Well written, well paced, and very absorbing.—Library Journal
Pinneo skewers the cult of the child with an insider’s eye. A witty, well-plotted fiction debut.—Publishers Weekly
That’s the happy ending. But like most novelists, Sarah had to pitch the book to dozens of agents before she got an offer. And then? She learned the hard way that pitching is not just for newbies.
Learn to Love the Pitch
How many times have you heard authors express pain over the pitching process? Dozens of times? Hundreds? Would-be novelists, clutching their first completed manuscripts, are often heard weeping over the seemingly impossible feat of conveying the brilliance and nuance of their work in a mere two paragraphs. It can’t be done, they howl. Queries are cruel and unusual punishment!
I used to agree.
Writing a pitch is stressful, because it requires learning brand new rules and skills. After the marathon that is writing a book, who needs one more hurdle? I used to sing the “I hate queries” tune too.
But a year or so ago my dear friend Abbey accidently gave me a crumb of advice she’d once received during her formative years as an actress. And Abbey’s wisdom entirely changed my opinion about pitches.
“Listen, kid,” my friend had been told. “If you want to be an actor, you’d better love auditioning. Because that’s what 90% of successful working actors do most of the time—they audition. They get up in front of strangers and perform with a smile, and then they do it again the next day.”
The truth of it hit me like a wobbly stack of unsold manuscripts. Writers are in precisely the same boat. Pitching is a part of every writer’s life. And it doesn’t go away once you land an agent.
These days, I’m officially one of the lucky ones. By querying (and querying, and querying) I landed a terrific agent who in turn sold my debut novel. Julia’s Child arrived this week, cue the champagne and streamers. But last spring we agonized together over the catalog copy. During the summer, it was the back cover copy. Then, I pitched other authors for blurbs to bedeck my shiny new cover. I pitched book bloggers who agreed to review it.
And then? I wrote to every bookseller I’ve ever known, I pitched media outlets who might cover me. I’m sure you’ve spotted the trend by now.
And—the big surprise—I’ve finally begun to enjoy it. Perhaps I shouldn’t mention that I also like preparing my own taxes. But my reasoning is the same. Because when I take the time to figure out the taxes for myself, I realize: this is a game I can win.
So is pitching. Who wouldn’t want to devote a little extra time to really getting it right? In the same way that an accountant couldn’t possibly care as much as I do about my bottom line, nobody knows my work as well as I.
And how about the next book? Having one successful book doesn’t mean you’ll never write another pitch. If your agent believes your next book could be part of a two or three book deal, you’re going to have to write a few punchy paragraphs about books two and three in the potential series.
Pitching, like taxes, is part of (the publishing) life. This is something your agent understands too. The first time your agent reads your pitch, she’s also writing her own in her head as she goes.
So we might as well stop hating pitching, and start to see it for the lifeblood that it is. Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.
UPDATE: When Cynthia requested Sarah’s pitch, Sarah graciously submitted her query. Read on…
JULIA’S CHILD is my 85,000 word comedic novel, for any woman who has ever stood in Whole Foods clutching a $6 box of organic crackers, wondering if buying them makes her a hero or a sucker.
Julia Bailey is an overextended mother and businesswoman with too many principles and too little time. Her fledgling company Julia’s Child makes organic toddler meals for mothers too busy to cook. But saving her business, saving the environment and keeping her sanity prove nearly impossible. Julia’s freezer melts down, her toddler melts down, and her funding dries up. Hurdles include a lawless nanny, a 98 pound TV diva and a business associate who may or may not be a mobster. When a lucky celebrity endorsement gives her one last shot at success, Julia must try to capitalize on her big break before her family reaches the breaking point.
While entrepreneurial mishaps provide the humor and intrigue, the story is all about choices: motherhood vs. the self, organic vs. local, paper vs. plastic. It is also about good intentions—and just how far astray they can lead us.
My own resume is a mélange of writing and business and food: I clocked a decade of deal making on Wall Street before publishing THE SKI HOUSE COOKBOOK (Clarkson Potter) in 2007. Previously, while earning my B.A. in economics from Yale, I edited THE INSIDERS GUIDE TO COLLEGES for St. Martin’s Press, and snuck in a marketing internship at Random House.
Thanks for sharing, Sarah!
Sarah Pinneo is the author of Julia’s Child (Plume 2012) and co-author of The Ski House Cookbook (Clarkson Potter 2007). She writes about food and sustainability for publications such as Boston Globe Magazine and Edible Communities. Sarah edits the book publicity blog Blurb is a Verb. She lives in Hanover, New Hampshire with her family. Follow her @Julias__Child.
Photo courtesy Flickr’s Kevin H.