imagine these agents had their flights taken care of as well as their rooms. With that being the case, I would imagine the cost for the single day event would be close to $500 a person.

There was a ton of information packed into a single day and all lead by Chuck Sambuchino, editor of Guide to Literary Agents. He’s a great presenter and knows how to keep the pace moving.

That said, I really felt like I knew most of what he talked about already. Not because I’m some big hotshot, but because I’ve been at this long enough. I’ve been to enough workshops and conventions to know the information. Of course that doesn’t mean it was bad for everyone. Take me from four years ago and this workshop would have been a wealth of knowledge.

Of the panels, one stuck out to me the most. Chuck read out loud the first page of anonymously submitted manuscripts. Six agents listened and read along. Whenever an agent reached a point that they’d stop reading they’d raise their hand. Once three agents had raised a hand Chuck would stop reading all together. Afterward the agents would say exactly why they would have stopped reading. It was fascinating to get to hear their thoughts. You could tell (and it was almost said this way) that they read A LOT. Because of this they don’t want any confusion on the first page and there has to be something there that makes them want to turn the page.

Overly wrought descriptions, out.

Lots of dialect in the dialogue, out.

Confusion as to who the main character is, out.

It’s kind of scary how even the littlest of things could cause them to stop reading. But what that means is you really need to make that first page shine.

Now the highlight for me were the two pitches I took a part in. I didn’t memorize my query, one-page synopsis, or anything like that. Instead I trusted in myself to know the material so that I could easily just talk about it and be excited about it. Honestly, I think that paid off. When I pitched informally at JordanCon in front of Brandon Sanderson and Harriet McDougal I had a little speech memorized. I basically sounded like a salesman.

This time I went in without pressure on myself and just had a good time.

Both agents gave me a lot of good information and feedback. They’ve also helped me identify some areas that I’ve been struggling with since I started pitching the book. Right now I’ve straddled YA and MG. With their help I’ve been able to pick a direction and focus.

Funny though is that one agent reps MG and the other YA. What does that mean for me? I now get to have two different MSS. This should be quite the challenge, but I’m up for it.

In my next blog update I plan on talking about a theory I have on pitching books. So far my informal thoughts seem to be holding up. And by that I mean any kind of rigorous scientific study is unnecessary, as my thoughts are full proof!

Trust me.

Where Have You Been?

Honestly, I don’t really have a good excuse for why I haven’t been updating my blog. For that matter, I don’t have an excuse for why I haven’t been writing in general. I can point to reasons why I haven’t been diligent in my craft, but none of them area really good.

More often than not I’ve found it easier to sit around and watch a few episodes of MASTERS OF SEX or ELEMENTARY with my lady. Then it’s off to bury myself into whatever game I’m playing that month (Seriously, have you played Darkest Dungeon?).

You’re right, no excuse.

It also didn’t help that I received a pretty brutal critique recently and it stalled all my progress on all my projects. I feel like a living insect pegged to an exhibit case. Struggling to take off and get back to what I was doing before being skewered.

And it’s time to do just that.

To do that, I have several projects I need to get focused on.

  1. Start on my sixth draft. I have a major revision ahead of me. We’re talking novel spanning, character changing, revisions. But after much deliberation with trusted writing friends, it’s the right choice.
  2. Work on my short story collection. These stories will follow the characters from my short story “White Flame” published in the SWORD AND LASER ANTHOLOGY. I want this collection to be like the old Conan the Barbarian serials. Little one-off stories following, in this case, a group of miscreants as they travel across the world.
  3. Have fun with my new blog called STRANGE SCRIVENINGS. I set it up to be a sort of playground for writing. I play table top RPGs and some time ago the gaming company Monte Cook Games released a setting called The Strange. Everything about it screams at me to write some fiction set in their world. Using the blog, I plan to have some fun and write little bits of fiction. Most of it will be bad, but above all I just want to have fun.
So that’s my long term plan. In the short term I’ll be attending the Atlanta Writing Workshop this Saturday. I have the opportunity to pitch my book to two agents and get their feedback. And that’s exactly how I’m going into it, just expecting feedback. With the major revision I have planned, I’d doubt an agent would want it in its current state.

It’s Been Too Long

Don’t worry. I have stuff coming. Just you wait…

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