Thursday, June 28, 2007

Pitching Details -- To Be Avoided Whenever Possible

Erica is so freaking awesome, but in case you somehow missed the news...SHE FINALED THREE TIMES IN THE TARA CONTEST! And her cp, Kelly, finaled, too. I don't know about you, but I'm impressed beyond belief. Triple-wow!

Maven Lacey KayeSo last night I met up with a few of my chapter gals to go see Shannon Hale sign Austenland. After the signing, which was hilarious for a lot of reasons I'm not going into right now, I went out with one of them for drinks. Which was very cool, since it was a Wednesday and I had to stay up way past my bedtime to do it. Of course, it's not hard to stay up past my bedtime. I have to be at work at 6am. Speaking of which, I'm late.

Anyway, she's very new to this whole thing and y'all know how much I lurve to share my opinion. HA-ha! Captive audience! World domination ensues...

Imagine my surprise when I returned home to see Erica's just posted a really fantastic pitching blog. It wasn't there when I left, I swear! /smacks forehead

But that's ok. Even though I saw a new, clean pitch drafted by Darcy in response to Erica's blog -- which means Erica somehow managed to make her point in under the 3 hours it took me to -- I looked through didn't see the same level of detail I'd used over drinks. Probably because Erica has a life. And no mango margarita :-)

So here's what I think is important (and it definitely goes WITH what Erica said) (Btw, Erica, what's a GMC-D hook? I know a GMC hook is what I'm describing here -- Goal, Motivation, and Conflict, but what is D? A typo? Quoting an email thread from a long time ago).

You need to find the core of your story and then you need to find a way to stick to it while you're pitching. Here's why: the agent or editor is going to interrupt your every next sentence to ask for clarification on a point. That's fine -- it's what they do, right? But at the same time, you're still responsible for delivering the story hook to them. If they get sidetracked on how your Shawano heroine got to England and you never manage to get to the reason why she's a great foil for the hero, you look like you have a very implausible character in a manuscript with no plot and a heap of backstory.

As I suggested to my new little friend (insert diabolical accent here), if the editor (or agent) tries to start asking questions that YOU KNOW have no real bearing on the story you're trying to tell, find a way to answer the question in a way that brings the conversation back around to the point. Example (yes, I'm quoting myself; bite me):

"My heroine is brazen, wild, and actually pretty violent. As a Shawano warrior, violence is all she's known. She needs the hero to--"

Editor interrupts. "What did you say?"

"Uh, I said she's Shawano. Like the Indians. Er, Native Americans, but of course they were called Indians in 1814."

"Why is the heroine a Shawano warrior? I totally don't get that. How'd she get to England?"

"Oh! Of course! Well, let me explain..."

So here's where it gets tricky. The editor or agent will interrupt you a LOT. You think they're either interested in your story or trying to find giant plotholes and you start to get nervous, so you start to blather trying to answer everything (in the meantime, you feel like you sound totally stupid and your confidence starts to plummet). GET AHOLD OF YOURSELF! You're treading in dangerous water. If you don't ever make it back to why the hero and heroine can't be together, then you may use up 10 minutes bumbling on about your really complicated plot and never make your point. Then she'll close with, "Well, that sounds very fascinating and well-researched, but I can't see what's going to sustain the novel for the 100K words you were talking about. Plus I'm really confused."


Don't panic if this starts happening. Just try and make the conversation come back to the conflict. So above, I might say, "Well, the heroine's father made some pretty debatable choices when he was her age, and she's been raised very differently than most of your RS-H heroines. Basically, this is what makes her a great foil for the hero. He'd like to overcome his very undeserved, very dark reputation so he can have a normal life. But the heroine is all about danger and darkness. 'Normal,' in her world, means surviving to see the next day, and she has no interest in changing this. She thinks that would make her weak. They're drawn to each other, but they have completely different values and a lot to learn about balance before they can be together."

So to summarize:

a) DO practice talking about your story in English
b) DO be prepared to be interrupted every 5th word
c) DO ask if the story sounds right for her
d) DO act like you LOVE your story as much as is humanly possible without coming off false

See all the hms and uhs and wells I put in my example? It's OK to talk like that! Just keep smiling. Say "Good question" if you need a minute to think. DON'T FREAK OUT. You'll only have 3-5 if it's a group session and 10 if it's just you. That may seem like forever at the time, but it can be easy to be sidetracked and use it up on nothing in particular. You will want to ask HER questions, so don't let the time get away from you. It may seem like the more time you spend talking about your ms, the better, but in truth she won't remember anything you say. YOU, however? She'll remember YOU. Sell yourself, not your ms. Be a good listener. And for goodness sakes, act interested in your own story! (Side note: When I did my pitch session in Atlanta, the lady goes, "Oh, you do voices, too?" Well, it wasn't on purpose, but I was nervous. When I'm nervous I let my mouth run. Benefit? She loved voices.)

