Cindy Woodsmall is an author, wife, and mother of three sons. Her first novel released in 2006 to much acclaim, including a Reviewer’s Choice Award from the Road to Romance website, an ECPA Christian Book of the Year finalist, and became a CBA bestseller. When the Morning Comes is a continuation of the lives of dearly loved characters from the best-selling novel and 2007 ECPA Finalist When the Heart Cries. Her real-life connections with Plain Mennonite and Old Order Amish families enrich her novels with authenticity. Cindy lives in Georgia with her husband of twenty-nine years and the youngest of their three sons.
Favorite Verse: Ephesians 3:16 "I pray that he would give you, according to his glorious riches, strength in your inner being and power through his Spirit in the inward man . . .
Pitching Your Story: by Cindy Woodsmall
Hello, fellow writers!
Let’s talk about pitching your story to an editor or agent.
I’m hoping some of what I’ve learned along my writing journey will help prepare you for your face-to-face interview with an editor, whether you’re a novice or just need a different perspective on an old subject.
First, remember, the editors want to hear your pitch. They are at the conference hoping to find a well-written, fascinating story by a new or already been published writer.
1. Have a one line summary. For When the Heart Cries:
"Innocent willfulness, a traumatic event, and a community that is misled rends a young Amish woman from her family, her fiancé, and her faith in God.
(That’s not what I said word for word because the one-liner I used for editors is a spoiler to the novel.)
2. Bring a few chapters of your work with you. An editor is probably never going to take any part of it with them, but some editors want to skim the work during the interview. 3. Have your pitch polished. Sit in a chair and imagine the editor in front of you and recite your pitch over and over again. If you need to, put a few memory joggers on an index card. 4. Practice not prattling. If you prattle, you’ve dulled their hearing. Make every word count. So, remember:
· You will have a hundred thousand thoughts zipping through your head the whole time you’re talking with an editor. Make yourself stick to the real purpose: sharing your work in a skillful way.
· Keep the conversation orderly, covering issues that will help them understand your work and your ability to write this story. They don’t know anything about your story so cover all the basics.
Okay, let’s go through the actual steps
· Introduce yourself and keep the niceties brief.
Hi, my name is Cindy Woodsmall. I’ve been looking forward to meeting you. I’ve studied what your house publishes and I think my work may be a good fit.
· Take a minute to clarify various points any editor will want to know. Tell them what you write.
I write Women’s Fiction/Romance based on contemporary Amish life. The story’s setting begins approximately in the year 2005 with a seventeen-year-old Amish girl. · If you follow that pattern, you’ve clarified your genre, main setting, and narrowed the terms of contemporary or historical to a more specific timeframe. All of these things pull the editor into your story world and keeps them from having umpteen questions about your story run through their head while you pitch.
· Give the acquisitions editor or agent a concrete image they can connect with.
It’s often suggested at our conferences to compare the story being pitched to a well-known movie or book. When you’re finished writing your work, then brainstorm with someone to come up with two or three movies or books that have the same sense of purpose.
I said: this story has hints of The Witness meets The Scarlet letter. My novel only has a vaporous, shadowy feel of those works, and I never thought of those works while writing my story. But the comparison fit because When the Heart Cries has a bit of suspenseful malice mixed with the ways of the Puritans. · Peak their interest by telling them why you’re qualified to write this book.
I began writing seven years ago. In addition to taking writing classes, attending every ACFW conference and two Mount Hermon conferences, and diligently studying the craft of writing fiction, I have been working with a freelance editor/mentor on a regular basis for the past two and a half years.
The seeds of this story were planted as I grew up in Maryland, where I was best friends with a Beachy Amish Mennonite girl. As part of my research, I have interviewed several Amish families within their homes. I even had the privilege of spending time during two summers in the home of an Old Order Amish family, witnessing first hand how they cope and thrive in modern times while rooted to the Old Ways. The matriarch of that family, a forty-six-year-old woman named Miriam, graciously continues to work with me on this project.
· The above sounds so clear and easy and if you’re anything like me, you may be wondering what you’ll possibly say for that part, but if you brainstorm on it for a while, I’ll bet you’ll discover things that qualify you that you hadn’t realized.
· You’re ready to pitch the actual story, and now that the editor understands enough information leading up to story, they can stay focused on what you’re saying, yet it only took a couple minutes to prepare them.
| To get ready to share your story as succinctly and clearly as possible, try breaking your story into thirds:|
first, middle, and conclusion. Then write one or two paragraphs for each section of your WIP. You may need three or four paragraphs for the middle section, which is generally the longest. This process will be easier if you’ve written a synopsis. Generally speaking, a pitch needs to be half the length of time allotted for the interview or less. So, if the interview is 15 minutes long, a seven minute pitch is the longest you want to talk and the clock began the moment you introduced yourself. Part of your aim is to allow time for the editor to ask questions, share their thoughts, or maybe read over a page or two of your work.
If they ask you to send a proposal or a full, remain calm and professional as you shake their hand, thank him/her, and say good bye. If they say it doesn’t sound like something they’re looking for, shake their hand, thank them, say good bye AND remember, those words have been heard by every author.
I hope for the very best for every aspiring author out there. There is a reader somewhere who needs to hear your story—maybe lots of readersJ!