This past weekend, you watched a movie that presented a fresh take on the story of beautiful people besieged by evil. You have a friend you know will enjoy the movie, even though he isn’t typically a horror fan. When you meet for your weekly Monday martinis, you try to describe the movie to him. You flounder. You sound increasingly uncertain of yourself as you explain the movie’s premise of Nazi zombies attacking a group of camping med students. You wish your glass wasn’t empty so you would have an excuse to stop talking. Your conclusion is a mumbled, “It’s much better than I make it sound!”
Magnify the feeling you got reading that scenario by a factor of ten and you’ve just experienced what it feels like to bungle your book pitch.
As an indie writer, I stopped thinking about my book pitch when I stopped thinking about writing agent query letters. For some reason, I conflated the idea of representation with the idea that I will need to represent my book. Just because I do not need to officially Pitch My Book, I still need to entice potential readers.
I’m uncomfortable talking about my writing. Sure, I can talk for hours about the craft or about my creative process. Yet, ask me to discuss the content of my work and I clam up. It’s frustrating to know every detail of a story, but to be unable to verbalize it in a way that doesn’t sound confused, stock, or lame. I get panicky, thinking that I better hurry up and say something (anything!) because I’m the author. Not being able to respond adequately makes me flustered. It makes me feel like a fake. Worst of all, it makes my story sound uninteresting. It’s bad alchemy that turns a good story into an embarrassment.
This past weekend, prior to actually watching that movie about Nazi zombies,* I had an hair appointment at my usual salon. My regular stylist is out on maternity leave and my appointment was handled by someone new to the salon and to me. She moved to Austin two months ago to pursue her musical career. She told me that not only is hair more interesting in Austin than it is in Dallas, but also that her neighbors are part of a mariachi band, and she is often awakened by them practicing out on the patio. I told her about the bagpipe player in my neighborhood that practices every Sunday afternoon and we both agreed that her mariachi band trumped my bagpipe player. Then there was a lull before she said, “What do you do?” I said I’m a software developer, which is how I pay my bills, but I knew that was a cheat. After all, she had shared both her vocation (stylist) and her avocation (singer). That’s when I told her that I write.
“Really? That’s neat! What do you write?”
“Have you published anything?”
“I’m in the process of getting my first novel ready.”
“A novel! “
“What’s it about?”
After a pause, I started to tell her. I’m not going to repeat what I said because I would like you to want to read my novel. It is far better than I made it sound.
Publishing is new to me. I’m wearing my novice boots and beginner’s hat. I’m finding sharp edges, hidden passages, and sidewalks that end nowhere even Google Earth can see. I am making mistakes. More importantly, I’m working on my pitch!
*The movie is DEAD SNOW.