I’m on the telly!

I’m on a show aired by Channel 31 in Melbourne, local community television. But even though it’s local, the wonderful World Wide Web means everyone can see it. At the Continuum convention earlier this year in Melbourne, the fine people from the show Behind The Words interviewed a bunch of writers and publishers and I was lucky enough to be one of them.

You can watch the 24 minute episode here. My bit comes up at the 7.00 minute mark, but watch the whole thing to hear from Leonie Rogers first, then myself, then Dirk Flinthart, then Edwina Harvey, then Gerry Huntman, who gives some great advice from a publisher’s perspective.

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So you’re going to pitch your book – a guide.

It seems that lately there have been more opportunities than ever before for writers to pitch their as-yet-unpublished manuscript to industry professionals. At writers conventions, festivals and so on, more agents, editors and publishers are making themselves available to hear about your magnum opus. It really is a superb opportunity and these things usually get booked out. But man, I’ve heard some horror stories! It’s a hell of a thing, trying to sell yourself and your work with nerves making your guts into an ice storm. So I thought I’d ask a few key people in the industry for some tips to help you formulate your pitch should you get the chance.

Firstly, I’ll throw a tip or two of my own at you, then we’re going to hear from a small press publisher, a literary agent and a big press editor.

My tips are simple: Know what your book is about so you can formulate a killer elevator pitch. This is so named because it’s based on the premise that you meet a publisher in an elevator and have a few seconds before they reach their floor to sell them on the idea of your book. Here’s the elevator pitch for BOUND, as an example:

Underground cage fighter, Alex Caine, is drawn into a world he didn’t know existed – a world he wishes he’d never found. The harder he tries to get out, the deeper he’s dragged in. It’s magic, monsters, mayhem and martial arts in a fast-paced dark urban fantasy thriller.

After that, my suggestions are to have good ideas for explaining further what your book is about, what it’s like and who might enjoy it. Know your target market. Then have confidence in your work and yourself without acting like a dick. Remember, these folks taking pitches are just regular human people like yourself and they want to find good books. They’re not looking for an excuse to shut you down.

So, let’s hear from some of them directly.

Tehani Wesley is owner/editor at small press outfit Fablecroft Publishing. But don’t let small press fool you, I’m sure this publisher is going places. She’s going to be taking pitches for the first time at Conflux in Canberra in October. Here’s what she had to say:

What do you look for in a pitch?
A confident presentation with a tight synopsis that doesn’t tease me with the story – if I’m going to publish the book, I need to know where it goes, spoilers aren’t an issue! And don’t underestimate the value of a polished manuscript. I also need to see that the author has an understanding that the manuscript is not the end product – and neither is publication. There is a lot more to a successful book than great writing (much as we might wish it otherwise), and I need to work with someone who is willing and able to help drive the book beyond publication.

What advice do you have for pitchers?
I want to see authors passionate about their work – both the manuscript they are discussing, and their passion for writing in general. It’s really hard to work with writers who are negative about their own skill, their work, the life of being a writer, or publishing in general.

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Alex Adsett of Alex Adsett Publishing Services is an agent of exemplary power and skill (and I don’t only say that because she’s my agent!) Alex really knows this business, so listen hard.

What do you look for in a pitch?
I’m looking for full length genre fiction only for YA and adults, so SF/F, horror, crime & mystery and romance. Within that though, I’m pretty open to all comers. I’m also looking for a polished manuscript – so it is good to hear that an author has gone through multiple drafts and not only just typed “the end”. I also want to hear that the author has more manuscripts on the go and that they see this as an ongoing career for them and do not just have the one manuscript.

What advice do you have for pitchers?
Don’t panic! The person you are pitching to is there to hear your story and, maybe, see if you have a spark of connection. We do not mind if you read your pitch or just chat to us, it really all comes down to your story, and we don’t read that until later anyway.

Saying that, be prepared. Have an idea of what your book is about and how to articulate that within 3 minutes. To be safe, you should try to have three versions of a synopsis – one sentence, one paragraph and one page, so no matter how much or little time you have with your pitch person, you have something ready to go.

Do your research on the person you are pitching to. For example, there’s no point pitching me your memoir when I’m only after genre fiction. One of the best pitches was when the author rocked up with a coffee for me. I was a big fan of that author. At the same time, the most important thing is that I love the manuscript.

What’s the most common mistake pitchers make?
Panicking! So many authors are incredibly nervous about pitching their manuscripts. This isn’t a mistake, but is unnecessary.

Be careful pitching a manuscript that isn’t ready yet. On the one hand, we probably won’t mind and you might like the practice and building your contacts, but some publishers might feel you’re wasting their time to pitch if it isn’t finished and polished.

