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?)
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.)
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?
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.
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!
5. Don’t bring along your manuscript to the pitch, you’ll look like an overeager amateur
6. Bring along a business card with your details in case you get discovered!
7. Throw away your business card when you don’t get discovered
8. Oh and you might just learn that sweet contemporary romances are all the rage
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
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.