Monday, April 28, 2008

Sarah Shumway, editor at Dutton/Penguin, speaks on Pitch and Purpose of your work

Sarah Shumway

This is editor Martha Mihalik, author Stephanie Greene and editor Sarah Shumway
(in that order)

Sarah and Martha having a nice little chat.

The last session at the Chapel Hill retreat focused on the pitch and purpose of our work. Or in other words . . . the business side of writing.

What do editors think about? Is it just about a well written manuscript?
Here's what Sarah Shumway from Dutton/Penguin had to say

Sarah agrees that as writers, we are and should be mostly concerned about the "writing from our heart" aspect of writing, However, it can't hurt for us to have some understanding of the business of publishing too. The better we understand what an editor has to think about, the better we may be able to present our material to an editor. It may even help to shape and hone our writing.

Sarah's advice:
1) Have an aim and a message or something to share. Have you aimed an audience to a fixed place in your story?

2) Know clearly; What is the point of your work?

3) An editor NEEDS to be able to muster enthusiasm for your work so they can pitch it to their collegues. First they see what other editors think, and then they pitch it to the Sales and Marketing team. Sales and Marketing are the ones who give permission for offering an advance to a writer.
A. Editors need you to have writing skills, but they also want to know that you can pitch your story.

What is a pitch?
A quick description of your story. In once sentence describe your character, goals conflict, and why people would want to take it off the shelf. No. Seriously, she really said one sentence!

Why? Because when book sellers go to libraries and book stores, they only have 15 -10 seconds to sell a book. When consumers go to the shelves, they need take only about 15 -20 seconds to decide if it interests them. If you can't sell the Sales and Marketing Team in 15-20 seconds in a pitch, they know they won't be able to sell it to the consumer.

Scary huh?

Things you should have:

1) A good book description/ plot and appeal of the novel.

2) What is there in the story that is worth telling people about?

3) Hooks for marketing: who is it for, how it ties into the market, why it belongs at the publisher you are sending to. . .

4) A self promotion paragraph: What do you bring to the table?
A. Writing background
B. Personal Background
C. Inspiration
(Consequently, Sarah polled her fellow eiditors and asked them what they most looked for in an author. The #1 on the list was "Connections/avenues to promote the book")


Fran Cannon Slayton said...

Great summary! Thanks!

Solvang Sherrie said...

Wow, I'm glad I found this post. I'm going to be pitching next month at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference and I'm TERRIFIED!! I write so much better than I speak!

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