Pitching face to face with a publisher – with cats

A few months ago I pitched face to face with a mid-tier publisher in NSW, Australia. The publisher in question was Allen & Unwin, an independent publisher that I have always dreamed of getting published by. I used to get butterflies just thinking about them. I mentioned about getting ready for the pitch in an earlier post, so I thought it was about time that I share the ‘9 things I learned from my face to face pitch’. And I promise to be truthful, as always…

But first, here’s what happened during the pitch:

I had been notified ahead of time that I was pitching to Allen & Unwin (who weren’t the perfect match for my genre). I have to admit, walking into that room was nerve-racking as hell, but I fixed my coat, shook the publisher’s hand, and sat down with a wide, if slightly crooked smile. After introductions, I proceeded to stumble through my 2-3 minute pitch, though at this stage I had a raging headache, having just stepped off a 2 hour flight due to a family wedding in another city the night before.

About halfway through my pitch I could tell that the publisher wasn’t interested in my novel. But I held my nerve, smiled and eventually finished my spiel. The publisher’s feedback was overwhelmingly positive and full of invaluable insider information and tips. However, she also told me that my chances of being acquisitioned by Allen & Unwin were remote (a nice way to say ‘please don’t submit’) and that I should be writing sweet contemporary romances if I wanted to have any chance of getting traditionally published. Which I already knew… and was half-expecting to hear anyway… but I had been hoping against hope that they might be looking for something a little different.

I wasn’t writing for the market… I was writing exactly what I craved to read the most – a sweet paranormal romance. Unfortunately, after my pitch, I couldn’t even touch my novel for a week without feeling an overwhelming surge of disappointment and failure. Interestingly, after that first week, something miraculous happened. I woke up with this sudden steely determination to make my novel better.

I don’t know how I managed it, but I picked up my unwanted novel, made some huge revisions based on the publishers suggestions, and edited the crap out of it. But even that wasn’t enough, I had to do more.

So I started a new one.

A completely new novel – from scratch – with no plotting or planning or outlining.

It fairly flew from my fingertips with each jab and curse, the words flowing and bubbling and jumping from some unknown, dark recess of my mind. Three hours and 4,000 words later and I had my very first psychological thriller blinking with life (or death) on the screen.

With a satisfying twitch at the corner of my mouth, I named it The Echo In the Woods, hurriedly saved the damn thing before my computer crashed and created a book cover using the sensational canva.com (because, why not?)

So…any who…

Here’s the 9 things I learned from my face to face pitch

1. You should research your publisher extensively beforehand (if they aren’t interested in your genre, make up a dreamy novel that would appeal to them – just to see their reaction when you tell them it doesn’t exist.)

sad cat

 

2. Wear glasses to look smart. It will add instant cred! It didn’t work for me… but maybe it will work for you? Maybe?

cat glasses

 

3. Going to a party the night before and drinking lots of champagne is always a good idea… I’m sorry, I got that wrong, I meant sparkling wine.

embarrassed cat

 

4. It’s a bloody fantastic idea to take notes (just in case you forget your pitch). Don’t leave it to the last minute like I did!

cat plotting

 

5. Don’t bring along your manuscript to the pitch, you’ll look like an overeager amateur

dancing cat

 

6. Bring along a business card with your details in case you get discovered!

big-dog-scared

 

7. Throw away your business card when you don’t get discovered

Angry-cat-hates-everything

 

8. Oh and you might just learn that sweet contemporary romances are all the rage

adorable-animal-cat-cute-Favim_com-2807556.gif

 

9. And lastly, you’ll uncover that self-publishing is a really good idea. Much better than having publishers jump away from your manuscript in horror

shocked-cat

Despite my dubious experience, if you ever get the chance to try face to face pitching, I say go for it! Even if the outcome isn’t what you’re hoping, if you’re willing to learn from your mistakes and put in the hard yaka, you will only come out stronger and more determined.

Don’t let rejection take the wind out of your sails!

Never give up. Never surrender. Now that’s the real leason I learned.

