I spent a lot of time talking to myself last week. I’d signed up, along with my writing group, for a 10 minute quick-fire pitch with Janklow and Nesbit’s agent Rebecca Carter, and was finding a way to describe my novel in a sentence or two. I looked Rebecca up online, she had friendly eyes, and that became my mantra, she has friendly eyes, it will be fine.
But on the day, logic and friendly eyes didn’t stop me from forgetting the pitch I’d whispered to myself for the last week. But it was worth the anxiety, I came away with some useful advice to sharpen my choice of point of view and the confidence to pitch again.
Author M.J. Arlidge, Frankie from Transworld and Hellie from Janklow and Nesbit
The day, hosted by Janklow and Nesbit and the Mumsnet Academy, was a chance to get some industry insight, talk to other writers and hear first-hand how best to submit my manuscript. For covering letters, we were advised to show that we’ve researched the agent, but not to get carried away with agent flattery. And don’t send submissions in April and October because agencies are far too busy with the Book Fairs.
We also had a fantastic panel of editors from the publishing houses. I not only loved their obvious passion for making stories the very best they can be, but I came away realising just how important it is for them to have a strong concept with a distinctive hook, so they can pitch the novel internally.
Me smiling AFTER my pitch
With all the talk of rewrites upon rewrites and the challenge of standing out in a pool of talented writers, the day ended with a reminder that publication can and does happen. Four recently signed or published authors – MJ Arlidge, Julie West, Sarah Alexander and Jason Hewitt shared advice, which settled on lots of ‘c’ words – confidence, commitment, canny and commercial-thinking. Even when they disagreed over the last point, they agreed on another ‘c’ word – a compromise between writing for yourself and the market.
Over a post-course writing group chat in the pub we discussed what we’d learned, not least that when someone greets you with news that they have a terrible cold, only choose the seat next to them if you’re not going to spend the rest of the day worrying about the germs.
It was such a useful and positive day, I’m ready to do another pitch and itching to use my new publishing savvy to give my novel’s concept an even stronger hook.
How every writing group adventure ends (and sometimes begins, but we had an early start this time)