I pitched a novel. To two publishers.
I have been writing seriously for more than eight years, publishing myself for five, and I've never once done a live pitch. I have had the opportunity plenty of times. At every Can Con I've attended, actually. This is the first one at which I've attempted to sell a manuscript face to face.
I'm not going to lie, it was genuinely terrifying.
My first pitch happened on Saturday afternoon. I sat down and had a great little chat with the acquisition editor. It was actually really fun. He had a very blunt manner about him that I very much appreciated (remind me tell you about the incredible culture shock I experienced moving from Australia to Canada one day), and had no problems telling it like it is. Things I learnt during this pitching session:
- Skye is apparently a really pulp-y name.
- The story is actually really interesting.
- I had NO idea what my book is actually about
- I am TERRIBLE at selling my books
- At least I don't come off like an idiot (oh how little you know me!)
It was a great little discussion, actually, and I really appreciated being given the time to attempt to (terribly) sell my manuscript. For what it's worth, the story was interesting enough to warrant a closer look by the publisher. So yay!
I was also told that I really should pitch in person more, since I presented so well.
Hah hah... HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH!
For the record, I was shaking in fear before I sat down. Talking to strangers is not the best time for me, and doing so trying to achieve a goal that means the world to me is even worse. Still, it went pretty well, all things considered.
My second pitch followed on Sunday afternoon. This one was even more high-pressure as instead of twelve odd minutes, I had only five in which to impress the editor. I left my last panel and went straight to the waiting area for pitching. There I sat, pale faced and clammy, going over my pitch in my mind, trying to distract myself with idle chatter with those also waiting to pitch, or staring down into nothingness trying not to be ill. I was nervous.
In that time, I had a small epiphany.
You see, it's really tough for a writer to be able to find the theme of their own story. At least for me it is. I just write a story without any themes in mind. My goal is to tell a fantastic tale. Trying to pick out a theme after the fact is nigh on impossible. That was what tripped me up on Saturday's pitch.
My argument is that every reader will take something different away from a book. In the case of Skylark there are any number of lessons one could walk away with. Perhaps it would make a reader ponder the foolishness of blind prejudice, or perhaps it would impress upon the reader the power of love (barf), or maybe the necessity of genuine friendship, or the nature of true heroism...... There are tonnes of things any one reader may walk away from the book with.
For me, however (and I realised this sitting, stewing in my terrified thoughts before this pitch), the book tells the reader that the right thing is almost never the easy thing.
Doing the right thing costs; lives, loves, friendships... doing the right thing will see you lose them all. It's not easy. It's really, really difficult.
That is why evil persists - it's the easy path.
Anyway, that thought struck me as I was waiting to pitch, and I made adjustments to my notes so that I had it at a glance should I get the dreaded question: "So what is your book actually about."
That question never came. I sat before the editor - who was decidedly the loveliest person ever and not terrifying at all - and explained the story. She read the single page I had brought, and seemed genuinely interested. So yay!
I left the pitching session feeling vaguely light headed and a little out of it. I promptly marched to the bathroom and had a good cry. I think I just needed to release all the pent up anxiety that had been building over the weekend, as well as all the crazy dashing around that marked this weekend. and, you know, the funeral. I cried for a good little bit, had a minor panic attack, and then pulled myself together.
That was my pitching experience.
All in all, it was actually pretty good! Yes, I was absolutely petrified. Yes, it wasn't good for my anxiety (mind you, that was made worse, I think, by the high emotions of the weekend).
But it was positive. The editors in question were absolutely wonderful people, and it has helped me no end to know that my story seemed genuinely interesting
Most importantly, I came out the other side of this terrifying experience in one piece and relatively sane... or, at least, no less sane that I was before going in. I know I can do it again.
Yay life experience!
Now I have work I must be getting on with.