Finding the right Pitch


220px-HMCoSecondEdHobbitsThis blog is predominantly about location and what role location plays within our writing. However, location is also important when it comes to selling your book: namely where to start looking for readers and what slot in the market place your book might fit into. In other words, this post is about aiming at the right pitch so that author, literary agent/publisher and readers sing from the same hymn sheet:)

Time and again I read blog or Google+ posts where writers have written a book without determining FIRST who they are writing for. Now they are sitting on a doorstop of a novel and have no idea where it would fit into the book market. They bemoan in their blogs that they’ve had nothing but rejection letters and cannot think why their 140,000 epic can’t find a publisher or literary agent.

Their location problem is twofold:

Firstly:

Any publisher or literary agent will want to know what readership the manuscript is aiming at and would not take a writer seriously if they haven’t taken the time to acquire the most basic industry knowledge. If the writer can’t be bothered to concern herself with her potential readership BEFORE starting a book, why then should a literary agent or publisher spend their valuable time reading her manuscript? 240px-MaxMoritz

Ask yourself this:

Would you want to take a taxi ride with a driver who has never even looked at the street map of the city you’re in?

Would you want to buy shares in a company where the board of directors never bothered doing market research to discover who might actually buy their product?

If the answer is NO to both questions, then:-

Take time and trouble to make sure the story you are planning to write can be positioned correctly in the market place BEFORE you’re even outlining your plot. If you don’t get the readership issue sorted out first, you’re inviting trouble.

220px-Fairy_Tales_(Boston_Public_Library)Re-writes take much longer than getting it right in the first place. And that’s what a literary agent or publisher would ask you to do, if your story is essentially good and well written but doesn’t fit into any niche/genre or marketable slot. Always think of your book as a marketable product first, before considering how your friends and loved ones might look upon what you’ve written. An author is a seller of products – if you think your words are too precious to be changed to please your readers…get out of the publishing game!

A publisher or literary agent doesn’t want to waste time with lengthy re-writes, for it means getting editorial staff involved and that costs money. And books that weren’t written for a specific target audience will inevitably have to be rewritten.

12 notebook and pencilWhen you submit your story to a professional, you should be able to state clearly in the covering letter what type of reader your book is for, e.g. what age range are you aiming at? Will the book appeal to boys or girls, men or women, horror fans, sci-fi geeks or romance readers?

What other essential landmarks do you need to consider BEFORE writing your book?

Ask yourself this:

Are established children’s or YA writers addressing abstract issues in their best sellers?

Nope, they are not, for such subjects are firmly for adult book readers. Seasoned YA and children’s writers deal strictly with issues that children and young adults can relate to and understand.

Are best-selling children’s and YA writers presenting epic doorstops of 140,000 words to their young readers?

Nope, they know better than to irritate their precious pint-sized readers with such book lengths!

Think LITTLE HANDS…don’t like to hold HEAVY books. Children are conservative in their reading habits. Like me, they prefer their books to be tangible and physical not virtual. Forget about selling tons of e-books to wee readers. Kids love real books best. Quite right!

Astrid Lindgren wouldn't have made such a rookie mistake!

Astrid Lindgren wouldn’t have made such a rookie mistake!

The best location you can be at for your research is a children’s and YA book shop or the relevant section in your local library. What’s flying off the shelves? Who’s sticking their chocolate-covered nose into picture books and who is really hogging teen novels?

AND RESEARCH BEFORE YOU START WRITING.

When you submit a manuscript the literary agent or publisher wants to find out what YOU are about as a writer. Nobody wants to work with a rank amateur who doesn’t want to spend the time doing even the most basic of research into marketing and promoting their book. Researching your potential readership is as essential to selling a book as writing a gripping story and having writing talent.

So at the risk of repeating myself:

If you’re currently gnawing your pencil with a big frown on your face, pondering if the 140,000 word epic fantasy novel you’ve written could possibly be promoted to a YA readership or even be squeezed into the children’s literature market, think again. How long is the average children’s or YA book? Well, it’s not 140,000 words, for that is an adult reader’s book length.

Age range 8 – 12 will tackle books with a max. word length of 80,000, which is the minimum requirement for an adult length novel for most publishers. So your 140,000 word epic should not be aimed at the children or YA market – if you must bother young readers with such an epic doorstop, then write it as two books of 70,000 words, each one a complete story in itself but marketable as a series of two. For younger age ranges storybook texts have typically no more than 600 – 1,000 words. And the 5 -7 age range will go up to around 10,000 words in books that still carry pictures.

Secondly, where should you pitch your book?

Don’t send out your manuscript willy-nilly to every publisher that crops up on your Twitter feed.

Take time to research the literary agents and publishers who deal in the genre or age group you want to write for.

Who do the agents represent?

The right pitch can be worth millions...

The right pitch can be worth millions…

If their portfolio contains authors who write similar books to yours, e.g. picture books or age group 8-12 or YA readers, then it’s a safe bet they’ll be interested in your manuscript.

If the majority of their authors are crime writers, non-fiction authors or romance novelists, don’t send in your YA manuscript. It seems so terribly obvious and yet, so many writers out there get this wrong. If the literary agents’ or publishers’ website says “we currently don’t accept submissions” – then DON’T bother these good people with your manuscript!

Send your manuscript only to those literary agents and publishers you have identified as relevant for your type of readership and who currently ask for submissions. You stand a far better chance of getting accepted and won’t get frustrated with zillions of rejections.

green bookBe sure to follow each and every submission guideline you are given by the individual literary agency or publisher and submit your manuscript EXACTLY as requested or you’ll end up at the bottom of the slush pile or worse, in the reject pile without being read at all.

(picture source Wikipedia; animation source heathersanimations.com)

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