A few weeks ago, I attended SpoCon, the Spokane Science Fiction Convention. One of the items on the agenda was a pitch session with a medium size publisher from the Northwest. I thought I’d attend and see how it worked. There are a few things I learned from the experience.
One. Never go to a pitch session (or a convention) unprepared to pitch your work. Whether it is a novel or some shorter work, be ready. Always have notes and key points ready and practiced. It turns out I ended up pitching my first novel. I was unprepared and didn’t have a good pitch strategy in mind. Still, will all the stumbling and scattered thinking, the publisher still asked to see the first 5k words and synopsis. Fortunately, that was easily provided.
Two. Practice your pitch. If you can, practice in front of someone. It turns out the publisher asked questions I hadn’t thought of and I was unprepared to respond well. I still tried and I think that helped. But, for future reference, I will practice and try to get outside question on the pitch to sharpen the responses. It doesn’t hurt to be professional and prepared when you go to pitch your work.
Three. Work on your platform. One of the things that smaller publishers want today is that the author is ready to promote their book. That means a Facebook fan page with more than a handful of likes; at least one Twitter account for keeping folks informed of your publishing schedule, promotions and all; and a blog/web site (like this one). One of the first questions the publisher asked all the folks pitching was about platform. The main reason is that publishers don’t do as much marketing as one would think. Without an author platform, the work doesn’t get enough reader attention and traction. Smaller publishers (the non-traditional) usually pay a larger percentage of royalties, but the author must do more of the marketing and promotion.
So, part of the novel is in the hands of a publisher who may or may not want to see the rest. I’m waiting to hear one way or the other. It gave me hope that the story had some merit when the publisher still wanted to read some of it after my botched pitch. Still, I would rather have been better prepared and polished. I will be, next time.