Thursday, November 13, 2014

10 Insights from a 10 Minute Pitch

At the ROSACon 2014, romance authors had the opportunity to pitch to international editors and agents. Some of us got to pitch to Charlotte Mursell, a comissioning editor of Harlequin Mills&Boon. Before the Skype pitch, she’d asked to see a first chapter and synposis of our stories, which made the process go smoother – as we weren’t try to sell an idea ‘cold’. Here are 10 insights for those 10 nerve-wracking, exciting, rewarding minutes face-to-face with an editor.

  1. Relax! As nervous as you are, just smile and say hello – once the waiting is done, it’s almost like meeting in a coffee shop.
  2. Listen. The pitch is about sharing as much information about your book in the shortest space of time, so make sure you listen carefully.
  3. Keep an open mind. The editor is going to give ways to improve your story so that it fits their brand – don’t be resistant to this or, worse, defensive.
  4. Take notes. The editor is going to be throwing ideas at you, suggesting changes, giving advice – you’re not going to remember it all without writing it down.
  5. Give her something to work with. If something’s not working in your book, throw some new angles or ideas around and see if she responds to these. If you can’t think on the fly, tell her you’ll think about it.
  6. Ask questions. If you’re unsure about anything, ask! This doesn’t make you look stupid. It just means you want to get things right.
  7. Plot. She’s probably going to hone in on three things – plot, characters, imprint. For plot, she’s going to hone in on elements that are not working in your synopsis. She’s probably not going to sugar coat it.
  8. Character. For your characters, she’s going to test their motivation and behaviour. She’ll want you to dig deeper than what she’s seeing in your submission. Know the hero and heroine inside and out.
  9. Be prepared to change things. After the pitch, be open to every suggestion given but maybe give yourself a few days to play with ideas, let the information settle etc., before making a new strategy.
  10. Breathe! It’s over, you survived. It doesn’t matter if you got good news or not so good news, the advice given is invaluable and the experience will make you stronger – it will certainly force you to improve your focus on your novel.

Personally, I got more out of these 10 minutes that I’d ever got out of the feedback letters received in the past. I was worried about my the tone of the story, the main plot idea and a few other things – Charlotte helped me get a better grip on the story. I left feeling a lot more confident, positive and motivated about the changes I needed to make.

Anthony Ehlers

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