Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pitching the Publisher, take two...

On Sunday, I went to Halifax's Word on the Street - a gathering of writers, publishers, readers, and all those who love the written word. This year, it was down on the waterfront and we had a glorious sunny SUMMER day for the event. It has moved around in all the years they've held it - on Spring Garden Rd. - like a big sidewalk sale - raining torrents, buckets. Not a happy event. At a pier - inside, good, but a little sterile. Last year it was in a downtown park - meaning that they could have tents but you could still hear ambulances etc... perfect! The wharf was good if a a bit squishy. The pitch to the publishers was held in a room in the Maritime Museum. The room was packed and I was beat. I'd spent days readying my submission, refining my pitch (thank you Babes for your editorial and sartorial advice!) and fretting. For why? This event is put on by the Atlantic Publishers. For you out of the area - this means nothing, I'm sure. For us? We.........ll....it means a very few publishers indeed.

We do not know what publishers are going to attend. This year, I think, we got some very good ones. Two of them were on last years panel. You may recall that last year I won for the best pitch to the publishers. But it was a victory leached of all glory because I'd pitched a mystery and none of the three publishers present published genre fiction. This year I pitched a mainstream novel (maybe it teeters on the edge of literary but that isn't my decision). I didn't win but I gave a great pitch - had the works - a bit of the plot, some sense of my style and my delivery was solid. Now, I cross my fingers and hope that one of them is interested. Or do I? I'm not sure. I know that one of the imprints publishes fiction with a social justice theme. It would be stretching it to say mine does that. It does address the problems that the poor and aboriginal among us face, but is that the theme? No. One of the publishers present represents a very polished company. They probably publish more books than any other in the region in the fiction line. And the third is a small publisher who's owner is a wonderful guy. I'd love to work with him but I'm not sure I'm cutting edge enough.
So, what was the purpose? For me, it was the push to get a good package ready - if you pitch, you can leave your package with the publishers, and they'll give it a boo. Now I have that. In the readying process I got a concise idea of what my story is and how to highlight its alluring qualities. I worked with my editor to make sure the first chapter was absolutely what I wanted it to be - word by word.
Now, we'll just see.
I'll continue to revise and polish. I'll start sending out more packages to agents and publishers. I'm getting this baby ready to meet the world. I'll pay attention to everything those three publishers said about everyone's pitch. Things like "we want to know there is a whole story there", "if you have a quirky idea - we need to know you have the chops to deliver it" and "we want to know that we can sell it and you know who your market is". Other gems will come to me in the days to come and I will share them with you, dear readers.

Now, back to work!

PS: I'm over at the Burrowers today - have a boo!


Angela Felsted said...

Good advice. You are so brave to pitch directly to publishers like that.

Hart Johnson said...

Jan-I LOVE using things like that for a deadline, to pull your package together. And it would be great to get a publisher, but I totally hear you on how it helps the process anyway. Great attitude about it and I'm glad you feel like you did well, even if it wasn't the winner.

KarenG said...

This is great! I love that last paragraph you put in about what they're looking for. Seriously, the pitch and query are very important in getting across not only your idea but your personality. When an editor looks at hundreds of queries and emails a month, believe it or not the writer's personality is there in just a few lines, and if it doesn't come across well, then forget it.

If you won a prize for your pitch you are over halfway there, my friend.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

You can learn so much from pitch sessions. Especially when you go at them with that kind of attitude!

Liza said...

Sounds like you are getting so close! I look forward to good news coming from here soon!