This last Wednesday night I did something complete new (and terrifying). I’d signed up for Pitch 2.0, a CreateSpace workshop that involved giving verbal novel pitches to editors. Eep. I’ve never attended a conference before, although I’ve always wanted to. Since this workshop was free, I jumped at the chance to give it a try.
It was held at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, which was a day’s drive for me. I’d never been there, so I arrived early. What a wonderful creepy old park around the museum! Or at least at 4:30 pm on a winter afternoon it is. I creeped myself out nicely climbing the water tower (it was about dusk). I didn’t know which would be worse, to find a bunch of scary people at the top or have it empty, but it turned out empty. I wish I had arrived sooner, so I could have gone through the conservatory, but I just peeked in the windows. I’ll have to go back sometime and see it properly.
Anyway, the event started with a panel discussion about the current state publishing and what a pitch is and how that’s shifted over time. On the panel was industry veteran Alan Rinzler, book editor Jason Black, and book designer Joel Friedlander. All three were lively discussing what a pitch is traditionally and the new uses for pitches in the modern market.
The old use of a pitch, was the classic “elevator pitch” idea, that if you ended up in an elevator with your favorite editor and wanted to sell your book, what would you say? It needed to include the book’s content, characters, and why you were the person to write it.
In the market of indie publication, a pitch might end up being what is presented to retailers, customers, reviewers, catalog copy, or the e-book description. Thus the term “pitch 2.0 for the title of the event. The panel all agreed that pitches, but traditional and ones for new situations are hard to write. Boiling your book down into a snappy 100-500 words is no joke.
Even more critical, as pointed out by the Amazon service representative, your book’s metadata is the new cover. We search online not by pictures, but by keywords, and so those words in your pitch or blurb are even more critical. They help people find your book.
Another thing the panel was very clear about–in this market, the author is also an entrepreneur. Social marketing is the big way to sell books. No one will care as much about the book or know as much about the book as the author, no matter if the book is traditional published or not, and so the focus on authors selling books is a trend that’s likely going to stay.
I’d be the first to admit I’m not the best at social networking. I found their advice good but difficult. I’m still letting it sift around in my mind. What works, they suggest, is being present, engaging, connect with an audience, and encourage people to respond back.
You have an online persona whether you make one or not, so, its in your best interest to grab control of it and do it on purpose. Their suggestion: use any small bit of an extrovert inside yourself and grow that part into your social network persona.
Hmm, what do you do if your inner extrovert is a villain though?
Seriously, I still don’t know what my online persona is past “author who flails around” and I’m not sure which self to be… so while I’d like to take this excellent advice, I’m still rather muddling through it.
Once I do though, the path presented seems fairly clear. You create an author platform that supports your efforts to get unknown. You find a niche to fill, or an angle people can’t quite find elsewhere. Then you be your persona self, connect with people, and they just naturally buy your work…
How we as writers find time to actually write while doing this, I’m not sure.
But it was all very good advice and I’m certainly thinking a great deal about it. The second part of the event was actually delivering pitches out loud to people. I learned that when it came to giving a pitch, my experience with query letters was excellent training. I delivered excellent snappy pitches (that I’d practiced carefully all last week) that drew the group’s interest. I also was highly knowledgeable about all the new technology available, and able to tell other authors about it.
However, at actually having something to show off to real live people, I sucked. Most of the authors not only had lovely copies of their books, but also notecards or business cards with book art on them and all all their webiste information on the back. I have a bunch of nice shiny ones to check out and say hi to people… and it seems it’s high time for me to take a trip to vistaprint and get my own hand-out goodies. Mostly because I will be doing this again.
Talking to real life people, both authors and editors, was terrifying, but a great experience, and I can’t wait to repeat it.
Also, while I was gone, author Katie W. Stewart interviewed me on her blog. (Gotta love how the internet lets you do multiple things at once.) She’s an illustrator as well, so check out her gorgeous art.