Pitching

December brings many exciting things for me (and others), and one of them is the New York Pitch Conference, where I’ve worked for almost ten years. This is a 4 day extravaganza/endurance contest in which authors pitch their novels and memoirs to editors, receive feedback, and occasionally contracts. One of our success stories landed on the NY Times Best Seller list. My own first novel, The Fiction Class, was sold at the pitch conference (which was how I came to get a job there), and my second and third novels were sold by my fabulous agent, Paula Munier, who I met at the pitch conference. So as far as I’m concerned, it’s a truly magical place.    My job is to meet with a group of 14-18 writers, help them write their pitches, and then sit with them as they talk to the editors. This has taught me a number of things. One is, when speaking to an editor, you should never put your head on a table and cry. You should also not grab on to her hand and refuse to let go. But mainly it’s taught me that a good pitch can help you shape and sell your book. A lot’s been written about pitches, and I won’t go into it, except to say that the essential part of writing a good pitch is to make it sound interesting. That sounds obvious, but you’d be amazed at how many people feel compelled to pack a pitch, and a novel, with all sorts of “essential” things that are really not that interesting. How do you know what’s interesting? You have to try to put yourself in a reader’s point of view. Say I come to you and say that you have a choice between reading a book about a woman’s experience at the podiatrist, or reading a book about  a woman accused of faking the kidnapping of her child. Unless David Sedaris wrote the podiatrist one, you’re probably going to go with the kidnapping. It’s high stakes. There’s a story there. You know something’s going to happen. There are few things in life as wonderful as seeing a spark in an editor’s eye when you tell her what you’ve written. It’s so exciting for me to be a part of this journey, though sometimes I have the sneaking suspicion that I’m the one who’s learned the most from all of this. Have you ever written a pitch for your novel?

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