Saturday, August 27, 2005

Practice

A writer walks into a bar, sits down, orders a drink, and on impulse, one for the guy sitting beside him/her.

The man thanks the writer and says, "I'm [insert name of a much sought-after literary agent or publishing editor]. What's your name?"

Now the writer happens to be you (and yes, I know for some of you [Stuart, John, James] this is not a big stretch) and after you're sure you're not going to choke on your choice of beverage, you introduce yourself . . . and casually mention you're a writer.

Much Sought-After nods. "Nice to meet you. So, what are you working on?"

Now, in twenty-five words or less, how do you answer him? Tell us in comments.

56 comments:

  1. I'm working on packing my bags and running from Katrina, evil bitch that she is. And when I'm not doing that, I'm writing my latest novel, FAMILY LABEL.
    ------------------------------------------------------------
    While saving the family vineyard, Pete discovers counterfeit wine labels and a connection to the Russian Mob. Can his slightly crazy father save the day?

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  2. This really happened to me. I told them I was about to start on book four of my unpublished SF trilogy.
    (It's now published, through a different publisher, and I still haven't finished book four ;-)

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  3. I'm working on an erotic version of 'Little Red Riding Hood'. But my Red doesn't seem to mind being eaten by the big, bad Wolfe.

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  4. Serendipity Blues:

    An injured rock star, a black detective and an FBI agent team up to save the teenage daughter of a Mafia kingpin from being murdered.

    Kat Among the Pigeons:

    A fae with the power to understand birds and cats -- not a good combination -- finds herself in the middle of a magical invasion.

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  5. zornhau6:57 AM

    Funnily enough that more or less happened to me in the aftermath of worldcon. I said:

    [3-word high concept here][Story question here][Thematic story question here]

    He quite liked the idea, gave me his card, and said send it or a partial to me when it's done.

    One of the benefits from working from a detailed synopsis is that I know what my novel's actualy about!

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  6. It's a sci-fi adventure about a dysfunctional Royal Family set up for assassination while their home system is being consumed by a deadly anomaly.

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  7. I say: "I'm struggling for a description of a man crawling through the belly of a badly decomposed body that's disgusting enough. What do you suggest?"

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  8. Secret network cell detects, tracks, and defends when cyberterrorists strike.

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  9. Three words: [b]Vampires. Werewolves. Witches.[\b] 'Nuff said!

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  10. "It's action-adventure thriller for women."

    That was what I did tell an agent at the conference where I was volunteering. I actually had a moment of panic when she asked because the book wasn't done, so we were prepared for any pitching, then figured I'd treat it like practice. She asked to see it when it was done.

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  11. A romantic time travel thriller about the Conyers Falchion and an Islamic assassin...

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  12. "An oral history of chewing gum."

    In all seriousness I save my pitching activities for times when one is supposed to be pitching. I assume agents/publishers out to get a drink are actually not interested in being pitched while they're enjoying their drink. In fact, it's rather more likely that if I discovered he was an agent/publisher before he knew I was a writer, I'd probably not mention I was a writer at all, and instead change the topic of conversation to something else entirely.

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  13. The Light That Lies:

    A former P.I. turned karaoke bar owner gets tangled in the murder of his ex-lover's husband, struggling to clear her name even while he isn't sure her name can be cleared.

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  14. A fantasy story which puts a unique spin on the archetypal story of the 'lost heir' and examines the nature of faith, loss, and leadership.

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  15. I'm working on my fifth Nick Bancroft mystery. It involves a murder at a band concert and efforts to solve it without getting killed.
    Bob Liter

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  16. A light-heated romantic comedy about a young woman who buys a house, and learns to build a home.

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  17. A paranormal chick-lit about a modern-day succubus who gets caught up in a power struggle between angels and vampires.

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  18. I'd say, "My current procjet is a mystery. Megan Connolly is a homicide detective. Her best friend and partner elopes without telling her. Her fiance is murdered. She has a new partner to deal with. She rescues a child no one knew was missing. A woman she's been working with on a charity auction is right there to fill in the gaping hole in her life. And she's still gotta catch the serial killer she was chasing before her life got turned upside down."

    More than 25 words, but if I cut it to 25 words, it would read like a query letter pitch, not a conversation in a bar.

    Linda

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  19. The struggle of a newly initiated thief. She must take revenge on her parents' murderer and play spy for the blind thief lord.

