Pitching Your Work at Conferences

Pitching your story to a publisher/agent panel is nerve wracking to say the least. I’ve done it twice and now I’m hanging up my pitching shoes, but I wanted to share the things I’ve learned to help anyone planning to pitch their work at a conference.

Although it’s scary, pitching offers a chance to hone your story concept, to get professional feedback on your work, and hopefully get some interest from the panel.

WHY YOU SHOULD DO IT

  1. It’s a chance to step out of your comfort zone, and make new publishing contacts. A little fear can be good for your creativity 🙂
  2. When you prepare your pitch it helps you get your head around what your story is really about. If you can’t summarise it succinctly enough to pitch, it might mean that you have too much going on, or that your story concept isn’t strong enough. Do you know who your character really is? Is there enough at stake for them?
  3. It helps you really own your story

The panel itself is actually the second step. First you have to get past the selection committee, and to do this your story concept needs to be fresh and clear, and your writing strong.

HOW TO CONVEY THE AWESOMENESS OF YOUR STORY

When it comes to presenting to the panel, there are some things you can do to help calm your nerves, and convey how truly awesome your story is.

I. I usually start with my personal connection to the story … this tells the publisher something about me and why I had to write this piece … and why I am the person to write it. For example, when I pitched my WW2 holocaust novel, Beyond Belief, I mentioned that my father had fled Austria because of Hitler, and this was my connection to the story.

2. Don’t try to tell the whole story. You need to say who your main character is, and what their story problem is and how it’s about to get even worse. Leave the panel wanting to know more.

3. Keep it simple. Don’t confuse people with detail. Focus on the high points of your story – the best bits, these are probably the parts you enjoyed writing most. You have to convey the essence of your book.

4. Make your pitch clear and coherent. In a way, the publisher panel is under just as much pressure as you are. They have to listen to your pitch, and give ‘on the spot’ feedback. Make it easy for them. Give them a story concept that can be summed up in a short paragraph, one that’s easy for them to comprehend.

For example, 12 year-old Abby is mortified when her embarrassing parents sign them all up for reality tv show, Happy Families. To make matters worse, Abby discovers one of the other contestants Is her arch enemy Melissa Hill with the perfect family. Melissa is going to make her life hell, but Abby can’t back out now because her parents desperately need the prize money to save them from bankruptcy.

Here I introduce the character and her story problem. I make things even worse for her, and I show what’s at stake and why she has to work through her problem.

5. Go to bookstores and libraries and research competitor books in the marketplace. If you have time, in your pitch, state why your book is unique and why it will appeal to readers.

6. Remember that agents and publishers are real people. They can relate. They may have a dog like yours, an allergy to capsicums or suffer from bad hair days. They are people and they want to hear your story so be proud to tell it.

7. Be prepared for questions. You know your story backwards, but the people you are pitching to won’t have read it. So try and anticipate questions that might be asked and have answers prepared.

8. Plan to read about one page of your work. You only have three minutes to sell yourself and your story. Your writing will speak for itself so one page is plenty. If you try to read too much, you’ll find yourself talking too fast, and the beauty of your writing won’t be clearly conveyed. Allow yourself time to get the panel connected with your character, engaged with your story and wowed by your writing. 3 minutes is not a long time.

You might decide to edit the first pages just for the pitch … so you can give your reading the most impact. You don’t have long to introduce the main character and hook people into their story.

9. Prepare and practice your pitch. Don’t go in cold turkey. Prepare what you are going to say in advance and practice, practice, practice. Practice it in front of your mirror, your dog, your cat, your goat or anyone who’ll listen.

10. When you practice your pitch listen to feedback. If someone says they’re not sure about something, your concept is unclear or your story doesn’t excite them … then keep working on your pitch. All is not lost. Your pitch just needs honing.

Even if you don’t plan to pitch publicly, preparing a pitch is actually a great activity to do in order to help you get to the heart of your story.

EXPECTATIONS

Even if publishers love the sound of your story, don’t expect them to sign you up on the spot. They will want to read the whole thing. The pitching helps them get to know you and whether they think they could work with you … and it helps them get to know your story.

Don’t be disappointed if they don’t jump on your pitch straight away. Look at it as information gathering … it’s a chance to test the viability of your concept … and for you to assess which publishers you might like to work with.

Have fun and be proud of your story … and the fact that you have taken this brave step.

Good luck 🙂

If you have any additional tips on pitching, please feel free to include them in a comment below.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to share this post if you think it might be helpful to others.

Dee

Advertisements

School Libraries Matter – Do you have a school library story to share?

I’m a member of the School Library Coalition, aiming to save school libraries from further funding cuts and decimation.

To help us in our campaign, we’re gathering stories from people whose kids have benefitted from the resources in their school library.

This year, the School Library Coalition will mount an Australia wide campaign to demonstrate how important they are, not just for your child’s school years, but for lifelong learning and fulfillment.

To help us, we’re looking for stories about how children have received significant benefit from participating in the literacy, social and cultural activities of the school library, or simply from feeling nurtured and engaged.

Or perhaps you have an experience of how school library staffing cuts have impacted on your child’s learning or wellbeing.

If you have a personal experience that you’re happy for us to share (we can change names if necessary), we’d love to hear from you.

Please email your story or contact details to dee*at*deescribe*dot*com*dot*au

Thanks for any help you can give us.

Happy reading and writing 🙂

Dee

A Book For All Children

What an amazing experience it has been to see our new picture book, Reena’s Rainbow released to both deaf and hearing communities.

