Pitching Your Romance Novel

I’m heading to Seattle next weekend for the Emerald City Writer’s Conference, and I’m going to be helping some authors prepare their pitches for agent/editor meetings. Because I’ve pitched more time than I care to remember, and managed to screw up many of those pitches, I thought I’d give some suggestions. Of course, nothing qualifies you to give advice like screwing things up!

Suggestion 1: Be prepared in case you have to cut it short. I remember one of my first pitches and it was a complete disaster — I had a beautifully scripted pitch that went through the hero and heroine’s goal, motivation, and conflict, and then proceeded to give the plot, major turning points, and of course the resolution. It was a gorgeous pitch, but about two sentences in, the editor stopped me, and said, “Just tell me what your book is about.” Glances at watch. “The short version.”

GAH! I panicked. I had no idea how to summarize my prose. Now, I come prepared with a short version. My short pitch is the 6-8 sentence version of the pitch. Must include h/h (who they are, what they want, what stops them from getting it), romantic conflict, and resolution, all tied up with a neat little bow. Here’s my latest book, in pitch form:

“Kaia is an astonishingly beautiful faerie [WHO SHE IS], who must get suspicious, jaded Garrett Jameson to fall in love with her or she will lose her soul to a vengeful faerie queen, [WHAT SHE WANTS] but she’s been transformed into a penniless, average-looking human with no idea how to live in the human world. [WHAT’S STOPPING HER FROM GETTING IT]”

“Garrett is a real estate tycoon who hasn’t trusted women since his drug-addicted teen mother left him on the doorstep of his harsh, unloving grandmother. [WHO HE IS.] He wants to protect his friends and himself from the pain of loving and trusting — [WHAT HE WANTS] but he can’t seems to keep himself away from the mysterious, secretive Kaia. [WHY HE CAN’T HAVE IT.]”

Then, romantic conflict: “When Kaia charms her way into a job at his best friend’s flower shop, Garrett resolves to keep a close eye on her. He knows she’s hiding something about her past, and he’s determined to discover what it is. But in close quarters, the attraction between them cannot be denied.” [WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES THROW THEM TOGETHER, AND WHAT KEEPS THEM APART.]

“Through her journey to becoming a human, Kaia learns how to love and forgive. Ultimately, Kaia helps Garrett regain his own humanity, and their love heals both of their hearts.” [RESOLUTION]

So, very light on the plot, big on concept and happily ever after. 🙂

Suggestion 2: Have a comparable. I learned this one the hard way as well. Imagine this: you finish pitching your book and the editor says, “So, is this like Susan Wiggs?” You panic, because you’ve NEVER READ Wiggs. What to do? Obviously, you can’t read everything. But you should be prepared to say, “Actually, it’s more like Victoria Dahl. With faeries.”

Or whatever. 😉

Find a comparable in the market. You can distinguish your book from the comparable, but you should be able to point to one or two. Editors and agents have to use comparables all the time, especially when pitching YOUR book to their bosses. (Isn’t it nice to know you aren’t the only one suffering through this?) They need to know how they would position your book in the market, who they have on their list that might be similar, what kind of sales those books have had, etc.

Here is NOT the time for “Oh, my book is like Twilight.” Or Harry Potter. And please don’t say Nora Roberts. You are looking for an author with a voice and style somewhat similar to yours, but even if you write EXACTLY LIKE NORA, you risk sounding ridiculous if you compare yourself to her.

Also, you need to do a little research. If at all possible, figure out what the editor/agent is acquiring, and what they don’t like. If they have decided never to acquire chick-lit ever again, then for goodness sake don’t compare yourself to Sophie Kinsella. (Ahem. Note to self: never do that again.)

Suggestion 3: Have a backup. What if you get into your pitch, give your first two sentences, and the agent interrupts you to say, “You know, I just acquired a vampire-flowershop-faerie-zombie love story. I’m afraid I’m not interested in that. Do you have anything else?”