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  20. I wish you could edit these things!! "procjet" really should have been "project". But it's OK. My pronunciation skills are way better than my typing skills. I love spellchecker. I'm a great speller, but it catches my lousy typing. lol

    Linda

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  21. I'm working on a thriller about a murder that takes place in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

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  22. Kathryn11:02 AM

    "I'm working on a nonfiction expose entitled, "Twenty Reasons the Publishing Industry Has Gone to Hell: (subtitle: How To See Your Concept Published by Another Author Without Really Trying)

    "Now pass these cocktail napkins down the bar to your nineteen buddies. Name and email address is all I need."

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  23. HUSH LITTLE BABY is a CBA-targeted novel about a teenage rape victim fighting for the right to carry her child to term.

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  24. Excellent point on the bar conversation, Linda.

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  25. "A psychological fantasy about three divided people hunting a killer with the power to make witnesses believe anything he wants."

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  26. "oh, lots of things...shit...umm...well...ummm...I have, like ....ummmm....three, no, two books that I'm really enjoying right now. Oh. Ummm. You mean what am I writing? Oh. A couple of books. They're. . . ummm. historicals?"

    I'm putrid when it comes to on-the-spot quizzes. Remember your rant about how authors shouldn't try to sell themselves? I think you had a good point.

    I am going to go to NJRWA in October anyway. Conferences seem to help me get going. I'll feel the benefits when I get home again.

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  27. Anna G at Tor once said in a talk that she doesn't accept offers of coffee or drinks from author.

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  28. Hey, Kate -- I'm going to NJRW, too.

    If this was an agent, I'd say that Key of Sea is about an ex-trophy wife with a mid-life crisis, the hot fishing guide whose heart she unknowingly broke years before, and a cast of colorful Florida Keys characters in sort of a reverse Wizard of Oz.

    Yes, that's more than twenty five words, but I've just paid for the next round of drinks, so I figure I'm entitled. *g*

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  29. Anonymous11:57 AM

    A dark comedy about a small-town obit writer (and struggling novelist) who starts killing the townspeople in order to get more column space.

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  30. Evangeline, modern day vampire and the daughter of a centuries-dead alchemist, must protect her father's creation, which in turn protects man-kind. But when it is stolen from her, she enlists the help of Fish, a computer hacker/medium, to track it down and prevent its destruction, which would release the world's population of vampires from their mystical dormancy.

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  31. An erotic novella based on Beauty and the Beast.

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  32. THE SINS OF BROOKLYN

    A story about a twelve year old boy fighting an evil alternate personality while trying to solve someone's death by pretending to be him.

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  33. Anonymous12:35 PM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  34. The Charioteer
    Schemes by an enemy make the Dálriatan clan chief Ciaran a slave, his skills enable him to become a successful charioteer in Rome. He returns to Britain only to find his people in the hands of a rival. Left with no resources, he seeks help from the Romans to regain his position, but an influential Roman knows about his past as slave.

    Endangered Frontiers
    When King Alaric invades Italy, the Gothic warrior Alamir and the Roman officer Aurelius Idamantes discover they are half-brothers. Torn between blood-ties and the obligation to their people, the brothers must overcome suspicion of their true allegiance and expose the real traitors - in Rome, and in the camp of the Visigoths.

    Storm over Hadrian's Wall
    The tribal warlord Talorcan and the Roman officer Horatius Ravilla must overcome their mutual hartred and thwart a conspiracy that would lead to the extinction of the Pictish tribes and endanger the Roman Empire.

    But I think I'd take John Scalzi's advice and don't pitch my novel right then and there. I might rather mention my sadly neglected PhD thesis which is about Mediaeval literature and its discourse with the reades/listeners. Maybe, in case the editor/agent/publisher has some fun hearing a bit about such an interesting albeit unusual subject, (s)he'd remember me not as another Person Who Pitched her/him but as someone who told that cool story about Mediaeval storytellers sneaking romances into already existing texts. ;) And then mentioned she's writing novels, too. :)

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  35. Anonymous12:48 PM

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  36. Anonymous12:56 PM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  37. Lol Sheila, since you're so popular with the spammers, you might consider activating that new feature Blogger offers where the poster has to verify a letter code first.

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  38. This and that, mainly putting the finishing touches on The Job, a Reservoir Dogs-meets-James Lee Burke thriller.

