Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Pitches, Pitfalls, and Plotting - Four Authors Talk About How They Got Published

Lincoln Michel recently posted an interview with four authors about how they got published.

Everyone's story is different, of course, but Michel's questions, thankfully, went beyond the "rags to riches" myth.

Rarely do interviewers get down to the nitty gritty, but in this interview Michel asks the 64 million dollar question: "How has your pitch changed?"

Your pitch is unquestionably the most important piece of writing you will do after you finish your book. (Even if your pitch is meant to be delivered orally, write it down.) But, for some reason, writers always have a terrible time answering the simple question: What's your book about?

Scott Cheshire, like most authors, struggled with his pitch until someone wisely said, "Don’t worry about plot, what’s the book about for you?"

Unless you can convey what your book means - to you - nobody will give you the time of day. After all, if you wrote it, you must have had something important to say. Now is the time to figure out what that is - before you start pitching.

For some useful tips on how to make a memorable pitch see:

What's Your Book About? How to Make a Pitch

How To Get Published

By Lincoln Michel, Buzzfeed: June 12, 2014

Probably the most annoying thing a writer ever has to do is “the elevator pitch.” Naturally, I thought I’d start off asking you all to summarize your novels. But I’m also interested in knowing how your “pitch” changed. Is your summary the same as it was when you pitched to agents and editors? Or to when you started the project?

Scott Cheshire: First of all, I can’t think of the last time I was in an elevator and spoke with someone else. It’s usually a quiet awkward affair. Or maybe that’s just me. And yes it’s annoying, but also, as you imply, unavoidable. It’s a crass way to put what is actually a welcome and understandable request: So, what’s your book about? Tell me. Please. But also don’t take up too much of my time… For some people, I imagine, hearing what someone’s novel is about is up there with hearing about a “crazy” dream, or hearing a joke from someone who is just not good at telling jokes. So I think it’s a good thing, really, to figure out how to tell people about your book, in a way that respects their time and relative interest.

All of that said, I used to make the typical attempts, torturously condensed plot summaries, or ridiculous “comparison title” mash-ups (if Cormac McCarthy’s The Road made love to The Moviegoer, while Creedence Clearwater played on the jukebox, my book would be that baby), but then one day someone wisely said to me: don’t worry about plot, what’s the book about for you? My response was something like this: It’s 1980, in Queens, New York, and a 12-year-old boy preacher named Josiah is about to deliver his first sermon to thousands of people. During the sermon he has “a vision”: The world will end in the year 2000. Fast forward to 2007, and Josiah, now a grown man, is having a terrible year — his mother has died, his wife has left him, his business is failing, and his father is losing his mind. In other words, the world is fine, but Josiah’s world has gone to shit.
Read the rest of this enlightening interview here.

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