Of course you do! When you finished writing the last book, you immediately started a new one, right?

Right?

So even if it isn’t complete (and be honest if it isn’t), be prepared to pitch the concept!

Hope this is helpful! Good luck everyone!

Blogging By the Lake

It’s sunny and warm, but not too hot. The lake is cool, the air is sweet, and I’m…blogging. Not swimming. Blogging.

But of course I’m blogging! There’s just SIX DAYS until RELEASE DAY! SIX!

And I have a BOOK TRAILER to share! SQUEE!! I am dying for EVERYONE IN THE ENTIRE WORLD to see this. (Okay, small exaggeration. But did I mention that the girl playing Dancia is absolutely PERFECT? And goregous?)

So, I need a contest to celebrate. Here’s the deal — watch the trailer. Send me an email (inara.scott@gmail.com), tweet, or comment on this blog and let me know what you think, and I’ll enter you to win a Delcroix pack with signed copy of the book AND super Delcroix Academy cool t-shirt! Contest runs until Saturday August 21, 5PM!

Sound good? Awesome! Now take a look — and send this to all your friends, okay?!

The Day I Began to Panic

Yes, folks, today was a notable day. In fact, I circled it on the calendar. And decided to blog about it. Because today is the day I officially began to panic.

Delcroix Academy: The Candidates releases in (quick math here…) 18 days. Eighteen Days. WHAT DO I DO?! I am suddenly convinced there are a million things I should be doing RIGHT NOW and I don’t know what any of them are! I am ready to curl up into the fetal position and rock on the floor, head buried between my knees. I suspect that will not be productive, so instead I’m blogging, answering emails, ordering “autographed by author stickers” and eating a lot of ice cream.

I think that last one is going to stay with me after the launch is over.

In other news, I got two entire boxes of books a few nights ago to sign and send back to Hallie, my publicity guru from Disney. Before sending them back, of course, I had to cover my bed with them and roll around like a mad woman. And take some slinky pictures of myself rolling around.

As Editor Ari put it, “You are one sick puppy.”

Yep.

Life on the Other Side

So, a lot has happened since I quit the day job and joined life on the other side. Most importantly:

DELCROIX ARRIVED!

After two and a half years, I have a copy of my VERY OWN BOOK in my hands. It went a little like this. My fabulous editor, Ari Lewin, emailed me that I was going to be “very happy” in a few days because they had finshed the first copies of the book and were sending me a few. Needless to say, I ran outside every time the UPS truck passed, hoping it might be The Package I had waited all my life to receive. Four days passed. I was tired from all that running.

Then on Monday afternoon, 5:00 PM, I was just finishing up a jog/yoga session. I was not looking pretty. I was hot, sweaty, and as fair-haired folks are wont to do, I had turned beat red from running in the afternoon heat.

Still.

The box arrived. I saw the “Disney-Hyperion” label. I brought it inside, trembling. After briefly considering showering so I would be well-groomed for the event, I decided I couldn’t wait. I told my husband to get the camera. Rounded up the kids (and then pried Calvin and Hobbs from my son’s hands so he could properly appreciate this important moment).

I opened the box. (Note the excitement even reached the dog in the background. Okay, not really. He’s just sleeping. But he was excited down deep, I swear.)

I smiled. I pulled out the book. And then smiled bigger, but only to cover the fact that I was beginning to cry. Then I hugged my husband, and started to sob.

It’s hard to explain exactly what I was feeling. I suspect it would be like finishing a marathon (though I’ll never experience that first-hand). You have a sense of elation, of wonder; amazement that you finished this journey and disbelief that you have achieved one of your life’s highest goals.

