Studio Musings

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Pitch 2.0 - What is it? And how do I make it work for me?

Tomorrow I'll post about troubleshooting beaded snowflakes.

Today, I'm still buzzing from Pitch 2.0.  As dusk settled over Seattle last night, I headed to the Asian Art Museum for this workshop, presented by Createspace and Amazon as "a free event to help authors market their book in the modern age". 

I thought I'd been so clever, arriving early enough to visit the museum itself before the event.   Great idea turned a bit sour as we were all shuffled outside when the museum closed at 5:00, half an hour before the workshop was scheduled to begin.  Luckily, it wasn't raining.  And I wore a hat, and the night sky was a gorgeous shade of ultramarine with those odd silver clouds you sometimes get after dark. All good things.  But what really made the wait fun  was the conversation I struck up with two of the other souls also waiting for the doors to open.

J.L. Oakley, published through Createspace
Janet was there to work on pitching her book, Tree Soldier, available in both paperback and kindle.  The blurb on the beautiful bookmark she handed me reads "A government forestry camp set deep in the mountainous forests of the Pacific Northwest might not seem the likely place to find redemption, but in 1935, Park Hardesty hopes for just that".

Between her eloquence and passion in speaking about her story, set in a CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) camp and the fact that my grandfather was a CCC boy, this book has definitely earned a place on my must read list.  Perfect for holiday travels.  I can't wait for enough time to curl up and read it. 

available in kindle & ppbk
Joel Friedlander is one of those people who is excellent at getting other people to talk.  (Not that I need much help, especially when I'm nervous!)  He looked strangely familiar, but it wasn't until well into our conversation that I realized he writes, one of my favorite blogs, which describes itself quite accurately as "practical advice to help build better books". 

If you are at all interested in self-publishing, you need to check out his blog.  It is an incredible resource.  He's also the author of A Self Publisher's Companion, a compilation and expansion upon many of the themes from his blog.  Turns out he was at Pitch 2.0 as one of the speakers.  Good call Createspace!

And this was all before the doors even opened!

So, what did I learn from the event itself?

Pitch 2.0 refers to the new era of marketing in light of the social media explosion.  You no longer have to have a proven track record, a major tv show, or have starred in the latest hit reality show to build a following.  The internet can level the playing field; if you know how to use it.  

Twitter seems to be the golden child in this arena.  Too bad I'm still fumbling with how to use Twitter correctly.  I'm always afraid my tweets will seem boring or pushy.  If you happen to know of a beader who tweets, let me know.  I'd love to follow them and learn from their example. I'd really love to feel like I've groked the media.  (I may not be able to tweet, but I can at least use geeky slang!)

Blogs and Facebook are also important.  I found it interesting that they seemed to generally place blogs on a slightly lower rung than Tweeting in terms of marketing oneself and one's book.  Good thing I blog primarily because I enjoy it!

Metadata matters.  This is pertinent to all of us who have a presence on the web.  Simply put, people might search forever for the exact information on your blog, web site, in your book, or in your Etsy shop, but never find you if you don't provide the keywords they're looking for.  So don't overlook the tags, blog labels, etc.  (I'm guilty here as well at times.)

Createspace has an ever increasing number of tools to help the independent author publish their book.  Their goal is to make it as easy as possible for you to publish, because when you publish, and they sell your book, they make money.  It's a win-win situation, since there are no set-up fees except the cost for a single proof copy of your book.

If you are published, make use of Amazon's Author Central, available to all authors including those who publish through Createspace.  This reminded me to update (read add) my biography.  Things like that are really hard for me to do - just feels weird writing about myself in the third person.    But I made a stab at it this morning.   I could also choose to link my blog or twitter account so it shows up on my Amazon author page, but I'm hesitant to do so. I think my blog is too wide-ranging. 

And perhaps of even more long term importance, I am starting to gain a wider understanding of the differing roles an editor can play throughout the plotting, design, writing and revision process.

Help with Actual Pitching

Informally, I pitched Freeform Peyote Beading to anyone who asked.  It's an easy way to introduce myself as an author.  But I had also signed up for two rounds of five-minute pitches.  Eight of us had exactly five minutes each (timed) to pitch to one editor, then the editors switched places and we all pitched to a second.  For these, I pitched my fiction; far more of a personal stretch.  The way I see it; if I never try, I'll never learn.

