Is that you don’t talk about being out on pitch! And when you’ve spent so long writing and editing and rewriting and (maybe) getting an agent and then rewriting again it’s quite jarring to all of a sudden have to sit back and just… wait.
In traditional publishing, being ‘out on pitch’ is when your agent has sent your manuscript to the publisher/s they believe it is best suited for and is awaiting a reply. I asked my agent Danielle Binks at Jacinta Di Mase for her thoughts on the process:
“The first thing to know is that your agent feels every high and low that you do, and just as fiercely (if not more so during pitch-period, because we’re living it in real-time and copping all the unfiltered feedback that we may shield our authors from, just *a little*). As your agent, we’re in your corner X1000 – we back you, we want the best for you, and when we put you out on pitch, we’re essentially saying to a whole bunch of editors; “Hey, this story matters to me and I really want you to see what I do and love it too!” It’s honestly like putting your favourite book into a friend’s hands, and hoping they just get why it’s so important to you.
I did hear from another agent once, that when a publisher rejects one of their client’s manuscripts they hate that house with the fire of a thousand suns. They have the worst taste. They know NOTHING. They will RUE. THE. DAY. they rejected … until, of course, the next manuscript has to go out on pitch and then we all wear our hearts on our sleeves again, and hand over the stories that we love, to the editors we admire, in the hopes that they love them too.
Look, pitching is a painfully imperfect process sometimes. We don’t know what’s going on behind-the-scenes (maybe the publisher just signed a Steampunk Fairy-Tale retelling of Snow White set in Space, right when I send them a pitch for a Cyberpunk Fairy-Tale retelling of Cinderella set in Space …) It’s a process that requires everyone go out on a limb. And very rarely is a manuscript turned down because it’s outright BAD (if that was the case, you wouldn’t have an agent in the first place). There’s just a whole lot of factors that go into a publisher saying YES! and most of it hinges on a story appealing to a whole lot of disparate people in the office, enough for them to all agree that your’s is the story they want to give money and time to, take a chance on and turn into a book.
It’s always a long-shot. It is always a gamble. And you take the wins when you get them and ride high for a good while after … and then it all starts again (for me, at least!)”
I’m sure every writer’s experience of this part is different, but for me I had to work hard to distract myself so I wasn’t constantly thinking about whether a publisher had read my manuscript yet, what they thought, and if they liked it enough to want to publish it. I swung wildly between thinking my book would find its place, and convincing myself that no reply within a week or two or three meant I definitely wasn’t getting a book deal. Having an agent I trust padded me a little – I knew Danielle knew what she is doing and would keep me updated. She did. But it also felt weird to not be able to talk about the biggest step in my path to publication as it was happening. If I hadn’t known not to talk about it, I would have been on Twitter asking every writer I know how they handled it and what they did to distract themselves. Writing Twitter, especially #LoveOzYA is so nice, I’m sure they would have made me feel much better.
Looking back at the dates, it was only five and a half weeks between going out on pitch and receiving interest from a couple of publishers. It felt at least twice as long. From there we set up a phone call with my first choice to see if we were on the same page (sorry) with the direction of my book. I hadn’t given much thought to this, because I thought I’d be so thrilled to be published I’d agree to anything, but Danielle explained that it has to be a good fit for both parties and of course after that phone call I completely agree. I had a wonderful chat about books, Australian YA, publishing, neurodiversity, representation and Please Don’t Hug Me with Jane Pearson at Text Publishing. In the same way I felt I clicked with Danielle when I first met her, I knew Jane understood and valued the story I wanted to tell and would be easy to work with. She also had some insightful thoughts on how to make my book better. Coming from a journalism background, I am well used to the editing process (slash and burn!) and I was excited to hear the input of someone with so much experience in the industry.
I had a good feeling after the phone call, and my offer came through from Text four days later. I feel very fortunate for how this part has all played out. Writing can be a sometimes isolating path to go down so having Danielle, Jacinta and now Jane on my side feels like a dream come true. I can’t wait to get stuck into the editing process in the new year. Check back in with me then to see if I still feel that way.