I signed a contract two and half years ago. It never felt real until the moment I held that book in my hands. It’s a beautiful book. It represents the work of a lot of people. I’m only one of them. There’s the editor that bought and edited the book 95% of the way, Jennifer Besser; there’s the editor who inherited it when Jen left Hyperion, and brought it across the finish line (Ari); there’s the cover artists, who made the most beautiful cover I have ever seen; there’s the copy editors, the typesetters, the publicity and marketing people, the whole damn staff at Hyperion who have all conspired to make DELCROIX ACADEMY a success.

I adore these people. They made my dream come true.

I can’t wait to share it with all of you.

And it’s coming. Soon. August 24th. Tell your friends and neighbors that the most beautiful book in the world is coming to a bookstore near them. And if you see Ari, or Jen, or any of the other amazing people from Hyperion, give them a hug for me.

My New Office!

Yes, folks, the life of an author is a glamorous one. Unless you happen to live in a 1600 square foot house that you share with two kids, one husband, not to mention the dog, cat, gerbil, and guinea pig. In desperate need of a home office, I appropriated the dining room table. And the dining room.

Voila! My new office!

Now, I just hope it doesn’t rain and we can keep eating outside, or we’ll be sitting with our plates on our knees in the living room…

BEA Roundup

For those who haven’t heard of it, BEA is short for BookExpo America — an enormous, fabulous conference dedicated to all things book-related. BEA is primarily aimed at booksellers, librarians, educators, and publishers. Though the conference always includes big headline acts (Barbara Streisand! Jon Stewart!) and conference sessions, the best part is I’ve found is simply walking the floor, where thousands of square feet are dedicated to publisher exhibits with books from their summer and fall catalogs, book trinkets, ARCs (advance reader copies) and lots and lots of people.

My first year at BEA (2008), I was struck by how fun it was to see the business side of books. Writers spend hours perfecting their craft, and when we go to conferences we discuss character arcs, query letters, and agent hunting. At BEA, it was about what sells, how’s the business doing, and the future of publishing. Some writers may find this distasteful. I thought it was fabulous. Here was someone who took the business of writing even more seriously than I did. For me, making a decent living from writing was like a crazy, far off dream. For these people, it was everyday life.

This year, everything was different. Instead of walking around wide-eyed, without much to do, this year I was part of the show. First off, I got to sign copies of my book! I sat behind a table and wrote my name in books for people who said they were excited to read Delcroix Academy. Excited. To read my book. I grinned like a fool the whole time.

Then there was another first — I did a videotaped interview about Delcroix at the Disney Book Group headquarters. To say I was a tad nervous is the understatement of the century. But the nice people from Disney talked me through it, and it is my fervent hope that through the power of film, they can splice together two unintelligible statements and make them sound moderately intelligent.

This year at BEA I made a real effort to meet as many people as I could.  Special thanks to Adrienne Kress, who let me tag along to a meet up with a group from the Verla Kay boards, and all the great folks I met there, including LC  who sent me the pictures in this blog! Meeting new people, as you may imagine, is not easy for us introverted authors. But everyone from BEA was fabulous and I can’t wait to keep getting to know them on-line now that we’ve gone our separate ways.

I also got to meet face to face for the first time with my fabulous agent, Emily Sylvan Kim (who I formally declare to be my new soul mate), and Arianne Lewin, editor extraordinaire, who is going to help me shake Delcroix Academy Book II, into shape over the next month. (eek!)

And then there were all those NYC firsts. Riding the subway by myself. Dragging my heavy rollerbag up and down the stairs and of the subway stations and over the turnstile. Gazing starry-eyed from the roof of my cousin’s Brooklyn apartment at the Statue of Liberty. Doing yoga with my cousin on the roof, while gazing at said Statue. Eating lots and lots of bagels.

Oh, and just to put the cherry on top of an incredible week, we sold rights to Delcroix Academy to a publisher in Turkey! Squeee! My book, my own actual book, is going to be published in Turkey. I can’t believe it.

So that’s my story! An amazing week, which will now transition into a month of editing and writing. (Hello deadline cave!) Not something I’ll forget soon!