Thanks to everyone who entered our Query Critique Contest! The contest is now over, but stay tuned each day this week to see who our winners are (remember-we said we were giving away 5 critiques!). Today`s winner is Amy Giuffrida! Congratulations, Amy! We`ll get in touch with you soon, but in the interim, get polishing that query!
On Monday, Deb Rachel and I both taught writing classes at StoryStudio Chicago (in adjoining classrooms! Squee!), and afterward we were talking about this week’s theme. “You’re going to do your ‘Molly Thing,'” Rachel teased.
“Tell everyone they shouldn’t try to get published.”
“Ha! It’s true!” I said. “That’s exactly what I was going to write about! I’m going to say that people shouldn’t worry about their pitch.”
“Deb Molly says: hide all your manuscripts in a drawer, and never show them to the world,” Rachel said.
“Deb Molly says: If you want to be a writer, you should go into a cave and never talk to anyone again.”
“Definitely don’t try to make money from your work.”
“No money! Be a true artist and live in a dumpster!” We were laughing, walking down the fancy marble staircase in the entrance of the building.
“But seriously,” Rachel said. “I think it’s nice. You come from the artist perspective, not the business perspective. We all bring something different to the table.”
So okay: I’m busted. I’m totally the one who’s going to tell you not to worry about your pitch. But as Rachel pointed out, the Deb Ball would be pretty boring if we all said the same thing, right?
Anyway, it’s not that you don’t need a pitch. You will, eventually, if for no other reason than a million people will ask you what your book is about, and it’s easier to memorize a pithy sentence or two than to do what I do, which is to stumble through an incoherent string of random words, sounding like an idiot: “Um, well? It’s a YA novel, so coming of age… it’s about a teenage girl… she’s in high school… um, there’s like… well, she has issues… you know… it’s in Iowa? So there’s Iowa stuff. And… it’s… yeah. You know.”
Luckily, I once tricked my agent into telling me what SHE thought my book was about, and she said, “I think it’s a reverse-Cinderella story,” and I said, “Wow, it is!” and I’ve been using that ever since.
That moment, though? That happened long after I got an agent, shortly before I actually sold the book. Not before. To get an agent, I had a query letter and a finished novel with a strong voice (and, in fact, no apparent plot).
The reason I’ll argue that you don’t need to worry about your pitch is that I see too many of my students get caught up in questions of marketing and platform-building and audience and comparable titles and hooks and first sentences, and they get so paralyzed by fear that they’re going to screw it up, or that they need to have all the business questions nailed down before they start, that they never actually, you know, WRITE THE DAMN BOOK.
You have to write the damn book.
I worry that people let themselves get stuck on marketing and business questions as a sneaky excuse not to write. Are you using your pitch as an excuse not to write your book? Are you perfecting your first sentence, first page, or first chapter instead of finishing your draft? Have you ever said, “I can’t finish this draft until I have my pitch!”
If you’ve already sold your book and you’re working on a marketing plan, you have my permission to worry about your pitch. But if you haven’t even finished your draft? If your book isn’t even finished?
STOP WORRYING ABOUT YOUR PITCH AND WRITE THE DAMN BOOK!
[Of course, Deb Rachel will do her “Rachel Thing” tomorrow and tell you the exact opposite — because in non-fiction, you probably do need your pitch before you finish your book. But that’s what we’re here for — to offer diverse viewpoints and contradict each other’s advice! :^) ]
M. Molly Backes
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