Anyone else have some great pitching advice? (Yes, I'm calling our advice great. Hey, that's part of self-promotion!) Horror pitching stories? Great experiences?


Maggie Robinson said...

I took Austenland out of the library yesterday. If and when I'm ever up to the plate, your pitching advice sounds excellent. :)

ERiCA said...

First, thanks for squeeing me!! Yay!!! =)

Btw, Erica, what's a GMC-D hook?

OMG, I didn't even talk about that in my own blog!

*bangs head against wall*

GMCD is an Erica-extension to the GMC popularized by Debra Dixon: Goal, Motivation, Conflict. I just add D for Disaster.

To me, GMC is the premise, but D starts the story.

The goal is what the protagonist wants, the motivation explains why, the conflict is what's keeping it from being easy, and the disaster is the first major point-of-no-return setback that gets the story rolling in a new/bigger direction.

Fireman Fred wants to send Arsonist Annie to jail [goal] because she burned down his fire station [motivation] but try as he might, he can't catch her in the act [conflict], until he follows her up an abandoned bell tower and flames erupt beneath them, engulfing the only path to escape [disaster].

Great post, Lacey!!

Isabel said...

This is good, Lacey, I'll remember your advice when my turn comes up. :)
My chapter's workshop this Sat is on pitching, but I won't be able to go. I'm getting married in a week and this is going to be a busy weekend for me.

Darcy ~ About yesterday's blog on "plans", the better half and I "planned" to marry if we'd make it after ten years together. It's race against the clock now...

lacey kaye said...

Isabel, congratulations!! For some reason I thought you were already married. 10 years is excellent!

I can't believe I didn't know :-\

Isabel said...

You guy are the first to know!
It's an exclusive, lol!
We (Rich and I) have just started telling people in the last 24 hours. We wanted to get all our stuff planned first. And yes at times it did feel like I was already married.

Thanks for the congrats.


Darcy Burke said...

Congrats Isabel, that's so exciting!! Yes, you've a busy week ahead of you!

I am looking forward to my first pitch in Dallas. Er, forward as in it's in two weeks, not forward as in, "Gee, I can't wait!" I decided to jot down a pitch last night because Maven Erica motivated me. I've been thinking about it a lot and basically knew what I was going to say, but decided to put it in writing. It's brief and I need to write a little more, but I very happy with how brief and direct it is. I admit I'm nervous about going down a rathole because I am really good at that. Which is why the Mavens are going to hear this sucker at least a dozen times when I get to Dallas(okay, I'm exaggerating because my appt. is Thursday morning for Heaven's sake). And I'm sure they'll interrupt me AT LEAST as much as the agent will.

Great post Maven Lacey!

Anonymous said...

See this is what happens when I'm in a rush, I meant to say

"You GUYS are the first to know"

Thanks, Darcy. :)


ERiCA said...

Felicitaciones to Isabel! Best wishes to you both!! =)

Darc, no worries about your pitch--brief is good!! Pitching should be less like a presentation and more like a conversation. And of course we will practice with you as much as you like!

Tessa Dare said...

Great post, Lacey! Pitching gives me the willies. And I love that GMC-D idea, Erica!

Lenora Bell said...

Thanks for the great post on pitching, Lacey. It's so difficult to summarize everything succinctly when the editor/agent keeps interrupting. I think just going in armed with the knowledge that they will interrupt puts you ahead of the game.

I had an interesting pitching experience. I signed up for an agent's last appointment of the day. I thought, oh no, she'll be so tired and bored. It turned out that she was tired, but that just meant she wanted to buy a drink and chat for much longer than our scheduled appointment. We ended up sitting there for almost an hour. It was great. So sometimes that last appointment can work in your favor.

People told me not to be nervous. Well I don't care how many people tell you that, it never sinks in. But after my first pitching experience, when I was literally shaking, I don't think I'll be nervous again. Because it really was a low pressure situation. The only thing they are agreeing to is to let you send them your manuscript. So more often than not, they will say "send it." Knowing that takes the pressure, and the nerves away.

Manuscript Mavens

Manuscript Mavens