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68 thoughts on “Pitching face to face with a publisher – with cats

    1. Thanks for the luck! I think I need it! hahaha. Yeah publishers occasionally do face to face pitches, but mainly for the PR value than necessarily in the hunt for new authors (although it does happen!) Nothing screams ‘we’re a friendly, approachable publishing company’ more than reaching out to the plebs! And what they want more than anything is to carve out and maintain a positive public image. Look up ‘novel pitching workshops’ or something similar and you should find some upcoming pitching events 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Keeping your positive attitude after receiving a rejection is tough. Awesome job on bouncing back so quick. It usually takes me a week. I’ve been told that paranormal/urban fantasy isn’t hot right now, but that’s what I want to write. It’s what I’d like to read. I’ve also been told not to follow trends, and “don’t write for the market today, write for the market tomorrow.” In the end, publishing is a total crap-shoot.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! It took me a week to recover as well, a little bit longer than an email rejection because of the face to face nature of the pitch I think. OMG you are so right, publishing is a TOTAL crap-shoot. The market changes so constantly that if you write what the industry tells you, by the time you finish, your novel may not even be ‘in trend’ anymore. I’ve been wondering where the market will go next once it’s exhausted readers of the sweet contemporary romance genre. I’m thinking either sweet contemporary romance with a twist of magic, like Cecelia Ahern, or more psychological thrillers, like Gone Girl and Girl on the Train. Although… the market is being flooded by Gone Girl imitations at the moment. So….. I’m thinking we just continue to write whatever the hell we like 🙂

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  2. This may sound ridiculous but I believe everything comes at the right moment. I am working on a book and of all things a cheesy romance novel (might I add I don’t read romance novels and I find them utterly unrealistic) but I keep hearing about the pitch and my nerves begin to grow and then I develop an unwavering fear and I am scared about “the pitch.” I am not ready for the pitch as of yet but your post helped ease my nerves. 🙂 Happy writing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You have to let us know how your pitch goes! I’m so glad this post helped ease some of your nerves! I don’t know how I got through my pitch considering how nervous I was, but I am so so glad I did it. I learned so much and have grown from the experience, despite the negative outcome. Good luck!!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I was like that too though!! It was only in 2015 that I realised I could self-publish really easily through KDP and i(n my own terms) that I finished one of my novels. I think I just finally thought ‘hey, I can do this on my own, I just need to finish my novel!’ It worked really well for me, the ‘idea of self-publishing’ has been the hugest motivator 🙂

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  3. This is so supportive in so many ways. As being on my way to a publishing career (publishing student as of right now), the one thing I already hate is having to reject authors I believe in and want to support just because they are ‘not marketable’ or will not make a million £ profit – it sickens me, and am determined to a) change it or b) step away from it and start an indie publishing house that will support all those who are tired of being told to write sweet romance novels with dubious and unhealthy characters. So hey, hope to meet you in the future! Great post as always, time to follow (not sure why I am not yet tbh – let me fix that)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Layla, it’s so cool to hear from the other side!!! By the sounds of it, I’ll probably be meeting you at some future, hip & on-trend indie author convention!! I love that you are interested in supporting indie authors. It’s such a shame about how the market determines who gets the publishing deals. I wish so much that what I was writing what the publisher’s wanted, so I suppose I’m just going to have to go it alone! Anyway, so lovely to hear from you and thanks for following 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. One step at a time and each step will be better than the last. Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor was writing your book. It took inspiration and determination and it sounds to me like you’re one step closer to your goal.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I feel your pain.
    Well no, actually I feel my remembered pain, but it feels awfully similar.
    Took me awhile to recover from my first (only) pitch experience. I can still recall the look of horrified pity in the editor’s eyes as she gently suggest I re-think the conflict. The funny part is, I eventually did sell a book to that publisher. Just not that book, and not to that editor.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought there would have to be more of us out there! Thanks for sharing! The look of ‘horrified pity’ that you mentioned was the exact same look the associate publisher had on her face when I described my novel!! Argh so cringe worthy. I LOVE that you ended up selling a book to the same publisher!! Way to go 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you 🙂 If you ever get the chance to attend a face to face pitch, definitely have a go! Even if you’re not successful it will do wonders for your confidence. Even though I’m pretty keen to self-publish, I’m glad I did it anyway. I was initially a little struck out by the whole thing, but I eventually got my joie de vivre back 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it was a great lesson to learn, and one I wouldn’t take back for the world despite how painful it was. I love that mantra! It’s like that song, ‘Tubthumping’ by Chumbawamba, especially the chorus: ‘I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never going to keep me down’
      Love it
      🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for such great advice! I’m sorry that they weren’t interested in your novel. I wasn’t surprised when you said that they wanted “sweet contemporary romance” though…it seems like that is what everyone wants! Which is unfortunate for me, since I write fantasy.
    Oh well…maybe our times will come!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Looks like you’re in the same boat as me! I love writing fantasy, but it seems mainstream readers prefer contemporary, which makes sense I suppose. I wish I preferred writing in that genre! But it’s so hard to convince your soul to do something other then what it loves. The closest I’ve come to writing contemporary is something akin to Cecilia Ahrens novels (based in reality with a touch of unseen magic). Good luck with your writing, and as you said, perhaps our time will come! The market goes in circles after all, we may just have to wait a few years before it comes knocking!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, I know! I can’t force myself to write in the genre that everyone likes, because it isn’t my genre. Thank you! Good luck with your endeavors too. May the market circle be ever in your favor 😉

