Like 49 other aspiring authors I managed to secure a ticket to Literary Speed Dating through the Australian Society of Authors and New South Wales Writers’ Centre that takes place this weekend. I am of course both excited, nervous and wetting my pants… I had twins in January who felt they’d like to engage at the same time and split my pelvis so the pants wetting might not be entirely date related. TMI? Or JTRAOI (just the right amount of information)? Getting back to the point of this blog entry, Literary Speed Dating? Yes that was it, LSD as @AKalagianBlunt calls it.
I should probably explain what Literary Speed Dating means in this context lest you all think it refers to a group of nerdy, yet sexy, singles getting to know each other in three minute intervals, then falling madly in love with your genre mate and making some erotic fiction together. It certainly isn’t that. I’m a married mum of three and I’m not the only monogamous individual going. @AlisonWhipp (winner of the Kids and YA Festival pitch contest early this year) will also be putting her mum jeans on and getting sassy. Literary Speed Dating in this setting refers to 9 lovely publishing reps and 1 equally lovely literary agent clawing their way out of their massive reading piles and allowing 50 aspiring authors to pitch their manuscripts to them in three minute sessions. For aspiring authors this is a big deal, we get three minutes of real face time with someone in the biz (bus?) which is a rare opportunity to get. All we had to do was be able to get a ticket (and have written something good enough that we believe it is publishable). I got my ticket in May and am pretty sure I only just managed to scrape in. Have I mentioned it’s a really good opportunity that everyone wants? Well it’s SOLD OUT in advance of 6 months good. So I can tell you that my fellow aspirings and I are packing shit. Even I, who know 4 of the 50 aspiring authors pitching (could be more, 4 have told me they are) and have the whole safety in numbers vibe going on, am ready to bite my own fingernails off. We’ve all been preparing for at least six months yet still feel desperately under prepared.
So how about I share the prep I’ve been doing and then you can share back what you are doing, have done in similar circumstances, or what you would do if you were in a similar situation?
Firstly, I’ve got three novels to a minimum of first draft stage so I have something to pitch. For me it’s my Memoir from the Madhouse*, a PND biopic of non epic proportions**, that you could say has been 35 years in the making. And also to the three children’s representatives attending, my jaunty little children’s fantasy Chloe Prime : Alien Space Vet which I’ve been editing for a couple of years now. Secondly, continuing to attend a lot of writing workshops, courses and festivals. Thirdly, reading, reading, reading. Memoir, children’s fantasy, books on writing but also off genre, looking at how they build suspense, engage the reader, and all that Jazz. Fourthly, shamelessly imploring published authors I know for the secret of the perfect pitch. Unfortunately they all told me there is no secret formula (clearly a secret gatekeeping conspiracy) but did give me some excellent tips such as just be yourself, let your enthusiasm and knowledge show, and one fabulous published author instructed me not to be desperate, because they’re used to desperate authors hitting them up. To the latter I was all like, “WTF, desperation is literally the only thing I have going for me. I was reblogged by mamamia.com soley because I am a desperate mess, it’s my thing! I’m really not that long out of the nuthouse.” He mentioned that although that may be the case try playing it just a little bit cool, like a real date… Got it, pushup bra (oh yes I need one), red lippy (possibly a bad move as it accentuates my thin little lizard lips), and let them know they can see any of my wares without so much as a foreword and they can reorder my works into any position they like, I’m flexible and open to new ideas. He said that’s exactly what he meant and don’t forget to get incredibly drunk and cry a little. I’m quietly confident he was not joking, so I got this sucker nailed.
As for the other two pieces of advice that I got, I have come up with 7 questions, no, not 6, 7, in order to help me achieve that non desperate pitch I’m searching for, should the drunken crying approach fail.
1. Sum up my book in 1-2 sentences in an informative yet exciting way?
2. What are the three main take aways from my book?
3. Why did I write this book?
4. Why did this book need to be written by me?
5. Why did this book need to be written now?
6. What other books is my book like, what is its competition?
All this culminates into the final question:
7. What can be said to make the commissioning editor excited about my book in 1 sentence?
So I have written up pages of research on these questions over the months, (well not 2 or 7 they need to be short) plus on the publishing houses and their titles, that all need to be distilled into one non desperate sentence. It can be done!
Good luck to everyone else pitching and myself. Let’s hope we take the literary world by storm.
* My Memoir of Appropriation is not my real memoir!!! It is just a lark.
**I deal with similar issues in my Confessions of a Mad Mooer entries such as:
BUT my memoir is first person present tense, so you get to see the disgusting thoughts of self loathing and hopelessness without any filter or reflection. You’re right in there with me.