The doctors will see you now. Well, writers, actually. This month saw our first ever intensive book pitch clinic, led by Elise Valmorbida and Fiona Thompson.
It was a dark and stormy night… Well, it must have been, because it was London in December. We held a Wordstock Deconstructed ‘Getting Published’ event in the dungeon of the Betsey Trotwood, and quite a few people confessed to having a book project in hand or in mind. On 13 June—yes, six months later, in the light and loveliness of summer—we held a follow-up session.
We were happy for this to be a one-to-one tutorial, or a workshop with as many as 13 people. As it happens, we had three focused writers with book projects well underway, and the mentoring presence of Elise Valmorbida and Fiona Thompson. Faber author Elise has been teaching creative writing for 20 years, and has just returned from Arvon, where she co-taught a residential week dedicated to popular non-fiction (lots of pitches and proposals!). Former features journalist and co-author of the non-racy non-fiction book Men on Sex, Fiona has been a copywriter for 20 years and is this year’s D&AD Writing for Design jury president.
But what is a book pitch clinic? We thought of it as something of a hybrid: part focus group, part creative writing evening class, part brainstorm, part group therapy for your book.
Together, we read, heard, analysed and amended pitch paragraphs and one-page synopses. It was tough. We knew it would be. Presenting a detailed creative world in a condensed form is necessarily a difficult process. Promoting it to strangers (agents, publishers, online readers…) is harder still.
Before the clinic, we sent out practical reading materials. After the clinic, we sent further guidance and individual feedback to the group.
Now, we hope that everyone has a stronger sense of what will compel an indifferent stranger to read beyond a pitch. We hope that each writer has a more robust story too: we considered titles, protagonists and narrative arcs for fiction, and for non-fiction. And the group will stay in touch with one other, offering ongoing advice and support.
Here’s some of the feedback:
“Thank you for a wonderful evening. I felt well and truly listened to and your attentiveness and skilfully probing questions got to the heart of my issues with a) writing the story and b) trying to write a synopsis and pitch.”
“I feel so grateful for the stimulating and instructive evening we spent together. I think I learned as much from listening to the feedback on other people’s work as I did from discussing my own pitch. There was such an atmosphere of interest, and kindness, and commitment to trying to get the best out of each other.”
“Thanks for your help on clarifying my thoughts and pushing me to hit the right notes. It was so insightful. Thanks to everyone else too for chipping in with really helpful comments, many of which were gold-dust.”