March 15, 2015

The R Word---Revision

What would you do if an editor asked you for a revision? Would you:

A.  Shelf the piece 
B.  Send it off to another editor
C.  Follow up and revise

When I get a submission for Kid’s Imagination Train that has potential, I email writers to let them know that with a little editing, their work will likely be published.  I point out the strong parts of the piece and then discuss the portion that needs revising.  For instance   in nonfiction, a writer may need to conclude the article with a tie-in to the beginning.         In fiction, a writer may need to develop a true conflict closer to the start of the piece. With poems, writers may have to edit for rhythm and rhyme.

There are times however, when writers never follow up.  It’s puzzling.  Writers should understand that when an editor asks for a revision, she is interested in their work.  That means it's time to revise.  And this process should not be dreaded.  Think of it this way: effort has been spent creating an article or a story or a poem with the possibility of publication, so go the extra mile and spend just a little more time editing.

Most of the time, writers will comply.  They get it.  They will do what it takes, drawing on the editor’s suggestions and working to improve their submissions.  They know the goal is not to rush the process and submit, but to take their time and revise so that they will produce a polished manuscript. As an editor, it's a joy to know that writers realize the worth of revision.  In fact, one writer told me: "I would be happy to revise.  Editing is always welcome because there is always room for improvement."  I couldn't have said it better.

March 1, 2015

Pitching an Agent

Last month, I pitched a literary agent for the first time at the Kentucky Writing Workshop. The night before however, I got maybe two hours of sleep because of a pounding migraine.  Pitching the next day was not going to be easy for me.  But you know the old expression:  the show must go on.

Here is what I learned:

* Practice the pitch every day prior to the session.
* Memorize the pitch.
* Give the pitch in front of a mirror to watch your expressions and gestures.
* Videotape yourself with a cell phone.  Listen to the sound and speed of your voice.
* Think of questions that you might be asked.  Practice answering with confidence.
* Dress comfortably for the session.
* Be professional—don't do anything gimmicky.
* Begin the session with light conversation.
* Bring a copy of your pitch to glance at if necessary, but do not read from it.
* Bring a notepad to got down any comments that may be discussed.
* Be aware that the jitters may set in, even with months of practice.
* Speak slowly when you give your pitch.
* Be prepared to answer questions about your work.
* Be prepared to hear some criticism.
* Stay focused on the agent and try not to be distracted by other people in the room.
* Be knowledgeable and PASSIONATE about your work.
* If you plan a sequel, then mention it.
* Thank the agent for her time.

There were three outcomes for the writers who pitched:  a rejection, a request for the first three chapters, or a request for a full.  I met a gal at the conference who pitched the same novel to two different agents.  One requested a full, the other rejected her work. THE VERY SAME BOOK!  We know that querying an agent is subjective.  There's your proof.   So, when you get a rejection, remember that there is probably an agent who will love it.

The pitch is your one-on-one 10-minutes with an agent.  It's nerve-wracking and intense. But if you get the chance to pitch in person, try to relax and enjoy the moment.  This is an opportunity to not only meet an agent, but to convince her to fall in love with your work.