Pitch Conference

Ahh, the pitch conference.  Three minutes to explain your darling child of a novel to a polite but dubious agent.  Three minutes for her to ask probing questions that tear it apart.

I enjoyed most of the Writers Digest pitch conference in St. Paul, Minnesota last Saturday.  The classes were more reminders of ideas we writers should always have in our heads than anything new.  Mystery writer Kristi Belcamino reminded us to “get in late and leave early” so that you give the reader the essence of an action, rather than all the steps (hearing the knock, walking to the door, turning the knob).  Set up a ticking clock. (To know that you have to catch a flight to Istanbul is just information.  To know it’s an hour before takeoff and you’re still in the security line raises the stakes.)  This is stuff most writers know, but I, for one, tend to bury important things in prose, then have to trim.

I had some hope of discovering how a self-published work of fiction finds readers.  For all the good ideas, warnings, and suggestions, there was not much there.

Possibly the best takeaway for me was a session in which first pages of novels were read aloud to six agents, who then indicated when they would stop reading.  One of the pages read was from a talented author in my Wednesday critique group. The agents had comments similar to those the critique group had when its members read that first page.  Heartening to hear that the group is on point.  Also very interesting to hear the agents’ take on what works and what doesn’t.  Good writing is necessary, but not sufficient.

In any case, the experience kicked me into yet another rewrite.

Arrrrgh! Bring-Take

No, I’m not channeling my inner pirate.  And, right off, I admit to being a closet snooty person about grammar.  However, I do understand that language is ever changing, mapping our ways and means of communication.  So, unlike political candidates these days, I’m a proud centrist with respect to grammar (and in politics, too, but I promised myself not to hyperventilate on my blog).

So, as we now say, it’s all good, right?

But.but.but good writers keep on telling me to strip nonessential words.  Make every word punch above its weight, right?  Which means meaning is important, right?  In particular, a writer needs to paint a picture of action so the reader can follow the story, right?

So here we are back at good old bring/take.

Bring-take

Here is an ad from Writer’s Digest.  The folks that advertise themselves up as the most complete writer’s resource.  The closet snooty person says, “bring things here and take things there.”  If you’re going from here to some other place, it’s take, even if one is speaking of electronic files.

So, the new quandary for the snooty grammarian is a variation of that old tree-falling-in-the-forest question:  If everyone uses bring for all movement from place to place, does the writer simply acquiesce on the grounds that his more precise use of bring-take will be lost on modern ears?

Or maybe the writer quits grousing and writes better.

 

 

 

Click-thru, Substance and Internet Marketing

So, let me ask (rhetorically), would you put the pictured cover on a book? ‘Sell … Like Wildfire,’ emblazoned (pardon me) over a book of matches? After several years of  devastating wildfires set by arsonists? And would you name your website startawildfire.com?

Apparently, the desire for a cool, attention-grabbing, clever cover trumps … umm … thought process.Wildfire

I am sure that I will be thrust into the black hole of crotchety old guys by Internet savvy folks and, in particular, Internet marketers. After all, the brave new world seems to be driven by click-thru activity rather than substance.

I got an e-mail advertising a ‘free download’ on book marketing.  That interests me, so I punched through to a page that wanted me to sign up for info on a self-publishing house. No free download. Intrigued, I e-mailed the publisher. Several days later, I got the appropriate web address and clicked on the ‘article.’ It turned out to be a book chapter. Presumably, I would read the chapter and buy the book.

So, the net result is a plus for the marketing database (several click-throughs).  They didn’t really lie. The only down side I see for the marketer is bitter experience tells me those hyper-energetic, hair-on-fire promotional efforts are usually a thin coat of paint covering lack of substance. Oh, and there is the fact that the slightly misleading but relatively harmless come-on is the only data I have to go on when and if I self-publish. That doesn’t convert to very many future click-throughs.