Friday, September 13, 2013

Why You Don't Want To Be The Next Anyone

Yesterday was #PitMad. If you don't know what that is, you probably aren't reading this blog, but just to clarify, #PitMad is a day on Twitter when you get 140 characters (including the hashtag) to pitch your book. Agents and small presses stop by all day and favorite your pitch, meaning they request it.

It's a fun, stressful, joyful, nerve-wracking thing. But it has real results and several success stories under its belt.

Now, I love pitch days and Twitter contests, but I've got other irons in the fire so yesterday I was just an observer. And here's what I observed.

I saw very pitches that weren't pitches. A likes/loses B therefore must do C or doom/death/else. Yes. That's what your book is, but not why I should read it. A query uses that format above. A pitch is This is why my book is different! Read it! Or more accurately, tossing your words in the air and yelling, CATCH!

But aside from that, I saw a new trend, and it really alarmed me.

Example: The Alphabet meets The Number Ten plus Star Wars.. PB Sci-fi


No. No. No. No.

Again, comp titles are for the query. Not your pitch. I love the alphabet, the number ten and Star Wars but I don't wanna read your book based on that.

I already have all those things.

Which is what brings me to my point. - You don't want to be the next 'anybody'. You want to be you.

Sure, I get inspiration from all over the place. and I love a redux or an homage, probably more than most. But it doesn't go in your pitch and trying to be the next whatever shouldn't drive you to get to your career.

Yeah, But Ang - agents say they want the next J.K. Rowling. Well, of course they do. But they don't mean they want a story about a boy wizard written in her style, they mean they want something original that connects and the world goes crazy for it.

And sorry we already have a J.K. Rowling, the position in filled, you'll have to find another spot. Hey! You know what spot is open? The one for you and YOUR book.

 So write your book, write your query, write your pitch and tell me why your book is different, not just what it's about. But to do that, you have to make it different. You have to make it you. Even when you draw inspiration from something, it still has to be your fresh originality that makes it work.

For example, I have two people in my universe - one is writing a Gatsby inspired novel and one is writing inspired by The O.C. I'm dying to read them both because the take is so fresh and I love both of the original materials.

But if someone hands me a book and says, "Look. I write like Fitzgerald and this book is like Gatsby." I'm not reading it. I already have and love Gatsby. Why do I need another? I don't. And neither does the bookstore or that agent you want.

So when you start doubting your uniqueness or if it's going to sell or if it fits or if that one agent you covet likes this sort of thing, just remember, you are telling YOUR story, not your story that's like someone else's.

The only next anything you want to be is you, the next fabulous big thing.

Happy writing! See you Monday!


  1. YES. This! Exactly this!

    I wasn't able to look at the feed much yesterday, just a few glances here and there, but oi, was I wincing. There was the old issue of the overly generic, and then THIS.

    There was also a lot of pushing for people to get "all the things" into their pitch. MC, voice, character, concept, stakes. And you know, it IS possible. It's even possible to do well. But I had two pitches yesterday, one with "all the things" and one that was simple but catchy. And the simple one won out. I've seen a comparison-style pitch do really well in a past PitMad, because it was unique, well written, and made the brain go, "Wait, what?" And then other authors were like, "Oh! That's what works!" Then many followed suit but . . . not as well.

    You are SO right with this post. We need to stop following. We need to focus on our uniqueness, or we'll never do our story justice as we're pitching it. We're the ones who know and love our story (and hopefully we have CP's who do as well), and we need to trust that feeling we have that our story is worth sharing as it is, not in another story's shadow. SO well said! =)

  2. Great post and so true! I love the dancing Darth Vader, by the way!

  3. I noticed the exact same thing on the feed as well. I was fortunate to have a pitch that received multiple "favorites" because I didn't cram everything into one sentence. However, I feel that my writing style holds me back more than my pitching capabilities.

    I'm trying to be myself and write YA a little different than the masses. Showing is necessary, but sometimes telling is just as good. I don't know any teenager that dwells on situations long enough to constitute writing a paragraph long sentence. They certainly don't carry on about how their yoga pants begged to be laundered after running in to a cute boy at the grocery store. I read a lot of YA books for research, and I admit to leaving many of them unfinished simply out of boredom.

    With that being said, being unique feels a lot like failure. And after chasing the writing dream for such a long time, that's exactly what I feel like; a failure.

  4. Good tips for short pitches! And I love this:
    "...sorry we already have a J.K. Rowling, the position in filled..."

    I've always wanted to be the next me, not somebody else, but it's easy to lose yourself in the clutter of influence at times. This is a good reminder to step back and find your own voice, and your own pitch.