The first time I came to the PNWA Conference I was by myself, staying as a guest in the man cave of a friend’s house and commuting to the conference hotel by bus. I got to the event early and stayed all day, rumbled home on uneven roads, and zonked out until it was time to repeat the process in the morning. The next year I came with my sweetheart in tow, who was 9 months pregnant at the time, so I ducked out often to grab a meal with her or check in. This year I’ve got a family with me, meaning that I’m attempting to cram baby watching time in with networking, going to panels, and pitching stories to industry folks. Now that exhaustion from two years ago seems tame in comparison.
Also, this is the first year I’ve attended the conference as a published author. That’s pretty rad. Even still, my self-pessimistic nature continues to knock at my mind’s door. Oh, look at your puny stack of one book. And you call yourself a writer?
I’ve written before about how I’ve sent my inner critic away on a permanent vacation. Sometimes it pops back for a rendezvous with the rest of my thoughts, and I have to shoo it away again. Yesterday it tried to set its suitcases down and I handed it a ticket to Argentina. Go see the llamas and glaciers, I said. It slumped off, pissed and dejected.
The editor’s session at yesterday’s PNWA was instructive, as always. In the room were:
- Melissa Manlove, Chronicle Books–Looking for children’s books and picture books.
- Renda Dodge, Pink Fish Press and Line Zero–Looking for literature as art, taking on novel length fiction and memoir, and quarterly submission to literary magazine.
- Tom Colgan, Berkeley at Penguin–Looking for boy’s books: military fiction, thrillers.
- Tracy Bernstein, New American Library at Penguin–Looking for adult fiction and non-fiction (mainly memoir).
- Meghan Stephenson, Hudson St. Books and Plume at Penguin–Looking for how-to books, social sciences, expert non-fiction.
- Peter Lynch, Sourcebooks–Looking for adult fiction and non-fiction.
- Lynn Price, Behler Publications–Looking for memoir and biography, stories about overcoming problems and personal growth.
- Tim Schulte, Variance Publishing–Looking for genre fiction of all kinds.
- Diane Gedymin, Turner Publishing–Looking for category breakers and concept books.
- J. Ellen Smith, Champagne Books–Looking for sex. Sex books, she means. She did not solicit the audience.
Some of the DOs and DON’Ts of pitching them:
Don’t say anything extraneous, just give us the story.
Show as much of the conflict and characters as possible in the pitch.
Try not to be so nervous.
Don’t give them the genre, and don’t compare your book to the extreme best sellers in the category.
Research what they’re looking for so you can pitch the right story to the right editor.
Leave room at the end for the editor to respond (for 3-minute pitches at the conference).