Today’s guest post comes from Victoria Oldham, one of the commissioning editors for Bold Strokes Books. We’ve mentioned a few times that Vic will be hearing pitches from prospective authors at next week’s BSB bash in Nottingham and the forthcoming UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet in Manchester. Then we realised that folks might not have a bloody clue what it meant to “pitch your novel” (clue: it doesn’t mean kicking it into a hole!) So here’s Vic to shed a little light…
Pitch it to Me
When you work in publishing, you throw terms around like confetti, just expecting folks to know what they mean. POV, ms, fancy-tagger, white space, etc. You kind of just figure a writer will know what you’re talking about.
But that’s not always true. How can you possibly know what I mean when I tell you your white space balance is off, if no one has ever mentioned that before?
I’ve come to realize that’s the case with the term “pitch”. When I tell you to come “pitch your novel to Bold Strokes”, I’m guessing you have an inkling of what I mean. You should come tell me about your book.
At the Bold Strokes Nottingham event, and at the GLBT Fiction Meet in Manchester, I’ll be hearing pitches for Bold Strokes. This is a fantastic opportunity to meet someone who works for the company, to get the idea of your novel across and potentially get it reviewed in full. That’s a big deal–it’s not easy to get face time with publishing houses! (Particularly publishing houses in the States, as there aren’t any lgbtq publishing houses left in the UK).
In the interest of convincing you to sign up to pitch to me, so I’m not sitting there listening to crickets, here are the three steps to pitching your novel:
- Know your time allotment. In the case of the pitches I’m hearing, it’s a ten minute time slot.
- Give me a solid overview of your book. Beginning, middle, end. Primary characters, major conflict, resolution. Know what you’re going to say in advance–don’t wing it! This is your moment to shine, to convince me your book is just what I’m looking for. But, for the love of God, don’t tell me “this book is the best thing ever and if you don’t take it you’re stupid”. Let me be the judge of whether or not it’s the best thing since rocky road ice cream. Be concise, be clear, be interesting. (If you can’t make your story interesting and explain it in a straightforward manner, who can? And if you can’t, perhaps there’s too much going on…but, I digress into editorial mode. Back to pitching…)
- Make sure you’re pitching to the right people. If you’re pitching a hetero, sci-fi, memoir, we’re not going to be interested. You’ll want to pitch that novel to someone who publishes that kind of novel. If you’re pitching to us, we want positive lgbtq fiction.
- Leave me with a single page synopsis and your contact details.
That’s it! It’s that easy, and that difficult. My advice: practice. Write it down, read it out loud, make sure it makes sense. Don’t leave me with a synopsis full of spelling mistakes! Have someone else check it over. Sit across from someone (your dog, your cat, your plush toys, an actual human) and say exactly what you want to say to me, and time it. There are folks signed up before you and after you, so you don’t want to run over your ten minutes.
That’s what it means to pitch your novel. Convince the publisher that you’re serious about writing, and you have something they should consider.
If you have any questions, you can drop a comment below, email me at bsbediting @ gmail .com , check out the writing section of my personal website, or even just ask me on Saturday at the Bold Strokes event (pitches will be heard on Sunday morning. TBD in Manchester).
Victoria Oldham is the development editor and UK Rep for Bold Strokes Books and runs the literary consultancy Global Words.