Writers often ask me when in the life of a book it would be best to work with a book coach or professional editor. Given a limited budget (which most of us have), what makes the most sense? My answer is that there are two key times:
1. Before you write the first word. Using a coach or editor to help you organize your book, focus it, structure it and plan the project can mean the difference between a book that hits the mark and book that ends up being a bunch of random pages that go nowhere.
This doesn’t do a writer at the pitch stage any good, of course, but I’m bringing it up because it’s part of my answer. The other part concerns us now since we’re talking about how to know when you’re ready to pitch….
2. Right before you pitch. Using a book coach to make sure that you are sending in your best work can mean the difference between getting a yes from an agent and getting a pile of rejections. Agents are highly trained book-assessing machines and they are excellent at their jobs. Within just a few pages or even paragraphs, they will make their judgment about your book. Taking the time to make everything perfect for the pitch is a smart investment in your career.
As a corollary to #2, I would also recommend getting professional editing on your pitch if you have already started to pitch and are finding that it’s not going well. Perhaps you’ve sent out 5 or 10 queries and gotten nothing in return, or nothing but form rejections. It would be wise to stop and consider why before burning more agent bridges. I can tell you that in my seven years as a book coach, I have had many dozens of writers come to me for a Rejection Audit – which is a service I offer to help people figure out why their work is being rejected – and I have almost never been baffled or confused. The problem with the pitch is usually painfully obvious. (The baffled and confused part is when a writer has done everything really beautifully and still the agents don’t bite. It happens, but it's very rare…)
I wanted to take a moment to highlight common problems in pitching that a coach can help you avoid in the query and synopsis:
- Issues with query length (often too long) and tone (often too apologetic or obsequious.)
- Vagueness in describing what happens (failure to paint a picture.)
- Vagueness in describing why anyone would care (too much of the what of your story and not enough of the so what?)
- Problems with genre descriptions or competitive tiles (confused genres, odd choice of competitive titles.)
- Lack of market research in terms of which agents to pitch (sending to agents who aren’t taking new clients, don’t represent your genre, and other problems.)
And here are some of the problems that a coach can help you avoid in the pages
- A slow start (too much backstory or the dreaded info dump.)
- Problems with tense (mixing present and past tense) and point of view (head-hopping or other POV confusion.)
- Problems with chronology (the reader is unclear where they are in time or space.)
- Problems with story logic (the world of the story doesn’t hang together.)
Finally, one of the best things a book coach or editor can do is stop you if you really aren’t ready to pitch. They can gently say, “You’re not quite ready,” and give you some guidance on what to do to get to that point. It doesn’t serve anyone for us to be dishonest, so you can trust us to give our straightforward assessment. Going to a professional, in other words, is the final check you need before you confidently go take your pitch to the world.
In Author Accelerator’s upcoming Pitch Track – which starts on April 25th – we teach you everything you need to learn how to develop the perfect pitch. Applications close on April 16th, so if you’re ready for this final stage of pitch prep, check it out here: The Pitch Track. We'd love to help you get your pitch ready.
If you missed the live webinar event I did yesterday where I did live edits on queries for TWO hours (!), you can check out the recording HERE.