Alan Rinzler, our editor in the first round, asked some great, pointed questions and recommended I visit a developmental editor to firm up my plot ideas.  If only he knew.  Listening to him critique the other presenters was almost more useful than pitching myself.  While he wanted to know how the story ended, and major character development and plot points, he also wanted a clear idea of the underlying message of the book.

It was interesting listening to how much the other presenters improved in the second round of pitches, to author and editor Nathan Everett.  What he wanted was a short blurb telling him who you were, why you wrote this book, the genre, and no more than a two-sentence description summing up the major characters, plot and underlying theme.   Have you ever tried to take a book you've read and condense it down to two sentences?  One you wrote is even worse!

Nathan gave me the clearest idea of the differences between a pitch (stick with the over-arching theme, don't get bogged down in the plot, and don't give away the resolution), a synopsis (a short summary of the entire book, including major plot points and resolution) and the blurb on the back of a book (somewhere between the above two, ending where the conflict begins).  And on a fun note, it turns out I'd met him about a year ago at another author event. 

Curious what I pitched?  Here's what it looked like going into the workshop:

In my retelling of the fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast, Beauregard Lyall Harrison, called Beau by family and close friends, is the youngest son of one of the city’s premiere merchants.  Surrounded by older siblings intent upon their own lives and estranged from his father who blames him for the long ago death of his mother, Beau often feels like an outsider in his otherwise close-knit family.
When a series of disasters strikes his father’s merchant fleet and the family fortune lies in ruins, Beau reluctantly offers the use of the home he’d inherited from his foster parents.  For he’d sworn never to return to the little cottage, nestled in the shadow of a haunted wood ruled by the legendary Beast.
Drawn to the Beast’s castle in a bid to save his father's life, Beau must learn to trust the Beast though he considers her his jailor.  The situation is far more complex than he realizes and only together will they be able to find the means to break the enchantment that holds them both captive.
This morning's rewrite:
For as long as I can remember, I've loved reading fairy tales. But I always find myself asking 'what if'? In my retelling of the classic tale, Beauty and the Beast, I ask what if Beauty was actually Beau?  At the age of nineteen, Beau has already learned that love always comes with a price.  One he is willing to pay when he's forced to seek out the legendary Beast in her haunted wood in a desperate gamble to save his father's life.  Though he considers her his jailor, Beau and the Beast must learn to trust in each other in order to break the enchantment holding them both captive.
What do you think?

As for what am I actually going to do with this story (besides finish it); that's a good question.  Right now my goal is to finish the first draft before the new year, working on it early morning, evenings and weekends as available.  Come January, I plan to tear it apart and put it back together, ripping out anything that doesn't actually add to the story and clean it up enough that I might feel comfortable showing it to critique groups.  Then, we'll see.  

Many kudos to Createspace and Amazon for envisioning this event!

YA steampunk by Ren Cummins
And before I let you go, if you happen to be looking for a book for the teenage girl in your family, you might want to check out Reaper's Return by Ren Cummins, another independent author I had the good fortune to meet last night.

He shared that he wrote the story for his daughter who complained that while she liked Harry Potter, it was all about boys, and Hermoine was just the 'friend'.  So he wrote this for her.   It's described as the start of a Young Adult Steampunk series.  I'll tell you more after I read it (think holidays here).

His kindle editions are priced beautifully- you could buy the whole set for about the same price as one trade paperback volume (fyi you can read kindle on almost any computer; just download the free kindle software.)  But of course, the print book is more fun to hold.


  1. wow! Karen, you're so awesome! Thank you for the plug! Hope you enjoy it!

  2. It was great to meet you at the event Karen, I'm just sorry I missed your pitch. Thanks so much for the link, and your great writeup too. For the record, my opinion is that an author's blog is the best and most important tool in her marketing arsenal. Twitter excels for networking and driving traffic.

  3. Karen, it was indeed a pleasure to meet you and listen to your pitch. As a fan of fairy tales, myself, I found your approach to be an exciting one with lots of potential. Best wishes in getting it finished over the holiday and then doing that all-important rewrite!

  4. Thanks for the clarification Joel. I'm guessing then that the emphasis on Twitter was based on the assumption that everyone already has a blog and a Facebook page.

    And thank you Nathan for your kind words and great suggestions.