Dec 8, 2011

Pitch Imperfect

Ah, my lovelies, I am a bad blogger. I mean, certainly, I've been busy with good reason, but more about that in a moment.

Was invited to a special thing last night that I couldn't really talk much about until afterwards - CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing held a really fun event which they called "Pitch 2.0". A fair subtitle might have been "Talking Yourself Up in the New Age of Publishing." About 100+ people were in attendance (I'm terrible at judging official counts of crowds, by the way. As far as I can tell, once there's more than 25 people, I need someone else to give me numbers. Just saying, don't ask me to be the advance scout for your invading armies, I'll never provide accurate intel on the enemy troop count.), most of which were indie authors working with CS and KDP for the self-publishing (present or future) of their books.

It was held up in the SAAM (the Seattle Asian Art Museum), which I will be returning to soon as one of the locations for my next series. I had some time to kill prior to the event, so I got the chance to peruse. Very peaceful. I hung out and did some reading on my new Kindle Fire (This is not abject product placement, I bought it myself and LOVE IT. Do not judge me.) while I waited and watched the crowd gather.

After they let us all in, we got some tasty noms and milled about. I took a few minutes to people watch. I love the strange way a room filled with relative strangers will eventually begin to coagulate. Little snippets of conversation weave their way through the audible haze and I had to stop myself from smiling like a loon. I really do love people. I don't even know why I own a TV, I should just go hang around groups of strangers and that would be all I'd need. And I don't mean that in a bad way. I'm literally just fascinated by people I do not know. Almost as much as I'm fascinated by those I DO know. I'm a weird person. Good thing you like me, or you'd probably try to have me committed.

After our free range time, we found ourselves - quite by magic - in one of the SAAM's lower auditoriums and got to meet our hosts for the evening's event. We had a rousing little intro (and thank you, Thom, for NOT doing the "I can't hear you!" follow up to asking if we're all having a good night. That can be easily overdone. Just saying. Maybe next time?) which led into a panel led by Jeff Ayers. Joel Friedlander, Jason Black and the brilliant Alan Rinzler headed up the panel. I have serious hair and scarf envy for Alan. I feel perfectly comfortable in that confession.

So now we began the meat of the night: Pitch 2.0.

This whole event began quickly feeling like an echo of my subconscious. It was like a dream I had where I'd left a really brutal and torturous party by fleeing into an alternate dimension in which everyone had cool goatees and ... er. Wait, that's the wrong dream. What I MEANT to say was that it was that they were saying all the things I've been enjoying about the self-publishing paradyme shift over the past couple of years in which I've been exploring it.

One of them mentioned the sense self-published authors had not too far back where they felt as if they needed to somehow gloss over the fact of their self-publishedness for fear of being treated like self-indulgent and delusionally frolicking lepers. I'm going to pause a moment to reflect upon the image I just conjured up there.


Okay, moving on.

They also talked about the key logic behind making a pitch - then and now. Before, a pitch was all about talking to an agent, a publisher. "Please buy my manuscript. Please? Pretty please?" Always, with a sense of begging them from a position of inferiority. As if they alone governed our destiny. You know, laying it out there like that... it just makes me want to stir up a revolution. The RIAA made me annoyed enough, but... okay, putting the pitchfork (heh. See what I did there?) down and going back on topic.

Nowadays, though, the pitch is a far broader tool for authors. Thanks to social media (The Rule: Be Present), a more observable level of access between readers and writers, and the more expidited turnaround time for publication, it just makes sense to have a better feel for one's books. As authors, it's essential now to have that skill to discuss your work with the people who may - unbelievable, I know! - just happen to decide to pick up a copy of your book and give it a read. I remember a musician I worked with many years back who confided in me that he loved playing live, but hated the crowds. "Sometimes, they applaud loud enough, but when they don't, I just hate them." I asked him if they'd ever found a proper diagnosis for his condition.

Because, honestly, what the what?

If you don't like talking to people, then tell you what. Accept the process of Pitching 1.0. Keep writing, and keep submitting your books up to publishers, and that's fine. Perhaps you'll be picked up by an agent or a publisher, and that's all well and good. But, me? Well, I love the whole talking to people part. So much fun. And maybe since I haven't set out to write the Great American Novel. I mean, don't get me wrong, that's a great goal, but I know myself well enough to remain delightfully unclouded by the tendrils of self-delusion. I like to write enjoyable (and occasionally thought-provoking) fiction, and I'm fine with that. Presently, the part I enjoy most is introducing people to my books (oh, and speaking of which.... Ta Da!) and talking with other authors about their books. It's really a pretty amazing time to be an artist in general, isn't it? No, it's okay, you can dance that jig now that you were thinking about.

Oh, so after their panel, we had about an hour with Jon Fine from Amazon. Solid chap, that man. Made some great observations and challenging declarations about the democratization of publishing. Sometimes, I feel like perhaps I'm too jaded from so many years dwelling deep in the bowels of corporate America, but I keep forgetting how many forward-thinking corporations there really ARE out there. And, no, I don't believe they're purely altruistic. I suspect they realize that right now is a very good time to get on the side of the middle class majority, or, in this case, get all the THOUSANDS of independent authors already working with Amazon squarely on their side. Smart business sense. Something the RIAA really should have learned. (okay, I'll stop peeing on that corpse now.)

After Jon's message, we broke up and practiced pitching with a fwe editors who volunteered their time to come hang out and offer feedback.

I'm typically pretty comfortable in my delivery, but to be perfectly honest the idea of pitching one's book to a person who will instantly offer positive and nega - - er, I mean constructive - - criticism in front of a small group of peers.... well, it kind of felt like having your mother in law show up in the bedroom and provide a running commentary.

"Oh, dear, your father isn't like that with me at all, he's far more tender and... okay, I don't understand what you're doing with that there. I think it will work better if you move your hips like this..."

* shiver *

Okay, maybe not like that, but it was certainly one of more jarring experiences I've had since college. And I think perhaps that's why I appreciated the evening so much. Ideas for improving my pitches rushed the stage. It was intoxicating.

And on that note, I need to get back to work. What with six books - - did I mention that "The Crook and the Blade" is now available? Too much self-promotion? Hmm? Heh. - - being out, I'm only taking a few moments for my Snoopy Dance before I get back to managing the marketing and continue to prep for the next few books on my plate.

Oh, and have you jumped over to Smashwords lately? Book one, Reaper's Return, is still there and remains a free ebook download.

What if Death wore a pretty black dress?

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