Truth be told, I like writing books. I am keen, too, on folks reading my books. Yet, all things considered, I do not enjoy pitching my books to agents and publishers or marketing my books to readers once my books are published.
Nonetheless, just as I have to clean my brushes and remove spilled tint from the floor after painting a canvas, and just as I have to take vegetable peels out of my sink and I have to wipe down my counters after I prepare soup, after I compose a book, I have to peddle it to disseminators and to the public. Otherwise, my writing’s legacy is limited to the satisfaction I have in crafting it.
In the same manner that herbs and flowers are ordinarily grown to be of use to the gardeners cultivating them together with to the gardeners’ dear ones, and in the manner that hugs are of limited benefit when not shared, writing ordinarily exists both for scribblers and for their audiences. It is fitting for authors to seek broadcasters for their efforts.
Even so, for many writers, the pitching process conveys reluctance’s workmates. All the while that queries, partials, and fulls are being sent out to potential partners, those foul sentiments yammer about “time wasted,” that is, about energies being routed away from writing. Certainly, in states of affairs in which publishers are extended a second, a third, or a seventh mutual undertaking, there is less dissonance than when they are poked concerning collaboration on a first title; the former simply costs less writer resources than the latter.
For numerous reasons, however, it is not always possible to put out succeeding works with a particular press. Despite any blessings of multiple titles with a given firm, at times, most writers still have to engage in cold sales. At such junctures, in basic terms, it behooves us, as it behooves us during the drafting process, and during the marketing process, to be conversant with our books’ “rhetorical situations.” Writers, who are bent on acquiring contracts, should have intimate knowledge of their books’: targets, vehicles, content, social relevance, and relationship to their professional objectives.1
First, it’s useful to understand that books are aimed toward probable along with improbable publishing associates. It’s self-explanatory as to why writers send their goods to likely manufacturers; it’s less easy to grasp why writers send their goods to “mismatched” ones.
Basically, writers, and the people who read their works, now and again, attribute meaning in disparate ways. Whereas it’s difficult to mistake a romance novel, for example, for a speculative fiction narrative, every so often, it remains confusing to determine: whether a read is a young adult or a mainstream product, whether a slipstream collection should be sent to agents specifying that they are pursuing no more than cyberpunk, and whether it’s sensible to invest time and energy to ship a collection of brief fictions to a house that has previously merely brought out novels.
The answer to all of the above questions is “it depends.” Some writers are better able than other to grasp an agent or publishing house’s real (versus their idealized/promoted) intentions. Also, some writers are better salespersons than are others, meaning that they can resiliently spend seemingly endless hours touting their books to people who can produce them. In a word, it’s generally impossible to land a book contract without striving for one. On balance, every creator must self-determine, for each of their creations, how much of their assets they are willing to devote to hawking what they’ve made.
Next, there are many existent forms of publication. Books can be: printed as hard copy, released electronically, or launched in audio form. Most agreements call for at least two, if not three, of these modes of delivery. These days, as never before, it’s imprudent to sign a contract that doesn’t include electronic transmission. “Adults, overwhelmingly, have been moving to e-books, especially in fiction.” 2 Equally, many authors won’t sign paperwork that fails to provide for audio versions of their work.
As per content, on occasion, writers substantively change the nature of their books to suit would-be or expressly interested publishers. Character demographics and psychographics, in fiction, and the specifics of explanations and examples, in nonfiction, are often altered to meet the needs of book- issuing companies. Chadwick Moore explains in “The Art of the Pitch” that “[w]hen pitching to book publishers, book agents, and editors of magazines, newspapers, and journals, [writers ought to] know what content has done well for [the gatekeepers] in the past.”3 Viz., it’s smart to reach out to agencies that have had success with projects similar to the ones being submitted. Risk-taking is of relative financial worth to businesses.
Beyond the above, it is crucial for writers to take into account social relevance when offering dibs on a book. World events do influence how and whether or not a work can be sold to publishers. Not only do ghostwriters of narrative nonfiction find a surge in demand for their skills during election seasons, and not only are fiction workers-for-hire accorded disproportionate amounts of requests before holiday trade is released, but it is also the case that authors who elect to put their names on their merchandise are carried by current events.
In view of the 1979 Three Mile Island crisis, it’s of small wonder that Jeremy Rifkin and Ted Howard’s Entropy: A New World View (Viking, 1980) or Johnathan Schell’s The Fate of the Earth and The Abolition (Stanford University Press, 1982) were published. By the same token, as a result of the contemporary #MeToo Movement, it’s not surprising that Gretchen Carlson’s Be Fierce: Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back (Center Street, 2017) and Lori Perkin’s #MeToo: Essays about How and Why this Happened, What it Means, and How to Make Sure It Never Happens Again (Riverdale Avenue Books, 2017) found publishers. Smart inventors of documents dovetail, to contemporaneous cultural conditions, if not their books’ content, then, without a doubt, their proposals for publication.
Finally, originators’ objectives, implicit and explicit, alike, impact the “hows” and “whys” of book pitching. Some wordies carefully build their brands, i.e. carefully build the associations that industry insiders and readers make with their names. Those persons are selective about: who publishes their books, their books’ topics, and about the interconnectedness among their assorted works.
Other ink slingers, i.e. ones that are desperate to have their ideas aired, self-publish or settle for inferior presses. Those fabricators see the immediacy of the spreading of their thoughts as a greater priority than the duration of time during which their thoughts are spread. Neither aim is wrong – they’re essentially dissimilar.
Although the above behaviors are vital to selling manuscripts, there’s more to the pitching process than motivating one’s self to engage in the required hard work, or than manifesting an intimate knowledge of one’s projects. Those additional actions can be addressed in future posts.
For now, it’s sufficient to realize that pitches require great rhetorical finesse. In other words, there’s no whiz bang method of ferrying a book from its finished state to the arms of a publisher happy to embrace it. Tendering books, like writing them, and like marketing them, is best seen to by taking the necessary steps.
1. Lloyd Bitzer, “The Rhetorical Situation.” Philosophy & Rhetoric 1.1 (January 1968).
2. Brady Dale. “Despite What You Heard, The E-Book Market Never Stopped Growing.” 18 Jan. 2017. Observer. http://observer.com/2017/01/author-earnings-overdrive-amazon-kindle-overdrive-digital-book-world/. Retrieved 15 Jan. 2018.
3. Chadwick Moore. “The Art of the Pitch.” The Authors Guild. 7 Sep. 2016. https://www.authorsguild.org/industry-advocacy/the-art-of-the-pitch/. Retrieved 15 Jan. 2018.