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Softball or hardball? How do you pitch?

I noticed an item on Yahoo News the other day about the "speed dating" concept as applied to pitch sessions. Hundreds of writers pitched for three minutes per pitch to assorted editors and agents. The examples mentioned all seem to be nonfiction books, but having pitched to agents and editors, even at a more leisurely nine minutes, I could still empathize.

One of the most compelling comments was a quote from literary agent Peter Miller who said that less than 0.05% of the people who want to get published actually get published. Staggering number, isn't it? I blame it on computers! It's too damned easy to produce a manuscript. I think editors should start insisting on hand-typed copy! (that was a joke, by the way)

Of course nonfiction writers operate under a different set of rules. You don't write the book and then pitch it, you write three chapters and an outline and pitch that. And with nonfiction, who you are in relation to your topic is almost more important than publishing credits. Still, I assume fiction writers have some of the same problems. Meg Leder, nonfiction editor at Penguin's Perigee imprint, is quoted as saying that by the end of the speed pitching sessions everything was "kind of a blur."

Sounds a lot like going to the mall to buy perfume. After the third sniff, I can't keep them straight.


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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 14th, 2007 02:26 pm (UTC)
This is interesting stuff. 0.05%. Wow. I'm assuming that's non-fiction. But still, I would imagine the number is much less than 1% for fiction. You're right, the sheer weight of the supply is ruining the field, for the ones trying to sell, anyway. And I imagine the ones trying to buy as well. The piles of crap editors have to wade through nowadays to reach that golden manuscript... That's got to be frustrating.
Jun. 14th, 2007 03:41 pm (UTC)
Well, no one ever said the conference was all nonfiction. Although I do wonder how he came up with the number of people who "want" to be published. Does it include people who've never actually finished a book, for example? Or is it actually people who try to market a book?

Then, too, if it's all inclusive in terms of prose, it would include those folks who write memoirs about how painful their lives have been. Kristin Nelson's blog has had a lot of info about how unmarketable most of those are.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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