Thursday, October 25, 2007

re: unsolicited pitches (follow-up)

Lots of interesting and humorous commentary on the previous post--thanks, all, for lively participation.

I want to take this post to react to some of your reactions. Since it's my blog, I can do it in a new post instead of just on the comments section. Nyuk nyuk. Power trip.

First: networking: as you brought up, everyone encourages authors to network. Networking is an unqualified good thing. It is. The trouble only comes when and editor feels cornered by your networking--this never leads to good things, because even if your manuscript rocks they are likely to feel unfavorably toward it if for some reason they felt pressured into reading it.

A foolproof plan? You've happened upon an editor at some venue and you're having a drink/snack together. Ask about the editor's interests first, or about recent acquisitions/publications they are excited about. If it seems like a fit to you, go ahead and say something like, the book I'm working on is also about tulips (or whatever). DON'T GO FURTHER. If the editor is interested, trust me, he or she will leap to the opportunity and ask you to go ahead and send it along.

If the editor isn't clear about whether or not your project is of interest, but the comfortable conversation continues between you, at an opportune moment you can ask if he/she knows any friends/colleagues at other houses or agencies who are interested in tulips--you really appreciate his/her advice. This is another opportunity for the editor to say hey, actually, I'm the right person. If the editor passes up both opportunities, don't hound further; they are being obtuse so as to spare you both an awkward moment. Also, this conversation demonstrates that you're serious and social but not desperate.

But networking is always good, because knowing people almost always leads to only good things and no bad things. It's especially good if an editor or agent remembers you as a nice and/or fun person, regardless of whether or not you actually end up working together. Those fond memories ferment and turn into recommendations to others.

Second: I'm going to make this plea again--to those of you who are fiction writers, please, please, PLEASE consider getting an agent. The agent won't only help you on the submissions end---there are things an agent brings to the table that you can't even imagine. I promise. There are ways you WILL be taken advantage of if you don't have an agent, and there are questions that even a lawyer does not know to ask that an agent does. Don't do yourself the disservice of closing the doors of all the major houses by submitting without an agent. It's worth the extra time that it takes and the 15% you'll end up losing. Trust me. I really, really promise.


David L. McAfee said...

So, does this mean I can fly up to NYC and buy you a drink? Schmooze a little? Huh? Huh? I have an agent already, so I'm halfway there. :)

cyn said...

thanks for the great tips, MR.

jalexissmith said...

Ratatat, I have this book I am working on.... and you are my friend. So you will definitely publish it, right????

JUST KIDDING!!!! (Unless you would be interested in publishing a series of case briefs and/or first year law memos.....)

Bernita said...

All those extra rights one might innocently sign away would more than make up for the 15% - which should not be considered a "loss," imho.

Maprilynne said...

Get an Agent. . .


Hehe, just had to say it.:)

The Trouble With Roy said...

This is great advice; after reading this and the other column I've begun searching for an agent. Thanks. I hope you become re-moralized.

Cheryl said...

Networking is tricky! Thanks for the tips.

At a conference, I told an angent that I was looking forward to the publication of a book she repped (because I really was) and she told me to send her whatever ms I was working on. I was so surprised that I gave her my one sentence pitch. And then felt stupid. Because she had already asked for the ms.

But there you go--asking an agent/editor about their projects can be a good way to network without being creepy.

(Btw, that was your agent I was talking about, Maprilynne.)