Pitching Your Potential
Writers pursuing publication usually come up against the question, “What have you published in the past?” If they haven’t previously published, they worry nobody will take them seriously; if they have published, they wonder if their books were successful enough to impress anyone. The fact is, the majority of writers don’t have a track record that will make agents and publishers jump out of their seats with excitement.
But lack of track record can be overcome, if you know how to highlight your potential instead. Despite the fact that editors and agents are always looking for writers who make financial sense (i.e. writers with a strong, successful sales history), they are often swayed by an author’s potential more than track record.
In fact, some research shows that people instinctively value potential more than track record, even when it doesn’t make logical sense. Potential is more exciting because it’s an unknown; the sky’s the limit with potential. We’re not limited by history and numbers. This is where our humanness becomes part of the decision-making process. Looking at potential is one of the ways we “go with our gut” in seeking out writers for publication.
So in the absence of an impressive track record, what are some ways you can sell your potential to a publisher or an agent?
1. Be exciting.
Make sure every idea you pitch is unique and compelling. Whether fiction or non-fiction, the strength of the idea itself is the first thing that will herald your potential. Your ideas can’t have the ho-hum ring of “been there, done that.” Your ideas ARE your potential.
2. Have a large bag of tricks.
Always make sure you’re NOT pitching just one project or idea, but you also have a list of your future books, projects and ideas. Let your future potential be apparent in your abundance of ideas, ready when anyone asks, “What else are you doing?”
3. Know how to network.
In almost any field of endeavor these days, proving that you already have social media and networking savvy will help you be perceived as someone with potential. It’s a necessary competency for today and for the future.
4. Let every word shine.
Make sure every piece of writing you show (synopses, proposals, emails, blogs) is stellar. Make people love your writing, love your ideas, love the way you communicate. Make them desperately want to work with you—not because of your track record, but because of what they see right in front of them.
Focus on selling your potential rather than worrying about your lack of track record, and I bet you’ll find the pitching process less stressful and possibly even more effective.
What are the advantages of selling your potential rather than your track record? Does this idea change your thinking about pitching to publishers and agents?