20 August 2009

Andy Ross: Good Pitch / Bad Pitch

Andy Ross used to own Cody’s Books in Berkeley. Cody’s is no more. Many people miss the original, historic store on Telegraph, and the more modern store on 4th street, both now closed forever. A few even miss the short-run attempt to establish a Cody’s in downtown San Francisco.

Wishing won’t bring Cody’s back, but Andy Ross continues on in his new role as independent agent to the stars, or anyway to writers of narrative non-fiction, history, politics and current events, science, journalism, and cultural subjects in general.

Recently, Andy wrote a useful essay titled “Good Pitch / Bad Pitch: How to Impress those Jaded Publishers.” In the interest of helping would-be writers get published -- as if -- here are excerpts:

Andy begins: ...It is a tough world out there. And if you aren't a disgraced ex-governor of Alaska, it is pretty hard to get a book contract. So here are some tips and examples of weak and strong pitches to make in your book proposal.

Weak: I am willing to go on an 8 city tour (they probably won't send you, and this indicates that you might have unrealistic expectations. They used to let you travel first class and stay at the Ritz Carlton... expect to go by Greyhound).

Strong: I am willing to schedule an 8 city tour at my expense (any other ideas that include "at my expense" are always popular with publishers).

Weak: This would be a great story on Oprah (Uh-huh. It's also the oldest story in the book. Similarly unrealistic).

Strong: I am sleeping with Oprah's hairdresser. (If you are going to pitch media connections, they should be concrete and have reasonable expectations of results. But don't oversell yourself. They can smell b.s.).

Weak: I am willing to go to book signings at my local bookstore (They know that anyway. And this won't sell books).

Strong: I have arranged presentations with the staff at Google. Steve Jobs loves my book and has agreed to purchase 5,000 copies to give to key employees at Christmas time. They are also interested in purchasing non-verbatim electronic multi-media rights as an (application) for the IPod. (This is too good to be true, so you better get Steve to write a letter to that effect. Publishers love sales outside of bookstores. It is like extra money).

Weak: I will reluctantly agree to be on Fresh Air, schedule permitting. (If you are not going to aggressively flog the product, this will not be well received).

Strong: Film rights for this product have been optioned to Stephen Spielberg (There might be a possibility here, but there are many options out with few movies ever made).

Very Strong: Film Rights have been SOLD to Stephen Spielberg. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are signed up. Currently being filmed on location in Montana. (This pitch doesn't happen very often).

Strong: I am the extremely charismatic and controversial governor of Alaska and vice-presidential candidate. (Don't worry that she is inarticulate, has nothing to say, and can't write).

Almost as strong: I am the extremely charismatic and controversial governor of Alaska who has quit with disgrace and lack of dignity. (Hey, it's all about celebrity).

Weak: My friends loved this book. (Your friends won't tell you the truth).

Strong: My mother is the disgraced former governor of Alaska and she loved this book. My former boyfriend hated this book and will go public and tell tawdry and salacious tales about me. (In this business, there is no such thing as bad publicity).

So much for Andy’s suggestions to writers. If you’d like to read Andy’s full blog, you can point your browser to andyrossagency.wordpress.com


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