Before BEA officially kicks off (and by kicks off I mean the exhibit hall with all of the freebies opens), there is all sorts of stuff for folks to do. The booksellers have an entire day of education, the authors had a whole day courtesy of Writer's Digest to hone their craft, and I'm finishing my third day of Publishing University put on by the PMA or the Independent Book Publishers Association as they're now called. It has been a fantastic few days of continuing ed. Even after several years in publishing there is always something new to learn. I've been doing P&L (profit & loss sheets -- it's one of the main ways a publisher can determine if a book is profitable and therefore worth buying) for years, but this morning I learned a new and better way to write out my P&Ls that will provide more information for more people than just me. And that was only one of the many classes I've attended.

But tomorrow, the real fun begins. First thing tomorrow morning I'll be there with the rest of the huddled masses ready to begin our day of pilfering. Those publishers have tons of stuff for the taking, and I plan on taking.


Final Pitch/Pitch Contest Rules

I'm in sunny if slightly chilly (in my opinion) LA about to start my BEA experience. And since tomorrow I'll be listening to folks pitch me their masterpieces, I figured there was no better time or place to talk about our last installment of pitches.

Now tomorrow I'll be participating in the Writer's Digest Pitch Slam. It's advertised as a type of speed dating for authors with agents and editors. The authors will have three minutes to pitch each of us and get our response. I'll tell you after I experience it tomorrow, but I suspect that three minutes is not going to be very much time at all. Normally at a conference you have 15-30 minute intervals to meet with the editor/agent of your choice. However, in all honesty, three minutes is about all you have to get our attention. I, and other editors, have been known to ask people if they are perhaps working on anything else when the book they are pitching me doesn't interest me. And 15 minutes can be a very long time if the author only does non-fiction, something I don't acquire. So, for the great pitch contest I promised, we're going to work with pitches that take about 3 minutes. Now since this is going to be a written contest, we're going to assume that 500 words is equivalent to 3 minutes of talking. And also since a pitch is really a dialog between the author and editor/agent, I'm going to post some questions that you should answer. This won't be a true pitch, just like making up answers for interview questions you read online isn't a real interview, but I think it will simulate it close enough. So, pretend you really are about to pitch me. After all, I'll be requesting the winners' manuscripts just like I would at a real pitch session. You've got the same things at stake. And keep in mind the stuff we've discussed before. This may be a longer format pitch, but it should still have the hooks, the main points, and the conciseness of the early pitches we worked on. Finally, I asked my friend and pitch expert extraordinaire, Chuck for some friendly advice for you pitch practicers. Here's what he said:
  1. Don't pitch unless your novel or proposal is done. If the agent is interested, it will lead to an awkward admission that your work is not done, or you say nothing and simply go home to hastily put the rest of the work together.
  2. Don't pitch a series. Pitch one book. Trust me - the talk of a series will come naturally down the road. Be patient.
  3. Stick to the main story. If you can avoid character names, don't mention them. If you can avoid telling us what race of being they are, great. The more names and occupations and races of beings and character backstory tidbits you throw in, the more convoluted it becomes. There will be a time to flesh out the details, but the pitch is not it.

All of it is excellent advice and applicable to this competition. And now for the competition itself . . .

The Buried Editor's Perfect Pitch Competition
How this works:
  1. Submit only one pitch.
  2. Pitches must be a children's picture book, chapter book, midgrade or YA novel. No nonfiction, no adult, no exceptions.
  3. Pitches may not exceed 500 words. You can go under but not over. 500 words is a lot of words. Try to go under.
  4. You must answer all of the following questions. Pretend they came up naturally in the course of our conversation about your book.
    • Do you see this book as part of a series?
    • What marketing (or promotional or cross-promotional) potential do you see for this book?
    • Have you had anything else published?
    • What do you think your main competition for this book would be? (OK, this one doesn't always come up in a pitch session but you should ALWAYS know the answer to this one.)
    • What else are you working on? (Do not take more than 50 words to answer this one.)

How to enter:
  • Email your submission to by June 6. On June 7, I will no longer accept submissions and may delete the account. Don't email me questions or anything but your pitch. Post questions in the comment section of the blog.
  • Title your email with whatever age you've written for. Ex. Picture Book Pitch or YA Pitch
  • Include your pitch and the answers to all the questions in the body of the email. Don't include anything else. I don't need a bio or a synopsis or three chapters. We're practicing pitches not queries. I only want to see pitches.
  • I know this one will seem obvious, but email me from an email address that works. I need to be able to get in touch with you, especially if you are a winner.

The winner(s) will be asked to submit their full manuscript to me by July 1. So, don't pitch anything that isn't done. Since I am actively acquiring and sincerely looking, I will request as many manuscripts as I am interested in. There could be no winners; there could be dozens. We'll just have to wait and see. But the Grand Prize Winner with the best pitch will have their pitch posted here and analyzed for the betterment of all (pending the pitcher's approval). That way we can all see why a certain pitch worked and hopefully improve all of our pitches for next time.

Any questions? Post them here. If I've been unclear about something, you're probably not the only person who has a question.

Get those pitches tuned up. I'm looking forward to seeing them.


