I’m an indie author. And one thing I’ve learned, after pitching directly to agents at a writers conference, is that beauty is in the eye of the market.
SPOILER ALERT: Be careful of writing for your ideal reader, aka yourself, you may not be the average bear.
Standing in line waiting to pitch a novel at a writers conference to agents is nerve-wracking. Authors are given three minutes. Go overtime and someone hauls you off… but no pressure.
It’s not life-threatening in the same way as being mortally judged by an Egyptian monster that devours your soul if your manuscript weighs heavier than the feather of truth. Marketing favors the moment, and the moment is aligned to the ‘same-but-different’ latest bestseller genre. Your story fits or it doesn’t. Publishing calendars take no prisoners. You can roll with the punches (I mean ride the waves) and live to write another day.
But be forewarned, in a world based on language skills, one misspoken word has the power to sever a writer’s confidence from his sanity. Here are four killer words: paranormal, fantasy, historical, and literary. Once out, these words flap valiantly to be understood for all their nuances yet writhe beached on the shore, dead as beached whales.
CASE IN POINT… I deliberately booked six formal pitches to agents, back-to-back for momentum at a recent writers conference.
AGENT ONE: “Hello,” I say after introducing myself by name. “My book ‘The Unthinkable Shoes’ is paranormal history.” Ms. Agent looks up from my first page and vehemently declares “This is literary fiction!” in an accusatory tone. I am so busted.
AGENT TWO: “Hello,” I say, introducing myself by name. “My book ‘The Unthinkable Shoes’ is literary fiction.” Mr. Agent looks up from my first page, shakes his head, and vehemently declares in an exasperated tone, “Why on earth would you want to alienate 90% of your potential readers! Market this as historical fantasy.”
AGENT THREE: “Hello,” I say, introducing myself by name. “My book ‘The Unthinkable Shoes’ is historical fantasy.” Mr. Agent looks up from my first page and vehemently declares “This is paranormal fiction!” in an affronted tone. “If it’s paranormal you have to say so!”
AGENT FOUR: “Hello,” I say, introducing myself by name. “My book ‘The Unthinkable Shoes’ is about a ghost boy from the Titanic.” Mr. Agent looks up from my first page and blinks myopically. “What’s the genre?” he asks. Cautious now, I reply like Oliver Twist asking for more gruel. “Please sir, I’m not exactly sure.” The comeback is brutal. “If you want to compete with professional authors you have to come prepared. You must know its genre!” I am dismissed – an amateur… a newbie… an emerging author with a debut novel about something they want nothing to do with, and three minutes isn’t enough time for a return comeback. In fact, it’s considered rude to linger with a question after the clock has run out. Apparently it smacks of sounding argumentative to an agent who has been wined, dined, and paid to encourage the hopefuls waiting in line for their master’s voice to say here’s my card. Please send me the first three chapters.
AGENT FIVE: “Hello,” I say, introducing myself by name. “My book ‘The Unthinkable Shoes’ is a paranormal historical fantasy about a ghost boy from the Titanic.” Ms. Agent looks up from my first page, disappointed. “That’s a pity,” she says. “Paranormal historical fantasy isn’t selling right now. Literary fiction is the ticket.”
Whoever said third time lucky was a hopeless romantic. So, I changed hats and brought out a ‘time travel paranormal romance’ to pitch, instead.
AGENT SIX: “Hello,” I say, introducing myself by name. “My book ‘The Indigo Pearl’ is a paranormal romance about a comatose woman savant whose memories are downloaded into an android designed to withstand time travel. When the woman regains consciousness inside a hybrid body, intelligence is no longer artificial.” The words ‘paranormal-romance’ triggers a deafeningly silent ‘wrong answer claxon’ reminiscent of a game show. Mr. Agent sighs in dismay. “No way. Any story containing an android is science-fiction by default.” But,” I splutter, “it’s a fantasy time travel love triangle.”
Is there a way to back-peddle from such gaffs? Not within the minute left of a sink or swim interview. At least in an elevator there’s the option of pressing the emergency stop button and pause time.
The imperfect storm of self-publishing dictates that my own website, as imperfect as it may be, is the only venue under my control where I can freely promote my novels from a virtual sea of books. I send you a few rafts. Please grab hold as a book floats by with a pitch that catches your imagination.
SO, HERE GOES… PITCHING INTO THE WIND on a VAST BLUSTERY OCEAN TOSSING and ROLLING (dare I say, ROWLING?) with unsung BOOKS to a captured audience if you stay here awhile.
‘LISABETTA’ – a fictional biographical trilogy of Leonardo da Vinci’s sister
The embittered spirit of the ‘Mona Lisa,’ trapped inside her portrait, escapes from the Louvre and causes havoc in an autistic boy’s worldview in order to be acknowledged for her true identity. *estimated launch date May 1, 2018.
‘WOO WOO – the posthumous love story of Miss Emily Carr’
begins where the historical Emily’s true memoirs end. An eccentric artist and iconic spinster, comes to her senses sixty-seven years after her death and calls down the energy of her animal totem, Woo the monkey, to rekindle the love of a rejected suitor. https://www.amazon.com/Woo-posthumous-love-story-Emily/dp/1481057901
‘THE UNTHINKABLE SHOES’ –An extraordinary love story of reincarnation and sacrifice when two children on board Titanic, who were destined to marry, are separated by death. www.amazon.com/Unthinkable-Shoes-Save-Our-Souls/dp/0993738036
‘I WAS THERE’ – the art of time travel – a poetic stroll through fifteenth-century Florence. https://www.amazon.com/dp/0993738087
‘ADORATION – loving Botticelli’ – a time travel romance
A retired art history professor, haunted for years by a self-portrait of the artist Sandro Botticelli, is lured into one of his masterpieces to consummate their romantic longings for each other five-hundred-years in the past.
‘THE INDIGO PEARL’ and ‘PEARL BY PEARL’ An autistic female savant trapped in an extended near-death experience reincarnates too soon. When the memories of a comatose woman, able to converse telepathically with paintings, are downloaded into a hybrid android designed to withstand time travel, a conflict of interests ensues. And after the woman regains consciousness inside a hybrid body, intelligence is no longer artificial.
But the reluctant android, has its own agenda – to destroy its creators. As the woman regains control over her mind, the sentient android evolves organically, and when the two lifeforms meet halfway, they become rivals with a singular purpose, competing for the love of a young man in a 500-year-old portrait. Neither can win his affections without the unique abilities of the other. As the love triangle plays out, one female must eventually supplant the other. Who will prevail?
Ultimately, will it take two lives to make one woman?
‘TWINTER – the first portal’ – a time-slip adventure for ages ten to grandmother.
book one of ‘The Bede Series’ – Bede Hall is an abandoned stately home, and it’s desperate. It must rally its dispersed family before being sold to developers. Its youngest residents, a pair of telepathic teenage twins, must rescue a girl lost in time whose apparition has haunted the estate for generations. But rescue only opens a time portal that reveals terrible secrets. BEDE HALL IS ALIVE, BUT ALL IS NOT WELL.
‘TIME FALLS LIKE SNOW’ – book two of the ‘Bede Series’
‘DOWNTON ABBEY MEETS NARNIA’ It falls to Bede Hall’s time corridors, the Great Sphinx of Egypt, the rules of twindom, the power of nine, and a team of teenagers, with several otherworldly allies who call themselves the Twinters, to save earth from becoming a ball of blue ice orbiting the sun. The ‘Twinters’ have six years to try in a landscape where history is positively ancestral.
*estimated launch date May, 2018.