Pitching for a Happy Ending

I’ve often felt a need to fit in. Even though I think outsiders are cooler than insiders and people who don’t fit the mold are way more interesting. In book publishing, there’s a similar need for books to fit in their genre, on their assigned shelves, with others like them. Novels must be categorized in some logical, systematic way, in a seeming disregard for the creative process that produced them. It’s tragic.

So. Not only do I have to try to fit in at work (I can’t watch Dancing with the Stars, just can’t do it) but now I have to find where my novel fits in, in order to market it best to an agent. Which recently led me to a conference held by the New England Chapter of the Romance Writers of America. My book is most definitely a love story. Could I find my book’s genre home, there among other writers of love stories?

Not to give this conference a plug here… but I will. The NECRWA conference was smoothly organized and the workshop sessions were informative and entertaining. Romance writers rock. They’re upbeat, optimistic, and welcoming of all kinds of subgenres. Where else could I join a conversation where someone who writes erotica discussed plot structure with a writer of Christian fiction, as someone whose novel is about Civil War ghosts chimed in? Dystopia and 17th Century France found common ground talking about character development. With everyone writing about love and focused on that HEA (Happily Ever After) ending, how could there be disagreement about anything?

My big personal triumph came during the agent pitch sessions. On Day 1 of the conference, agents graciously gave of their time for practice sessions. My one practice attempt went like this:

Me: Hi, I’m Kat Gibson, and my novel The Water Soldier is the story of a socialite and a soldier who are forced to choose between their causes and each other in the turmoil of war.” [Yes, that’s real. And really bad, yeah?]

Agent: So, a pitch is what helps sell the book. It’s what I would use to try and sell your book. Did you know that?

Me: So that’s a No, right?

I left, dejected, and went right into a workshop session on How to Pitch Your Book. I was the intense one in the back filling up a notepad with desperate scribbles. Tropes, in romance marketing, are good. I pestered my new friends about pitching – Does this sound better, or this? One suggested adding the “meet cute” into the pitch. (That’s the scene when the two lovers first meet.) That night, I composed a new pitch. It had a trope (a story of “forbidden love”) and mentions the meet cute moment.

Day 2 of the conference was the “real” pitch sessions, where agents might ask to see more. I was all ready with my newly-memorized pitch. I got this, I thought. Until I realized I had to pitch again to the same agent I’d practiced on the day before. Pitch Humiliation. Take 2.

Me: Hi, you might recall me from yesterday. I’d like to try again.

Agent: Why not? Go ahead.

Me: My novel The Water Soldier is the story of forbidden love between a Silmarian socialite and a Perraedian soldier who are on opposing sides in a war and meet by chance when he spares her life in the violent invasion of her family home. [Maybe not great, but better. I was happy to earn the Most Improved award at the school sports banquet, okay? I worked for that.]

Agent: Much better! Good for you! I’d read more of that.

She said many other nice and helpful things, as did the next agent I pitched to, but it was hard to hear over the Hallelujah Chorus exploding in my head. Success!

My point is, marketing requires books to be categorized. Finding the right genre, to find the right agent, is important enough that a little exploration can pay off. I learned a lot. I met some awesome writers and agents. Did this all lead to an agent for me and my book? Stay tuned. Sorry for the cliffhanger, but fingers crossed for that HEA.

4 comments

  1. Deborah Good

    Include the meet cute. Hm. Makes sense. That moment usually encapsulates the primary conflict in the story. Good post, Kat!

  2. Kat-Great post. Good for you for trying something new and going to the romance writers conference. Writing is about taking chances and putting yourself out there. I certainly feel your pain about forcing yourself into a genre, but it sounds like you might have found a good niche for yourself. I am still not quite comfortable in the niche in which I currently sit (“erotic thriller”). It certainly encapsulates some of my story while leaving out other audiences.
    And for the record, I love “Dancing with the Stars!” Why can’t you watch it and not tell anyone?
    Good luck with the agent search.

    • Kat Gibson

      Thanks, Deborah and Belle. Write on!

      Didn’t mean to dis Dancing with the Stars, sorry. My coworkers love it, too. I could be a part of the office conversation if I watched, but it’s just not my cup of tea, I’m afraid. Would love to be able to dance like that, though!

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