Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Write on Wednesday: the Pitch Appointment

Romance Writers of America meets in NYC next month! So it seems a good time to reprise my advice about editor and agent appointments.

I met my first editor, Mary-Theresa Hussey, at a pitch appointment back in the days when she was a lowly assistant editor at Silhouette and I hadn't yet completed my first manuscript. (This was so long ago you could get away with that.)

Mind you, it took me four years to write a story she could actually buy. But that meeting gave me hope and was the start of a working relationship that lasted ten years.

So let's say you're headed to New York. You score an appointment with the agent you most covet or the editor you want at the house of your dreams. You have ten minutes to convince her that you are a perfect match. Now what do you say?

First of all, relax. No matter how you feel inside, this is not the do-or-die moment of your career. Remember that the editor wants to like your book. All you have to do is describe your story in words that will let her know what it's truly about. I can't find my own high concept with both hands in the dark. But I can talk succinctly about story because of Debra Dixon's wonderful explanation of goal, motivation, and conflict. Because of her, I can offer

Virginia Kantra's Cheat Sheet to Perfect Pitch

Start:"Thank you for taking the time to meet with me."Say a few words about the publisher or agent that suggests you've done your homework, read their authors' work. This means, of course, that you have done your homework, that you know that this agent represents your genre and you are not pitching your sweet Christian romance to an erotica publisher.

I've written a word count, subgenre
set in location and/or time period.

My Title is about a character tag (descriptive adjective and specific noun)
Fighting/striving/struggling for character goal
because character motivation
But conflict (why can't she have what she wants?)

The other primary character (hero or heroine)
is a character tag
who wants character goal
so that character motivation
But conflict.

A sentence about how the romance is affected by or impacts the plot.

A sentence about how the characters work together or at cross purposes to defeat the antagonist or overcome the conflict.

A sentence establishing your area of expertise or level of excitement about this story.

Finish by telling her what you want: "I would like to send you the story."

Don't be thrown if the editor asks questions about your story. This means she's interested.

You can ask questions, too. They probably get tired of, "What are you looking for?" But you could certainly ask specific questions about projects you have simmering on the back burner. Which brings me to,

Have a second pitch prepared in case the editor says this project doesn't meet the needs of her house at this time or asks what else you are writing.

As I mentioned above, you want to do your research before you even request any appointment. Make sure you have visited
Agent Query - An excellent guide to what an agent is and how to submit to one,
along with a free, searchable database of over 700 agents.

as well as Preditors and Editors
Another Realm hosts this guide to literary agents and publishing houses.

And good luck!

(You can find an earlier version of this post and other articles about writing on my website.)

No comments: