It’s that time again when folks begin to scurry around, polishing their proposals, putting together exciting one-sheets and dazzling their friends and crit partners with twenty-five words that describe their stories, tease the readers, and draw in the agents and editors.
That sure would be nice, wouldn’t it? You sit down across from the editor; he smiles and you smile back. You give him the pitch which sparkles, and he immediately asks for your one-sheet and first five pages. As he reads the words, he can barely contain himself. “I want this author! She’s mine!” And he leans in and immediately offers a three-book contract.
Okay, that’s how it happens in the world of my mind. Don’t we all wish.
But in the real world, we feel blessed if the editor smiles as we approach. Will she ask to read our five edited-to-death pages? Will she listen to the pitch? Is she so tired from the other fifty pitches that she can barely keep her eyes open?
Agents and editors go into the conferences with as much optimism as the writers.
They hope and pray that after traveling a thousand miles, worrying about what’s happening at home, dealing with lost luggage, and eating far too many calories at each meal, that they’ll find an author that will blow their socks off. At least make them happy they signed up.
You seen, it’s as scary on the other side of the table as it is on the author’s side.
A great deal of planning, finances, and other prep goes into an agent arranging his or her schedule to be able to attend a conference. They can be tiring as well as fun.
My very first appointment as an author was like salt scraping through an open wound. Let’s just say, it wasn’t my most exciting moment. And I’ll admit to thinking for a few minutes about the hours I’d put into my pitch. What had caused the agent’s eyes to glaze over one minute into that long fifteen minute appointment?
It couldn’t possibly have been the lackluster proposal, the hideous first five pages, or…wait! No…I smiled. I think I smiled. I offered to read the pages myself. And then I realized…I didn’t even like the opening pages. I was reading them out loud for the first time. Really reading them. I gave the pitch again that weekend, and I suddenly understood the importance of the opening of a story and the need to be able to snag a reader with one line.
Don’t wait until conference to read OUT LOUD to yourself. The words sound much different, much more like how they will sound to an editor. Or a reader.
In the coming weeks, we’ll explore pitches. Maybe try a few on for size and see where a needle and thread might make them fit better.
Twenty-five to thirty words. Be prepared to wow us with your story.
If you’re going to train for weeks and months, be sure the wind up and the pitch deliver!