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Monday musings on Australian literature: Pitch days

March 2, 2015

When I was researching last Monday’s post on development programs for writers, I came across several references to publisher “pitch” days. As someone who isn’t writing a book, and who has no plans to, the concept of a “pitch” day was something that hadn’t made a big impact on me, though of course I knew what it meant.

If you are a writer who’s tried to get a book published, you know there are various ways of going about it. One is to find an agent who will tout/pitch your book to publishers. Another is to win a prize that involves publication – not that there are many of those! Yet another is to send your manuscript, unsolicited, to a publisher and hope they will read it. We’ve all heard stories about what happens then. They end up in a pile, and more often than not don’t get read. What authors want, of course, is some sort of guarantee their work will be read. This is where “pitch” days come in.

So what, exactly, is a pitch day? Most publishers have always accepted unsolicited donations, albeit with varying degrees of enthusiasm, but their pitch days offer two specific things: the publisher clearly identifies what they are looking for, what the writer needs to submit, and how; and they (mostly) offer some sort of guarantee that the work will be read and the time-frame within which this will happen. These pitch days are a fairly new thing, I believe, and stem partly from the possibilities offered by digital publishing.

Here are some of the programs I’ve come across, and that I believe are currently operating:

  • Allen & Unwin’s The Friday Pitch has been running for 6 years or more, and is open to writers for adults, young adults and children. They ask writers to “email a short synopsis or outline of your chapters and contents, and the first chapter of your work and related illustrations if relevant” on any Friday. They say that “if we like what we read … we will get back to you within a fortnight”. They don’t say, but I think imply, that they will read everything. They also say that Friday Pitch has discovered some bestselling authors, including Fleur McDonald, Helen Brown, and Mary Groves, though I must say that I don’t know these authors myself.
  • HarperCollins’ The Wednesday Post started in 2013. Writers can send fiction and nonfiction submissions each Wednesday, for print and digital publication, and digital-only publication. They say they will respond to authors within three weeks if they are interested. According to Writing WA, HarperCollins wants to find “new adult and YA titles and is particularly interested in ‘exceptional contemporary women’s fiction'” from new and established writers.
  • Pan Macmillan’s Manuscript Monday is a “new” initiative (though I don’t know when they wrote that statement). This process only occurs monthly on the first Monday of the month. They “accept submissions between 10am and 4pm that are sent electronically” and comply with the guidelines available via the link above. They say they will read every submission within three months of receipt, but won’t provide reasons for their decision nor give any feedback. And you can’t ring or contact them to chase up your submission. I think this includes pitches for Momentum, which is PanMacmillan’s “digital first imprint”.
  • Penguin’s Monthly Catch was created because Penguin “is keen and excited to read new work from Australian authors”! This program operates over the first 7 days (that is from the 1st to the 7th, regardless of days of the week) of every month. Only electronic submissions are accepted, and only works for adults. They say they’ll read every manuscript, and will get back to successful authors within three months. They do not provide feedback.

These are just a few of the programs out there. There are, for example, some genre-specific ones, such as for Romance writers. And some conferences run pitch-to-the-publisher programs, such as GenreCon and the Perth Writers Festival.

What these publishers won’t accept is fairly consistent. Poetry, plays, and educational works are frequently identified as not wanted. Some exclude works for children and young adults, while others will accept these. Authors need to check each publisher’s guidelines to make sure.

If you are interested in reading more about pitching, you might like to read the experience of two authors: Patrick Lenton who was published by Pan Macmillan’s digital arm, Momentum, and the above-mentioned Fleur McDonald who was published by Allen & Unwin. I also enjoyed reading this blog post on the “art of pitching to publishers”.

As always, I’d love to hear if any readers here have used “pitch days” … or have any stories about being published.


13 Comments leave one →
  1. March 3, 2015 12:03 am

    Interesting! I’ve heard of submission windows but that for me implies diving into the slush pile with not much hope of resurfacing. But the idea of a time frame seems so much kinder!
    Thanks it will be useful to read through these.

    • March 3, 2015 12:09 am

      Oh I’m so pleased to have been of help, or, to have possibly been of help, Catherine. Doesn’t sound like you’ve heard of these in the countries you are more familiar with these days?

  2. March 3, 2015 5:57 am

    I had never heard of pitch days but it’s a good idea. I wonder if publishers find they get more or fewer submissions with such programs? And should we feel sorry for the junior editors and interns who are probably the ones who have to speed read all of those submission? Though I imagine you get good at picking out the truly bad ones from the ones with potential.

    • March 3, 2015 8:04 am

      Stefanie, I read that one publisher got 175 submissions the first week, and 200 the next, but that could have been a lot of authores coming out of the woodwork with their books from their desk drawers. It would be interesting to know though wouldn’t it?

      • March 4, 2015 2:27 am

        Wow, that’s a lot! But like you say it could be just because it was new. Though ongoing numbers would definitely be interesting to know.

  3. Bryce permalink
    March 3, 2015 12:08 pm

    A useful list – thank you! I knew only of Allen & Unwin, to whom I have Friday-pitched, without success. I like the process – it’s a practical way for publishers to seek new authors and for a writers to know within a short time whether their manuscript has any chance with that publisher.

    • ian darling permalink
      March 3, 2015 8:52 pm

      It is an OK idea. What I suspect they want is the literary equivalent of “high concept” books that are easy to promote as potential bestseller fodder. Am I being too cynical?

      • March 3, 2015 9:54 pm

        Hmm … I suspect it’s fair enough to be a bit cynical Ian. They are businesses after all aren’t they. But it would be nice to think that there was some enthusiasm somewhere for developing writers. Am I too Pollyanna-ish!?

    • March 3, 2015 9:56 pm

      Thanks Bryce … Great to hear from someone who has practical experience. I like that you are positive even if your attempt didn’t bear fruit.

      • Bryce permalink
        March 4, 2015 10:15 am

        I do share Ian’s concern. With the greater weight now given to marketing, the danger is that only books that are easy to pitch and promote will get published. That would have cut out many of the great books of Australian literature. But the pitch process still has benefits for writers. In the past, a publisher might have taken 6 months to send a rejection slip. Now you can find out the verdict in a fortnight. I like that.

  4. March 4, 2015 7:39 am

    I have had a couple of goes. The main thing I like about these pitch days is the hope they give to an unpublished writer like me. One day I’ll have what they want!

    • March 4, 2015 9:47 am

      Thanks Tarla … Good for you. I’m sure you will one day. Shame they don’t give feedback though I suppose it’s understandable.

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