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        1. I think I’m going to just keep writing what I love, that’s the whole reason why I write in the first place! I’d love to be published, and it’s still a goal of mine, but might take a bit longer this way 🙂
          Good luck to you too 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! And you’re exactly right, it’s the not giving up that’s important!! Omg I feel like watching Galaxy Quest again just so I can hear ‘Never Give Up. Never Surrender’! Yay I’m glad it’ll be your mantra 🙂 Go us!

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  7. Keep going! You got this!!

    That seems super rough. I’ve never really thought about how I would feel in that circumstance. Putting myself in your shoes through this blog post in a second read made me feel seriously clammy and sick to my stomach! I can’t even imagine. I’m so glad that you were able to turn the experience into something positive and productive. I can’t wait to see where you go, with the old pitch and with the new novel you’re working on. 🙂 Good luck! Don’t ever lose that drive!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yay!! Thank you!! It’s funny, I sometimes wish I could go back and do it all again, a little differently this time. But the only way I could learn was from attending the pitch in the first place – such a catch 22! Oh well. I’m trying to be proud of myself for dong it anyway. I was so desperate to meet someone from Allen & Unwin (and very curious about the whole process too), so at least I can cross that off my bucket list!

      I’m still thinking of submitting my old pitch to my list of publishers, and if that fails, I’ll self-publish! Oh and bonus, I’ll have another rejection experience to write about! hahaha. My new novel is going well, I’m at about 30,000 words, but aiming for about 80,000 – so still a long way to go!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Millie,

        I’m one of those writers who think that as long as you are writing what you feel and it is authentic, then it’s all good. Nobody can predict what will sell or not and the internet is awash with bad books, but then somebody says, hell, those are good books! I really liked your #7 in this post. Personally, I’m a dog man, but love cats too. I can’t read cats as well as dogs. Dog books are longer, more epic, but the cat books are pure poetry and the great thing is both are alive and telling us about the past, predicting the future. The thing about dogs is you can take them for a tear in the woods or mountains and there is a kind of bonding in the firelight and you step backward in time. Incidentally, I like to say backward and downward, since when I go in those directions my writing seems to improve. Anyway, like you say, keep fighting and never give up. Good luck. Thanks. Duke

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Ah what a lovely comment. I especially like this line: ‘in the woods or mountains and there is a kind of bonding in the firelight and you step backward in time’ – you’ve just giving me a craving for some camping and hiking in the mountains with my dog!

          Looks like we’re on the same page as writers! As much as I would like to get published or find an agent for one of my novels, I just can’t force myself to write something that doesn’t interest me. It’s a fight between writing ‘what the market wants’ and ‘what the soul craves to create’. I’ve decided I’m going to stick with my soul on this one.

          Thank you for your encouraging comment, I promise to keep fighting and to never give up!

          Like

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