Last week I went to a book launch at a bookshop in Cambridge. It was for the debut novel by Penny Hancock, ex-TEFLer, and a writer of readers in the Cambridge English readers series. The novel is Tideline – which I bought and have started reading. It looks great so far; dark, well-written, interesting. Her publishers are certainly confident that she is the next big thing.
(This is, I guess, a companion piece to Ken Wilson’s blog about ELT novelists – though it’s about to go off in a different direction…)
Whilst at the launch party I got talking to a successful literary agent and we started to talk about the number of manuscripts she gets from authors who want to be published; how many she rejects/accepts etc. So how can authors who want to be published, I asked, try and make sure that she (and people like her) will actually LOOK at their material?
It all depended, she said, on the synopsis and the sample chapter, but mostly the former. Getting noticed (and then accepted), she said, depends on your PITCH. It boils down to how you can interest someone in your novel using only a sentence or two sentences,
I thought of people whose talks are not accepted at conferences (there has been a flurry of comments recently about the 2012 IATEFL conference on this topic ). For many conferences, such as IATEFL, submissions are read anonymously, so the pitch obviously matters.
“Pitch me your novel,”" said the agent (it wasn’t me who had told her that I have written one called The Whistle at Siete Vientos – he said defensively), so I did. “Not interested,” was her immediate and dismissive response so I countered with the following: “choose your favourite novel by Charles Dickens (I’m on a bit of a Dickens ‘thing’ at the moment!) and pitch that to me”. She Chose Great Expectations and made a complete mess of it. Which pleased me!!
So here’s a bit of a challenge. How would you pitch your favourite novel, your own novel, you teaching material, your website, your talk, your approach etc in one or two sentences – so that everyone sits up and takes notice?
It’s not easy!