This weekend I attended the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal. It was the first time I have ever pitched a book idea and I had appointments with two different editors. I’ve never considered myself a “real” writer, so it felt a little strange — kind of like trying out for a professional football team when your experience is limited to cheering on the game from the grandstand. It was made sort of easy since I wasn’t emotionally invested in getting published. While one can’t help fantasize about them saying, “Tremendous! Wonderful! Here’s a contract worth eight million dollars!” — at this point I just wanted some feedback on my idea. Being rejected or hearing something negative wasn’t going to hurt my feelings or ruin my life.
As I began to present my idea to the first editor, I was surprised by the passion I felt rise up within me. My carefully rehearsed three-minute spiel seemed to burst into a life of its own — words and ideas I hadn’t planned on sharing popped out at what felt like a frenzied pace. My mind was yelling, “Shut up!” But I kept rambling. I didn’t even make my three key points. I was relieved when the editor cut in and began to give me feedback. I smiled and nodded and took notes. I truly was appreciative. She was kind and helpful.
In the half-hour between appointments I had a good talk with myself about keeping calm. I practiced the three main points that I needed feedback on, which had gotten buried in my first presentation. I also worked in some of the suggestions that editor had made.
When I took a deep breath and launched the pitch with the next editor, it felt calmer and more measured. He was also kind and helpful. However, what he said he wanted to see were the very things I had taken out because the previous editor didn’t like them. And he loved my proposed title, while she suggested I totally rework it. I smiled and nodded and took notes. Again, I truly was appreciative.
I was glad that I had pitched the same idea to two different editors. It was good to be reminded that it’s all very subjective. I liken it to a job interview. You can research and prepare and create a package that presents your knowledge, skills, and abilities, but you can never know if you mesh with their unique expectations and working culture. If you don’t, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you failed, it just wasn’t a good fit.
With a job interview, you rarely get a second chance, but you can pitch a book over and over again. So I’ll redraft parts of my pitch according to the feedback from both editors and fine-tune what I don’t want to change to make it clearer. The pitch is just one small step in the huge process of publishing. I can’t get frozen or decide to bail on the process because I didn’t make a first down, much less a touchdown, my first time on the playing field.
How does this apply to what you are pursuing? Let me know in the comments section.
Excellence is the result of:
caring more than others think is wise,
risking more than others think is safe,
dreaming more than others think is practical, and
expecting more than others think is possible.
(picture from Indulgy.com)