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  39. Interesting variety of answers. I'm into brevity and punch, so the one that grabbed me most was Doug Hoffman's Animal Farm in Space.

    To pitch or not to pitch is really not the point of the exercise. I've had countless professional, formal presentations bounced, and sold probably a dozen books all on the strength of a single casual phone conversation. There's no right way to do it.

    All the comments I'm deleting are SPAM, btw.

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  40. Enough SPAM already. Sorry, folks, but I've activated the word verification thing (thanks, Gabriele.)

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  41. Interesting variety of answers. I'm into brevity and punch, so the one that grabbed me most was Doug Hoffman's Animal Farm in Space.


    OK second try. :)

    The Charioteer
    Ben Hur in Britannia

    Endangered Frontiers
    A siege, a dead king, and gay sex

    Storm over Hadrian's Wall
    The walls in the heads of people are the true frontier

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  42. Ok too choices both under 25 words:

    An old earth fantasy with romance, a slayer-esqe heroine with mystical powers, a seer, a handsome king, and an evil queen.

    or

    Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the ancient world – minus the vampires.

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  43. Keeping my lunch down.

    Seriously, I once had the opportunity to pitch my best ever comic script to Jim Lee whilst drinking expensive tequila with my comic guru friend Mike (who's responsible for introducing me to Stuart, but I've forgiven him). Instead I quietly excused myself and left. To this day I don't know why, but pathological shyness may well have something to do with it.

    But if you really want to know what I'm working on at the moment, it's a nameless crime novel about a detective who can see ghosts and a vagrant who wanders the streets of Edinburgh in search of his soul.

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  44. James, I'd read that one for the streets of Edinburgh alone. :) I love the place, Auld Reekie and Stockholm are my two favourite cities.

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  45. A dark fantasy novel about a crippled dancer who makes a blood pact with a serial killer to destroy a demon king.

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  46. Of course, the next thing she* would say would be, "Cute. But what's it really about?" Then I'll use my remaining 21 words:

    "A journalist torn between imperialistic aliens and fundamentalist politicians seeks the truth while trying to keep himself and his family safe."

    "Huh? What's that got to do with Animal Farm in space?"

    And now we have a conversation.

    *Merrilee Haifetz, my dream agent

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  47. Where I get into trouble is impulse overwhelming reason, and I say, "Trying to finger a f***ing F chord! Why did I take up guitar?"

    Much sought after agent gets up and flags down Ken Bruen, hoping to lure him away from his agent.

    I sit there asking the bartender for the bottle.

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  48. Pornography, football hooligans, torture and bondage. It's all touchy-feely family fun.

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  49. Okay, my response to the exercise:

    "Selling some books. What are you looking for?"

    My approach is to try to get the agent/editor talking about what they want first. If what I've got fits into his ball park, I can then pitch, i.e.:

    Much Sought-After: "I'd really like to see some more vampire fiction."

    Me: "I've got a dark fantasy novel where the humans are the monsters and the vampires are the victims. Want to take a look?"

    If what I've got ready doesn't fit his needs, I don't have to watch his eyes glaze over as I talk about a book they're not going to want. I might instead recommend a writer friend who is writing something more suitable.

    If this guy takes offense at the direct approach, I know we won't be a good working match, so that works in my favor, too.

    Disclaimer: this is my approach; it won't work for everyone.

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  50. Stuart, I so can't wait for that book. Torture and bondage *drool*

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  51. Sheila, your approach makes a lot of sense. Especially since I'm working on (currently) four very different works--the one I think to pitch might not be the one he/she is interested in while one of the others might be perfect.

    Again, thanks for the insight.

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  52. But my Red doesn't seem to mind being eaten by the big, bad Wolfe.

    And I can't wait to read it. But why didn't you pitch PInky *ggg*

    Ok Ok my pitch. I'm working on a chick lit novel about a biracial adoptee who finds her birth mother. It's really funny. Honest. =)

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  53. Telepathic, vampiric kinkajous. *-*

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  54. Garnigal2:42 PM

    It's a coming of age fantasy novel, aimed at the YA market. And yes, it's probably a total Harry Potter ripoff.

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  55. Jim, yeah, I know the whole F cord thing can be traumatic; but I never had trouble with barre cords. Go figure.
    Story from the guitar's point of view: Anger at the ham handed guitar player's inability to capture the emotions of the moment, kills the player (broken string through the eye?), then searches the universe for a chick that likes to play naked.

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