Thursday, April 24, 2008

Pitching to an Editor! by DL Larson

As Morgan Mandell mentioned, this weekend many will be attending the RWA Spring Fling Writers Conference in Deerfield, IL. (Chicago area) This is a wonderful opportunity to bond with fellow writers, attend workshops and pitch to editors and agents. As the days creep closer, anticipation escalates. Everything rides on the infamous two minute pitch.

I'm nervous, excited and mostly scared I'll flub up. Pitching has never been a strong point of mine. I practice and practice, yet I continue to deliver mumbled, disjointed bits of what my book is about. My outline is concise, succulent, but I fumble with the delivery.

Somewhere in the last several months, with all the folks talking on the various loops about pitching, I realize my biggest mistake. I ramble. Yep, me who loves to put words on paper in a tight, well organized manner, ramble. I certainly don't mean to. I strive to stay with the outline, but strange words rush out. And then I'm in trouble because I have veered away from my outline and I don't know how to get back to where I want to be.

So, how do I stop this unattractive habit? I've studied many books on pitching, listened to other writers tell of their secrets, and finally after much deliberation, I have come to the conclusion LESS IS MORE.

I've been practicing shutting my mouth. Short sentences. Pause. Breathing is good. And a smile - if I'm feeling really brave. Professional. I'm in conversation with another human being, not delivering a speech. Sure. Let's try that again, with feeling and enthusiasm.

Enthusiasm is the most important ingredient of my pitch technique. My smile may be tenuous, but my eagerness to share my work will grab the attention of the editor or agent. I know that. I've always known that. I simply must relay it when I'm the one in the hot seat, dealing with sweaty palms and dry mouth.

Others have relied on word association to describe their book. I have mixed emotions on this. But I'm willing to try it. So here goes ...

Dr. Jekyll married to Suzie Homemaker; and Maverick married to the Scarlet Letter, with their boys, The Boxcar Children.

Then I close my mouth and wait for the editor to respond. "Yes! How brilliant! You're just what I've been waiting for!! I must have your manuscript today."

Oh, I like this dream, er scenario. But truth is, I've wondered many times if I'm the one who sends the editor's eyeballs rolling, or perhaps it was the one before me, and I am simply the one who has to suffer because the previous writer couldn't spit out what they so badly wanted to say, and the editor is still trying to refocus on the task at hand, namely me.

These are the things spinning around in my mind when I should be concentrating on my delivery, er conversation with an editor. And how do I shake hands when mine are cold and sweaty!! Heck, I don't want to shake hands with me. And are the editor's hands sweaty too from shaking so many damp hands? I worry about that as well.

Basically I worry alot. I've scolded myself many times about this needless and nonproductive activity. I wonder too, when is a good time to give the editor my brochure about my book, my wonderful, precise brochure that I should have simply slipped under the door while I stand in the hall while she reads it.

For heavens sake, I've just come upon the best idea. I'm calling it the slide in pitch. I'll take my perfectly worded outline and slip it under the door and wait. It'll only take a minute for the editor to read it, love it and demand to publish my work. The two minute pitch will become a thing of the past, archaic. Yes, I can see the benefits of this for everyone who has trouble with rambling and mind wandering in directions it shouldn't go. It's brilliant. Simple, and the editor will get a good work out bending down to retreave brochures from the floor. No TB for them. Another plus! The editor will open the door, smiling wide and give me a hug, no worry over handshaking any more.

It's perfect! Too bad it's just a dream. Maybe someday ...

For those signed up for a pitch with an agent/editor, my only good advice is two fold:

1. Be yourself
2. Show your enthusiasm for your work

Good Luck!

And for heaven's sake, please stop and say hello at the book signing on Saturday. Better yet, buy one of my books. Promises To Keep is a finalist in 2 contests! It's a great read, even the reviews say so!!

Til next time ~

DL Larson

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