Was there ever one particular pitch that just blew your mind? (Not personal details, just generalities.)
Pitches that have a really tight premise that ticks my boxes and make me sit up and take notice. One of the best pitches I ever had was from author J.T Clay. She pitched her zom-rom-com – zombie comedy romance, and it was smart, funny and I just loved the premise. The manuscript absolutely matched the quality of her pitch, and I was desperate to sign her up as one of my authors. That novel is now published with Momentum as The Single Girl’s Guide To the Zombie Apocalypse, and it’s like an Australian Shaun of the Dead with lots of zombie in jokes.

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Rochelle Fernandez is the Associate Publisher of Voyager, the science fiction and fantasy imprint of HarperCollins, and Impulse, the digital imprint. She has been an editor for ten years, across fiction and non-fiction and tweets at @roch_town. You can often find her in a bookstore or at a Rabbitohs game. Here’s what she says about pitching:

What do you look for?
In a submission, I look for good writing first and foremost. An original concept is great, and so is an unoriginal concept told in an original way or written in a compelling way. I look for strong, interesting characters – characters people can empathise with, characters that are not caricatures — a too-good hero is just as boring as an all-bad hero.

In a pitcher, I look for someone who knows the benefits of their story. I look for someone who is confident that they have written the best story possible and can articulate what is so great about it. I look for someone who knows who their book is for, who has thought about the type of person who would like to read their story (often writers write for themselves, and that’s fine, but if you want to be published, then someone else must want to read it too!)

I look for whether it fits with what Voyager publishes. I look for whether this sort of story is popular.

What advice do you have for pitchers?
Don’t be nervous! Or if you are nervous, try to hide it. You believe in your story, now make me believe in it too!

Don’t get bogged down by trying to tell the whole plot to me – a few lines about the general gist will suffice.

Think carefully about comparisons – tell me who your work resembles but tell me why it resembles that. Pick accurate comparisons, not just ones you knew sold well or were made into a movie.

Hone your elevator pitch! A snappy line that will stick in my head is a great way to get me hooked into your story.

Don’t expect an immediate answer – it usually takes me about 2 months (sometimes longer!) to get to read a submission.

Tell me if you’ve self-published or submitted to another publisher or been published before.

Tell me what spurred you on to write the book.

Tell me a little bit about yourself too – where you work, what your writing influences are etc.

Describe to me the person who you imagine will buy your story – your target market. Tell me where they shop, what they eat for breakfast, what else they read. The more detail the better!

What’s the most common mistake pitchers make?
Use up all their time telling me the intricacies of the plot instead of condensing it into a few sentences to get me hooked.

Being too nervous and shy and self deprecating. If you don’t believe in your book, why should anyone else?

Was there ever one particular pitch that just blew your mind? (Not personal details, just generalities.)
One was a completely original concept that was such a great storyline I was just blown away. However … I am still waiting for the manuscript! Perhaps that should be a tip – make sure you are ready to supply the manuscript if I like your pitch.

One was really solid – a good concept, well thought out and nicely delivered. There was nothing really stand out about it, but I knew the book was going to be good by the amount of thought the pitcher had put into it.

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So there you have it. That’s some seriously good advice from some stellar industry professionals. I hope you find it useful and it helps you to hone your pitch should you get that sweet opportunity. Good luck!

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Signed ARCs of Bound being given away at Continuum X

So you all know I’ll be at Continuum X. My schedule is posted here. Well, it turns out those awesome people at HarperVoyager have made some ARCs of Bound available. An ARC is an Advanced Reading Copy, so it’s not the final version of the book – the artwork on the cover, the back cover blurb and some internal corrections are not final – but it is the full novel. There aren’t that many changes between the ARC and the final version coming out on July 1st, to be honest. The front and back cover will be a bit different, especially the back, but the content is purely some corrected typos and a few very small changes that you probably wouldn’t even notice unless you’re particularly pedantic. You are? Then I challenge you to find the changes!

Anyway, so at Continuum X, we’ll be giving away a bunch of these ARCs. Every time I give one away, I’ll sign it for you. If you get a giveaway from the organisers, come and find me and I’ll sign it for you. The best chance of getting one will be to come to any of the panels I’m on. I’ll give away at least one ARC at every panel I’m sitting on, and at least two at my reading. Can’t say fairer than that. Well, maybe I could, but I have to eat, you know?

See you at Continuum! I’ll be arriving around midday on Saturday.

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My Continuum X schedule

Continuum X is just around the corner. Have you voted in the Ditmars? If not, stop reading this and read this. Then go and vote! Then come back and read the rest of this. I’ll wait. *starts filing nails*

*makes a cuppa*

*squeezes in a quick game of Hearthstone*

You’ve voted? Good. You’re making the world of Australian SFF a better place.