Reena’s Rainbow tells the story of a deaf girl and a homeless dog and how they bridge the gap between the deaf and hearing worlds.

One of the most amazing things about our Reena’s Rainbow events has been being able to include both deaf and hearing children.

This was made possible thanks to a grant from Regional Arts Victoria that funded our fabulous Auslan Interpreters Meg, Pauline and Bec.

It meant that deaf children could feel included and valued, and be introduced to a story in which they could see themselves represented.

It meant that hearing children could experience communicating in Auslan, and it allowed them to walk in the shoes of deaf children.

We were truly fortunate to be able to also be able to have both deaf and hearing children at our workshops where they could learn about how books are created.

There were interpreters.

Our Auslan Interpreter, Meg, our fabulous launcher Mitch Vane, me and Tracie at Dromkeen.

Tracie, me and Bec our Auslan Interpreter

Auslan Interpreter, Pauline, interpreting how to create Rainbow Stories

There were lots of eager young readers.

There were supportive bookshops and galleries including Dromkeen, Squishy Minnie and Collins Bookstores.

And there was cake. And books of course.Thanks to everyone who has supported Reena’s Rainbow and its launch into the deaf and hearing worlds. Special thanks to my fabulous partner-in-picture books, Tracie Grimwood who created all the fabulous illustrations and did so much more.

Happy writing, illustrating and creating 🙂

Dee

Break Your Silence – Explore the Writer in You Writing Workshop

I’m delighted to be presenting a writing workshop in Trentham on 21st August, as part of the Words in Winter Festival.

Words in Winter logoI’ll be inspiring writers of all ages from 15 to 115.

If you’ve been getting around to getting started, felt intimidated by ‘writers’ or found it all too expensive, then this is a golden opportunity to participate in a safe, easy environment at a super affordable price.

Places are limited, so book yours soon. Book here.

Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 3.13.51 PM

For more about the fabulous Words in Winter festival check out their website.

Hope to see you there 🙂

Dee

Monthly Manuscript Makeover – Two of My Characters Sound Like Each Other

I had an enquiry from Kat who is writing a young adult novel in multiple points of view, and was worried that two of her character’s voices sounded a bit similar. They are both written in first person.

This has happened to me, and my tips are based on what I did to fix this in my own manuscript.

  1. Write a single paragraph summary of each character – something to really capture their essence so I could clearly distinguish them in my own mind. You can even do a table to show how different they are. For example:
L M
cautious bold
dreamy focussed
thinks before she speaks forthright
optimistic pragmatic
family orientated family orientated
loyal loyal
lives in a bit of a fantasy world truth seeker
believes best of people realistic

If you look at the key characteristic/s of your characters by doing this, you will see they are both very different.

  1. Look at how each character speaks. You can show differences in the length of their sentences, their word choices, the actions that go with their words, their speech patterns (do they pause a lot or is their speech free flowing?), their mannerisms, their thought patterns.
  1. Think of a situation – it could be one from your novel. How does/would each character react in this situation? It’s likely that both your characters will react in different ways. This will help you understand their differences, and convey this in your writing.
  1. How each character thinks is really important. Try to look at things through each character’s eyes, from their point of view. This will also help you understand their differences. For example, if there were an ‘anti-war demonstration’ in your character’s town’, would they go? How would each of these characters view war? Would one volunteer to fight and the other not? Would they both be opposed to it? Would they both volunteer? Characters are like people. They don’t think the same way on everything.
  1. Try rewriting part of your character’s point of view in third person, if you haven’t done so already. This will help you step outside the character a bit and may enable you to see and learn new things about them. It will enable you to see how they interact with others, how others see them, and what their place in the story is.

I hope you found this helpful. If you have any tips on how to make a character’s voice distinct from another, feel free to leave them in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing:)

Dee

ABOUT THE MONTHLY MANUSCRIPT MAKEOVER

If you’d like to get some feedback on an excerpt of your manuscript, Here’s what you have to do.

  1. Send me 200 words of the manuscript with your question or outline of what you need help with OR
  1. Alternatively, you can just send me the writing question itself. For example, “My main character isn’t very likeable, what can I do about it?”

Email your 200 word writing piece or your question or both, together with a paragraph about yourself and a paragraph about your work in progress.

Also, if you’d like to see a blog post about a particular topic, please feel free to make suggestions.

Email to dee*at*deescribe*dot*com*dot*au

Writer’s Masterclass for Teens

Letters to Leonardo Book CoverI’m going to be running a full day writing workshop for students in Years 7, 8 and 9 in July.

My workshop titled, ‘From Portrait to Prose’ will incorporate my experiences writing Letters to Leonardo.

I’ll go through the process of how I used paintings by Leonardo da Vinci as inspiration for events and settings in the story.

My workshop will take writers through the process of how to develop a character from a photo or a portrait, and how you can use this character to write a compelling story.

The workshop will be held in Oakleigh, Melbourne on 3rd July and places are limited.

For more information and bookings see the WriteAwayWithMe website

Hope to see you there.

Dee

WRITING RETREATS

By popular request, I’m now offering all day writing retreats for writers who would like to spend time writing, networking, learning new skills and getting constructive feedback on their work.

The retreats will take place at my home about 45 minutes north of Melbourne. Limited accommodation is available for interstate writers.

Each retreat will be tailored according to the experience levels and needs of the writers.

Day writing retreat BLOG PAGE