Thursday, 4 May 2017

Ask Annie: Pitching Your Story

On the first Friday of each month, Novelista Annie Burrows will be drawing a question out of the jar where we've been putting all the questions about the writing process posed by readers –

This month, the question is...

What are the differences between pitches?
For your book?
Elevator pitch, etc.

Annie's reply:

Elevator pitch?  Oh, yes, I’ve heard of them.  That’s when you go to a conference, and stalk an agent until she gets into an elevator (or a lift as we say in the UK) then jump in after her and rapidly tell her all about your book and why you should buy it before she manages to escape at her floor.

I’ve never tried one of those.  I have a sneaking suspicion that if I attempted one, the agent would not only not want to buy my book, but may never look favourably on anything I attempted to submit in future, either.

But then I’ve never managed to get an agent, no matter what I submitted, or how.  Instead, I kept on submitting first chapters to Mills & Boon, until eventually I’d learned to write well enough for them to ask to read the rest of the story, and then, when I’d done the few revisions they requested, offered me a contract.

For subsequent books, I’ve had to submit synopses for any new stories I wanted to write for them, before I start work on the story itself.  Which is a form of “making a pitch.”

And I’ve got to admit, it’s a process that I dread.  How can I condense all the twists and turns that my protagonists will go through before they reach their happy ever after, in the two pages that seem to be what writing gurus tell us is what we should be sending?  How can I make the characters come to life in so short a time?  How, in short, can I persuade the editorial and marketing teams that I have an idea that will turn into a story that lots and lots of people will enjoy reading?

Most of the time, my lovely editors give me the benefit of the doubt after reading the brief outline, containing the protagonists motivation, the rough idea of how I’m going to get them together, tangle them up, then bring them through to their happy-ever-after.  I’ve only had one or two story proposals rejected when I’ve pitched them.

But last year, I pitched ideas for a full length story, and a novella, and the team came back with the offer of a 4 book contract.  Which was rather worrying, since I didn’t have ideas for another two stories.  Only vague scenarios, a couple of characters I thought would be interesting to work with, and one opening scene.  So I owned up to my editor at the time, and she volunteered to have a brainstorming session with me.  From that lunchtime session, we hammered out a series of three books with linked heroes, who are each on the trail of a criminal and come across their heroines in their pursuit of him (or her).  I then came home and wrote out a synopsis for each story, as well as the over arching story that runs through all three books, and a trilogy was born!

Book 1 will be out in August/September, under the title “The Major Meets His Match”, and I’m in the process of writing the second of the trilogy.

So…pitching books?  In my experience, it’s different for every book, every editor, and every contract I’ve had.

One thing I do know, though, I am far too diffident to ever pin an agent into the wall of an elevator until I’ve told them all about my latest brilliant idea!

If you can't wait until August to read the first of that trilogy Annie was telling us about, look out for "The Debutante's Daring Proposal" which will be out in the UK, US, and Australia in June.

1 comment:

  1. So interesting to hear your experiences of pitching, Annie. I find the elevator pitch is the hardest thing to write! Can't wait to read your trilogy.


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