I had just sat down to write my weekly Genreality post yesterday afternoon when I was interrupted by a phone call. It was my agent, with what I considered to be good and bad news.
The bad news – the editor from a major US publishing house who had been reading my latest novel, EYES TO SEE, over the weekend had called to say that she was going to pass. This, of course, was disappointing to me. EYES had already sold to the overseas market and I had recently received word that it was going to be used to launch a brand new genre imprint for my publisher there, so I had been hoping that this would be the novel to help me break into this particular publisher here in the US. No dice, unfortunately.
But there was more to the situation, I learned quickly, as my agent went on talking. Apparently the editor had been quite happy with the quality of the work itself. It was just that this particular book (and the two others that make up the trilogy) dealt with a subject that the publisher already has covered by another writer’s work and they didn’t want to double up, so to speak. “What other series proposals could I send them?” the editor wanted to know.
That was the good news – the door was still open if I had something to send them.
Which brings me to the point of my post.
Always be ready with a back-up idea. It doesn’t matter if you are pitching a new novel, pitching a new series, pitching a new feature film idea -whatever. If you’ve been successful enough to get yourself in front of the right individual with the power to bring your career to the next level, be they an editor, an agent, or a producer, then have a backup plan ready to go in case they don’t like your first idea. Being caught flat-footed without one can leave a powerful impression – just not the type of impression you really want to make.
In my case, I usually have between two and four proposals in various stages sitting around on my hard drive. These might be ideas that I’ve put together but haven’t been able to sell before or new concepts that haven’t even seen the light of day yet. In either case, I know I can produce something when requested to and yesterday was no different.
Within an hour of my agent’s request, I had proposals for two news series in his hands ready to go back to the editor in question, illustrating both my desire to work with her and my ability to produce new content on demand. I don’t know yet whether either of those proposals will prove to be fruitful, but I’ve done what I could to make the best use of the opportunity presented to me by furthering the conversation and giving the editor one more reason to work with me.
So for those of you getting ready to pitch something to someone who’s ready to listen, I just have one question for you. What’s your backup idea?