Saturday, June 7, 2014

Learning to Pitch

No, I'm not talking about baseball. I decided several months ago that the time had come for me to buckle down and finish my novel. Then, around the beginning of the year, I started researching what to do with it. I started with the excellent Romance Writers of America website. I looked around for upcoming workshops that were within driving distance. I was fortunate that Chicago Spring Fling was held this year. In addition to the opportunity to hear from one of my favorite romance authors, Mary Balogh, the event was filled with educational workshops and offered those who registered a pitch appointment with one of the several agents and editors in attendance. There was also a Pitch Perfect Master Class offered by author Carrie Lofty.

In preparation for the event, I realized that I had to create a pitch letter. What, exactly, is that supposed to look like? I had no clue. Thanks to the Internet, I found this useful article. So, at least I was able to come up with something. Of course, after taking Carrie Lofty's class, I realized that I should scrap it and start over. I didn't realize that an "elevator pitch" should not contain the same elements as a cover blurb.

I also learned the importance of defining the genre. There are a wide spectrum of genres under (and just outside) the romance umbrella, some of which were new to me. I had never heard of "new adult" before. I did not know the difference between "women's fiction" and "romance". I was aware of paranormal romance but did not know about the increasingly popular urban fantasy genre. I was also unaware that m/m romances were now being published and marketed to women.

Then I had my pitch meeting with an agent. She was very kind and patient. I was very anxious and struggled to describe my book. She asked me about the heat level, and I did not know how to describe it. I cited some published authors with a similar heat level but lacked knowledge of the appropriate technical jargon. Thanks to All About Romance, I now know what terms to use.

I have never been good at self-promotion, or selling anything. I am shy by nature. I always felt uncomfortable selling Girl Scout cookies or band candy (and my parents weren't willing to take order forms to work and solicit their co-workers). I am also terrible at first impressions. I tend to reveal myself slowly.

I realized I had done the same with my characters, which is a problem in a novel. Most readers decide early on whether they like the main characters or not, and that first impression will influence their perception of the rest of the book.

Now I have been revising. I am working on more showing as well as telling and cutting some of the backstory. I know who my characters are and what motivates them, but readers will only know what I tell them.

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