Out of a Fever Pitch
by Cristina Pippa
“I can make an autobot to generate votes,” a friend’s husband offered.
“Or you can just buy them,” several others informed me. One confessed, “I’m tempted to buy them for you.”
Having my screenplay-turned-novel in the Book Doctors’ Nanowrimo Pitchapalooza meant competing for fan favorite and a consultation with publishing pros (worth $250). The site accepted only one vote per wifi connection, dashing my plans to host get-out-the-vote parties and forcing me to field complaints from family members who couldn’t vote because someone in the house had already done so. I sent so many e-mails to my inner circle and one-time acquaintances (1,387 to be exact) that Gmail revoked my privileges. I rebounded by setting up a Facebook event and tweeting a celebrity who was in a play I stage managed. He didn’t respond. At least I don’t think so. That was only my 55th tweet, just days after I had gotten an “MT” and had to look up the acronym.
Of course I refused offers of autobots and support with a price tag, even once a sixty-vote gap widened and I realized that I would be in second place. I had already gained so much more than 683 votes:
1. The Art of Pitching. Translating a 250-page book into a 250-word pitch compels the writer to focus on the essentials, to illuminate the protagonist’s overarching dilemma and to commit to the most unique and irresistible qualities of the work. It’s also a great way to practice describing what you’re working on without grunting or making faces.
2. The Necessity of Marketing. I’ve never been good at sales. Cases of wine in point, my uncle let me try to sell his Italian imports in Brooklyn while getting my start as a writer, but I couldn’t manage to talk a single restauranteur into sampling the tasty vino. I always worried I was bothering them and offered to come back later. But if you don’t ask (and ask quickly), you probably shall not receive. And if you fall down in a forest without Twitter or Facebook these days, no one is likely to hear you.
3. The Truth Set Me Free. I’m not the one who came up with the idea for a feisty fashionista to join the Women’s Army Corps in the midst of World War II so that she could search for her fiancé overseas. The real life heroine did all that, and then she trusted me with her story. I discovered through those 1,387 e-mails that it was easier for me to advocate for her than for the machinations of my own mind.
4. The Audience Response. We writers spend so much time alone in our story world, imagining how the twists and turns of a plot will affect readers. There’s nothing so gratifying as bouncing a pitch off of hundreds of people and getting a consistent response that they not only want to read the whole novel, but they want it right now. And won’t I just self-publish it so that they can take it to book club next week?
5. Knowing When to Write. I knocked out the first draft of this book during National Novel Writing Month last November. The challenge to string together an average of 1,667 words a day liberated me from fussing over what should be cut and pasted into the scrap pile. That was all left for the rewrite, and my steady progress on it stalled during the contest as I tweeted a star instead of repairing my fifth chapter.
As challenging as it may be to draw attention to our writing, that can easily become another form of procrastination while that next draft awaits. I now turn my focus back to rewrites, because no matter how strong a pitch is or how well we market ourselves, the work itself must deliver.
EDITED BY LB TO ADD: Don’t forget to vote for Cristina’s pitch…or, okay, right, the pitch of your choice…HERE. (Remember, you may need a boost of your own someday, hmm?)