Thursday, October 21, 2010

Practice Your Pitch

I don't know if you've read JJ Cooper's interview. If not, do it now.

I absolutely love his advice on researching the market and finding your "dream agents," especially the part on how to perfect our pitch with "practice agents."

Now, that may sound unfair to the agents. After all, why waste their time? On the other hand, this is business, and we must do what we need to get what we want. Besides, it's not like we are hurting the agents - our queries are only a few among the hundreds they receive. They will reject the query and they won't think twice about doing that. And they won't think, "Aw, I'm wasting this writer's time."

It sounds brutal, but it's an honest observation. It's a business. An agent will reject anything he or she isn't interested in. And I think it's perfectly legit for a writer to practice the pitch and get ready for the agents he or she really wants. After all, often you only have one shot in hooking an agent.

I particularly like Cooper's anecdote on how many writers would go directly to their dream agents at pitch sessions, only to totally let their nerves get the best of them.

I remember when I started to shop The Pacific Between around. I followed other people's advice and targeted the top agents on my list first, but that effort crashed and burned because my query sucked. And the rejections came fast and furious. I was really bummed. But you know what? As I continued to perfect my query and send it out, I got better and my anxiety eventually disappeared. By rejection #30, I was like, "Whatever. Next."  And by then I was sending out draft 12 of my query -- it was near perfect. My hit rate went up, too. I was getting a partial or full request every 5 submissions. But most important, my nerves were gone by then, and I was having a much better attitude dealing with rejections and the business of getting the queries out.

So, I really do appreciate Cooper's advice.  Why use my desired agents as "target practice" to soothe my nerves and perfect my pitch? It makes sense.

Of course, getting partial and full requests is only part of the process. It's still about the writing, and even the world's greatest query and partial can't save a subpar novel. So, I'm determined to spend the next few months a) perfecting my pitch, and b) perfecting my manuscript. A) will only get me read, but B) is the key to seal the deal.

I have a plan. Now is the time set the plan in motion.

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