Like a Creature Naive and Indued

It’s to be a drowning, then.ophelia02

This morning I opened my inbox to two e-mails from Pitch Wars coaches. One was a straight-across not-for-me from coach Nazarea, which is of course fine. Each to their own taste. The second was this considerate and constructive piece of feedback from coach Sharon (my wild-card, if you recall):

Hi,
 
Thank you so much for submitting to me. I thought the premise sounded cool, but the pitch lacked a bit if substance for me. This is classified as NA Light Fantasy, but no where in the pitch does it give me any clue as to what the fantasy elements are. That’s important. I also found the numbering in the prologue confusing. There’s also some errors – incorrect dialogue formatting (dfdds,” He said – should be a little ‘h'”for example) and you should have it more polished than this for a query.
 
I thought I would let you know that Entangled are looking for NA submissions and you might want to consider pitching to them after you’ve done some revision on your query pitch and manuscript.
 
I wish you all the best.
 
Sharon


My main struggle writing my pitch was to make it clear that it was fantasy, without giving away the entire story as the fantasy elements come into play late in the narrative. I had hoped the Pied Piper reference would help with that, but I agree that the pitch was a bit light and generic. Longtime readers will know that I cannot punctuate dialogue correctly, even with a style guide right by my side. Pretty bad, considering how much dialogue I write. I need an in-person lesson so I can ask all my questions. I appreciated Sharon’s suggestion of a publisher seeking submissions, and when I asked her permission to post her e-mail she offered to promote the entry on her Twitter. What a nice lady. I have good instincts.


What I did not have was an e-mail from my first choice coach, Summer. I still don’t. Optimistically, I hoped that this meant she had chosen me so I went over to Brenda Lee Drake’s website to check out the list of announced teams. No dice.


So what did I do after I discovered all of this? I thanked both coaches for their feedback. I thought about my manuscript and the contest. I knew when I wrote The Grove that it would be a hard sell. It takes some familiar story elements and make different choices with them. It is not straight up fantasy, and some of the choices I made in the plot are not what the average YA reader might expect, or what the average YA/NA publisher would be comfortable publishing. It doesn’t vomit all of the characters and the plot up in the first five pages, which is what bombarded agents and editors will look at to decide whether or not they give the whole thing a shot.


What I did not do: cry, yell, throw things, delete my manuscript, or look into getting a job in a cubicle.


After thinking about my manuscript, what I liked about it and what made it unique, I thought about what it had in common with other books I had read recently. Ones I had really enjoyed. Then I thought about who had written those books, and I looked up who had published them. This was my list:


Little, Brown
Knopf
Flux
Dutton
Scholastic


One or two of those publishers are the kind one doesn’t really get a crack at without proven success (Scholastic). The others are smaller or newer houses that take risks with their YA and NA. Some have given opportunities to high-concept novels, or those with challenging themes or non-traditional formats. You won’t find me submitting to Stephanie Perkins’ agent (though I have enjoyed her books)!


I also thought about Createspace, and using my free copies as a NaNoWriMo winner to get my book published and out to readers. I have a feeling that what it needs most is good word-of-mouth.  It is entirely possible to get copies printed up and send them out to other book bloggers and my teenaged/new adult relatives to pass amongst their friends, selling them via PayPal here on Ink and at our local indie bookstores. One of the blessings of non-traditional publishing is not having a committee suggesting that you change characters’s names because of other popular books, or tone down events to make them more palatable to a wide audience.


I wrote the book I wanted to read. When I was editing, I still wanted to read it (it was kind of a problem, I would forget I was editing and just start reading along). I still believe that there are other readers out there like me who will want to read it. There is a vacancy in the market for a book like mine: one that starts with a failure and ends with a tragedy but smiles the whole way there,  and I will find a way to get it to those who can relate.
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3 responses to “Like a Creature Naive and Indued

  1. I’m a bit confused on this…were you supposed to deliver a pitch or a query? (Also, I’ll help you work on both, just so you have all bases covered. I still think you should query Sarah Davies. Great. Agent.)

    Really, it’s all a matter of getting your manuscript into the right hands.

    • I will have to Google Sarah Davies. In our entries we sent a query letter and the first five pages of our manuscripts. The next round was polishing to query agents with an end-goal of publication.

  2. The fact that an agent took the time to give you such detailed feedback is a really great sign! Don’t stop now! I’m glad to see that you are continuing to send Grove around. I think it’s a matter of finding the right fit for it.
    As for dialogue, I’ve said this before, and I meant it. The dialogue rings true, and that’s the hardest part to get right! The apostrophes and commas and periods are a hassle but in the end they can be mastered much more easily than learning to make characters talk. 🙂
    Hang in there! You are truly inspiring to me.

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