So, other than the Ditmar Awards, loads of other stuff is happening at Continuum X and here’s my schedule:

SigningsSaturday 13:00-13:30 in The Midway (Foyer)
I’m pretty sure there won’t be any copies of Bound available yet, but I’m happy to sign anything else. Really, I’ll sign anything. Surprise me.

ReadingsSaturday 14:00-15:00 in Sideshow Alley
with: to be confirmed.
While there won’t be copies of Bound available, I will be reading an excerpt from the book, so if you want a sneak preview, come along to this.

Judging a Book By Its Cover panelSaturday 15:00-16:00 in The Hall of Mirrors
with: Alan Baxter, Nalini Haynes, Kate Cuthbert, Laura Wilkinson, Dirk Strasser
This should be an interesting panel!

Demystifying Social Media panelSaturday 18:00-19:00 in The Haunted House
with: Nalini Haynes, Alan Baxter, Jim C. Hines, Satima Flavell, Helen Stubbs

This is always too big a subject for a single panel, but we’ll do our best, I’m sure.

The Aliens Are Too Human! panelSunday 10:00-11:00 in The Hall of Mirrors
with: Alan Baxter, Steve Cameron, Darren Sanderson, Bismuth Hoban, Stacey Larner

I’m looking forward to this. No Star Trek galactic DNA seeding bollocks here, please.

At the Crossroads: Music and Genre Fiction panelSunday 15:00-16:00 in The Haunted House
with: Julia Svaganovic, Jason Franks, Narrelle Harris, Alan Baxter

RAWK!

How To Make a Podcast panelSunday 16:00-17:00 in The Big Top
with Sean Wright, Alan Baxter, Kirstyn McDermott, Terry Frost, Alex Pierce

I’m sure my co-panelists will be far more knowledgable than me on this one, even though I’ve co-hosted over 100 episodes of Authorcast, but there you go!

So that’s me actually fairly busy at the con this year, but that’s cool. Plenty of bar time in between. And I’m sure I’ll be checking out a lot of the other interesting panels and things going on. Come and find me, say hello, let’s have a beer or something.

See you there!

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Bound official Sydney launch at Kinokuniya, plus Continuum and Supanova news!

This writing life sure has its ups and downs, often to great extremes. There has been one huge downer recently, but I’ll keep that to myself – I don’t want to bring you guys down and, after all, the nature of a down is that it can only go up again, right? Thankfully there have been some real highs too, so I’ll share those. These really are Good Things!

Firstly, Bound, Alex Caine #1, is now on Goodreads. You can add it to your shelves and list it among the books you want to read – click here to find it. It would be great if you could add it and give the book some early exposure among your pals.

And talking of exposure, I’ll be on the promotional tour soon, starting with Continuum X, this year’s National Science Fiction convention in Melbourne, over the first weekend in June (7th – 9th). Bound is officially out on July 1st, so I don’t think we’ll have copies for Continuum, but there will be Bound-related stuff going on, and maybe a few ARCs up for grabs. If you can get along to Continuum, come and say hi and we’ll have a drink at the bar. I’ll be on a few panels and doing a couple of signings and a reading too, so plenty happening. Signings will most likely be previous things, as Bound won’t be out yet, but I’ll definitely do a reading from Bound, so if you want an early sneak peek, come and have a listen then.

Talking of sneak peeks, over the next weekend in June (13th-15th), I’m very excited to say I’ll be an author guest at Supanova in Sydney. It’ll be my first Supanova. And here I can reveal that we’ll have the first official pre-release launch of Bound during the Supanova weekend and there will be copies of the book available. If you get to Supanova, you can get the book three weeks before it’s officially out and available in shops. And I’ll be there to sign it for you. Here’s the list of author guests – I’m honoured to be in this kind of company.

But, if you can’t make Continuum or Supanova (or even if you can) and you’re in or near Sydney, here’s the skinny on the:

Official public launch of Bound

Thursday, July 10th at Kinokuniya Bookshop
Level 2, The Galeries, 500 George Street (opposite QVB) Sydney NSW 2000

From 6.00pm for  6.30pm start.

And I’m very chuffed and more than a little honoured to announce that the wonderful Margo Lanagan will be there to launch the book.

Margo is a good friend and a tremendous writer. Honestly, you need to seek out and read her stuff. This launch should be a good party, with reading, signing, nibbles, booze and great people. Of course, if you just can’t wait and you buy the book on release day, that’s absolutely fine – You’re more than welcome to bring it along to the launch if you want to get it signed and join in the festivities.

Please tell everyone who you think might be interested and help me spread the word about these events. I can’t wait to share the story of Alex Caine with you.

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