Wind and Hail and Rain, Oh My!

I had truly planned on getting the rest of the pitch stuff up yesterday, but a tree fell on my house the night before last, and well, this became less of a priority. We do finally have electricity, but as far as I know, the cable and internet have not yet come back. Thank goodness for work place internet. I would hate to be completely cut off from the rest of the world.

However, here is where you should pitch people. This is not going to be as comprehensive as where you shouldn't pitch. If you are pitching at the wrong time or place you'll instantly know and should stop. Even if you are in a situation that I describe below there can always be outstanding factors you can't anticipate. Remember, that like the pitch itself, the timing of your pitch needs to be flexible.

    Feel free to pitch me (and other editors and agents):
  • At conferences -- One of the main reason we go to conferences is to meet new authors and be pitched new and exciting projects. After our sessions and during pre-arranged pitch sessions, we expect and anticipate being pitched. Don't disappoint us or miss your chance.
  • During a meeting you've set up with us. If you've gone to the trouble to arrange the meeting, and we've agreed to meet with you, don't chicken out. Come prepared to pitch. The exception would be if we've arranged to meet over something else like a newspaper article on an upcoming book or for some charity. Then, it could be inappropriate and awkward for you to throw in your pitch.

Actually, now that I think about it, that's pretty much it. You're limited to conferences and workplace meetings, should you be able to make one. This is why your pitch needs to be so dynamic and well-rehearsed. You don't get many in person chances to lob your book at an editor or agent. You have to make the most of it.


Elevator Pitches Cont.

I hope you didn't think we'd talk about elevator pitches only once. An elevator pitch is the most important pitch you'll learn to make. Admittedly, the chances of you actually being in an elevator with an editor or agent is pretty slim, but this is the perfect length pitch for most situations. When you are the lucky person designated to pick up the editor/agent from the airport, this is the perfect pitch to start the conversation about your books. If you happen to end up at a table with an editor or agent at a dinner or luncheon, again, find a way to work in your pitch. Basically, your elevator pitch is your number one way to introduce (in person) your work to the gatekeepers of the publishing world. Work it in every opportunity you have although do make sure that it is at least tangentially germane to the conversation. You want to wow the agent/editor in question with your witty conversation not jar them with your random book pitch. Try to never miss an opportunity to bring your book to a gatekeeper's attention.

Now that I've whipped you into a frenzy of pitching, let's discuss the proper etiquette for pitching. After all, even the most brilliant pitch will fall on deaf ears if you are acting in an unprofessional, rude, or flat out annoying manner. Like everything in this world, there is a time and a place for pitching. Let's start with the times and places that it is never appropriate to pitch.
    Never pitch to me (or anyone else) if I'm . . .
  • In the bathroom -- No matter how public a restroom, what you do in there is (in my opinion at least) a very private thing. I don't care if I'm just washing my hands, I do not want to hear about your book. It could be an 80k word YA novel that sets entirely in the bathroom of a truck stop, and I'm still not going to want to hear about it in a bathroom. Find me in a more appropriate place.
  • In the middle of a conversation -- I know this one should be common sense, but I still have people interrupt other people so they can get in their book pitch. Let's face it. It's rude and annoying. Just wait your turn like everyone else.
  • I'm on the phone -- this goes with not interrupting conversations. Just be polite and wait for the call to end. During conference hours, a call has to be pretty important for me or one of my colleagues to take it. Let us talk to our boss or spouse or kid in peace.
  • Working -- I, like most people, do not generally wait until I'm in public to do my work. I try to find a nice quiet secluded place to hole up and get stuff done. If I'm frantically scribbling or typing or reading in public, I'm probably in some sort of terrific time crunch and can't spare a second for an interruption, not even for the book that will make my professional career. So, don't interrupt. Even if I'm polite, there's no way I'm giving you the attention you and your book deserve.
  • Working at my other job -- Okay, so obviously this is NOT a problem for most of the other agents and editors on this planet since they all tend to only have one job and work in nice offices in glass buildings where the random author can't wander in off the street and accost them. I do not have that luxury, and I find it awkward and uncomfortable to be pitched stuff when I was just trying to handsell you a book seconds before.
  • Having a personal life -- Admitedly, agents and editors are not celebrities. Most people don't know our names, let alone our faces. We are not stalked by the paparazzi and we don't get asked for autographs during dinner. But people do meet us at places and business meetings, even ones in our home town. And then there is always the chance we will run into them again. Don't get me wrong, I like to talk about books and writing and to discuss stuff with authors in my free time. I'm happy to say hi or exchange harmless chit chat. Just don't pitch me your book when I'm in the middle of a movie or at dinner with my husband.
  • Incapacitated in some way -- Let's face it, if I'm having a nervous breakdown, crying, drunk, or something, there is absolutely no point in pitching to me or anyone else in a similiar state. Generally that sort of stuff is rare at conferences but it can happen. I personally can get motion sick in pretty much every vehicle known to man including roller coasters, elevators, and golf carts. When this happens and I find myself thinking that the sweet oblivion of death cannot come soon enough, I'm probably not going to have much interest in your book.

Well, this is starting to get a little long. In my next post, I'll discuss places you should pitch.