The Pitch: It’s a Bitch

Like most writers, I’d rather be writing stories—lost in images, worlds, words, characters and their conflicts—instead of pitching my work.

We’re pitching all the time, aren’t we? We pitch to agents, publishers and readers.  Our query letters are pitches; we develop an “elevator pitch” to answer the question, “What’s your book about?” Then, when our book or story is published, we’re pitching to everybody who can get our work into the world. We pitch to bloggers, book reviewers, sponsors of literary events, podcasters, and even fellow writers who may have a yet unthought-of entity to pitch to. We pitch our damned brains out.

I hate it, and every other writer I know hates it too. We are artists, not salespeople. But it’s a built-in conundrum: Part of what makes us artists is we feel we can express something through craft and resonate with others. We don’t write in a vacuum, we crave that resonance. We want to send beauty and thought and feeling into the world; we think we can do it in a unique way and need others to see it. It’s why we write: to touch others, but ain’t gonna happen without the pitch. Lots of them.

I came to writing late in life and chafe against pitching as much as anybody, but why am I surprised at having to pitch? Haven’t I been doing it all my life?

To begin with, I’m a second-born. For all you non-first borns, you know what that means, don’t you? It means competing for attention from minute-one—to have my picture taken too; be first at the ice cream; to establish my own identity…in short, searching for the spotlight. And how is that done? Strategies vary, but in a world in which we or our writing aren’t ipso facto recognized, (“My oldest’s birthday is September 22nd; Lanny’s is sometime in the summer”), we found a way to do it. Been tap dancing all our lives.

We pitch to the colleges to gain entry; we pitch to professors for an A instead of a B; we pitch to employers to hire us; we pitch to bosses to buy our program; we pitch woo to the opposite sex; we pitch ethics to our kids…it never stops. Then, some day, we’ll be facing the grim reaper. You know what that means, don’t you? About Kubler-Ross? The “bargaining” phase? You got it: Another pitch.

So relax into it. You’re an artist. Get your work out there. Pitch whoever can help do that, then pitch some more. Make your query as good as you can; pitch at conferences; pitch your friends for reviews. But don’t be boorish about it. Stop now and then and exhale, maybe have a drink, kiss your kids or your dog or cat. Don’t let the need to pitch feel so onerous, because friend, if you’re reading this at all, if you got this far in your life, you’re already good at it.

Lanny Larcinese