Pitching the publishers at Word on the Street

I understand there were books for sale at WOTS Halifax this weekend. Readings by authors. Fun times with little kids and one of my favourite kid’s authors, Sheree Fitch. All sorts of good stuff.

I didn’t see any of that.

I was too busy having nervous apoplexy about my upcoming three minutes on the “Pitch the Publisher” stage. Three publishers, an MC, three minutes and then feedback a la American Idol or Dragon’s Den. Kind of scary. Plus I’d spent the previous few days typing like a hyperactive gerbil to get my “packages” together – a cover letter, a synopsis, an outline, a sample chapter. And, truth be told, I was finishing the novel. I had spent several days gradually losing my mind; my dear Chutney had taken to throwing his play toys for himself; and some poor guy I know only by email and phone heard way too much from me. I even corresponded with a good friend from the past, asking him about things I really shouldn’t have. I needed some background for the novel, which is about identity theft and identity change and involves a violent pedophile and other such charming things. (My friend, incidentally, is not a violent pedophile. Just wanted to clear that up.)

So, bearing this cheerful bundle of strife and suspense, in I trot to the pitching session. Encouragingly, the three publishers all make certain to mention that they “don’t accept ‘genre’ fiction”. There is an audible sneer in their tone. Fair enough. Unfortunately I’m here to pitch genre fiction, as is almost everyone else in the room. Interestingly, there doesn’t seem to be an Atlantic publisher that accepts genre fiction. Sad, that, as genre fiction has been known to sell a few books here and there. Well, not here. According to a reliable source, the top book in the Maritimes is “The great big book of Sudoku”. I weep. But then, maybe people are just looking for a ripping yarn. Like mine. Ha.

A woman next to me is just here to watch. She has a book about a dog – a Nova Scotian dog. She only wants it published in Nova Scotia. She tells me she can’t envision it being published by anyone else. I imagine she is not looking to sell worldwide rights.

I love these writers who have such demands for their work. Heck, I just want to see mine in print, thanks, and preferably sell a few hundred copies. I’m not proud! Take me, I beg, and I’ll change anything you like. I’ll rewrite it from the start, I’ll change all the characters, I’ll even include Jesus if it’ll help (though perhaps not in the particular story I pitched). I’ll make dogs talk and pussycats type. Just love my writing and take me, take me.

I did love the publishers on the panel, though. They listened so politely to our variously good or not so good pitches. They gave excellent, concrete advice, and were supportive and kind in the after melee. The moderator was excellent, too, funny, capable of tying things up nicely, and yet making things interesting all the time. It was, overall, a great experience, though I don’t think I persuaded any of them to love me.

The other thing that I noticed is that there are a lot of women and young kids writing horrific novels of abuse. The mind boggles, yes it does. Do we all have incidents of abuse to purge or something? Or is that just what we are used to reading?

As for me, it was all pretty grim. The only break from the “woman whose parents died horrifically and who is abused by her partner” and the “kid who grows up orphaned and unloved” was a pitch by a graphic novelist that made everyone laugh. It occurred to me that that’s what I want to do. I live for making people laugh.

So goodbye horrible characters (well, almost, I do have a serial murderer I’m writing about at the moment but he’s a sympathetic murderer)(yeah, I know, but wait. You’ll see what I mean). It’s off to ha ha land from here on in. We need some more laughs these days.

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