Well, I’ve been holding on to this news and been bursting at the seams to share… and at last I can; #Nestpitch 2014 First Success Story and I couldn’t be happier. So (whee I’m actually squealing here), let me introduce to you Ms. Kimberly Ito.
Kimberly was one of the pitchee’s in Dannie Morin’s Team, though her pitch had more than one or two grabby-hands from the other Mentors. Kimberly’s entry was one of the 2-3 LGBT entries we got and I have to admit, when I saw we had LGBT entries, I kept my fingers crossed that at least one would be a knock out – and it was. To refresh your memories, here is the Entry (without the first 300-words)
Title: THE STARS MAY RISE AND FALL
Genre: Adult, commercial fiction (LGBT)
Word count: 88,000
Pitch: In this LGBT retelling of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, a Japanese glam
rocker must re-examine sexuality, career, and ideas of beauty when he falls for a scarred, disabled composer with ghosts of his own.
Answer to question:
He’s a fuchsia malted milk egg: flashy outside, sweet inside, with a surprisingly strong core.
Seriously, what’s NOT to like here? Not only did Kimberly follow all the guidelines (and people that’s a biggy) but she did exactly what a pitch should do. She told us enough to entice and created interest by showing what was unique. I mean come on, a re-tell of Phantom of the Opera, but with a Japanese Rocker and its LGBT, how could we not read on?
And we did, and so did a few of our Secret Bunny Agents. One of them, GinaPanettieri, President of Talcott Notch Literary Services, http://www.talcottnotch.net/ wasted no time in upgrading the partial to a full. She also passed on Kimberly’s full and profile to Jessica Negrón. When Kimberly emailed Dannie and me about the upgrade and Jessica, I remember nodding. Jessica is also Emmie Mears’ agent and I could see how Jessica’s taste and Kimberly’s style would work brilliantly together. It seems so could Jessica!
As it’s been just over two months since the requests went out, I expect to hear many more success stories after the (northern) summer, but for now, let’s woo-hoo Kimberly and Jessica and while we are at it, let’s get to know Kimberly better. (spoiler alert- some of you have surely seen the tweets about another success story – well it’s true! & we’ll have all the details in another Q&A soon)
Getting to know Kimberly Ito
Kimberly, aside from being an author, tell us a little about yourself, where you grew up, what you do that pays the bills, when and where you write, anything at all you’d care to share.
I grew up in the US, but I’ve lived in the Tokyo area for the past 12 or 13 years. I’m primarily a stay-at-home mom, but I do some freelance work: teaching English (as a foreign language), editing, proofreading, and translating Japanese to English. I usually write at home, after my kids are asleep. I don’t have a lot of time for hobbies, but I love cooking, butchering 8-minute-long power ballads at karaoke, and playing with my dog and kids. NOTE FROM NIK: take a look at how cute Kimberly’s dog – Holly – is!
Qu1. Nik: As I said above, your pitch and first page instantly stood out because it was so unique and yet also so universal, where did the idea come from?
Kimberly: Well, I’ve always been interested in PHANTOM – the book, the musical, quite a few of the movies – and Phantom retellings. Brian de Palma’s 1974 film, PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, has always been a favorite, and I just really enjoy seeing those themes explored in different eras and locations. As far as the setting, well, I live in Japan and actually met my husband in this particular subculture, so you might say it was a matter of “write what you know.”
NOTE FROM NIK: That last bit “write what you know” it may seem like a cliche but there was never been more truer advice, to make your scenes and character’s authentic you need to understand who and what you are writing about.
Qu2. Nik: Was this the first time you’d entered this manuscript into a pitch competition?
Kimberly: I had done a few Twitter pitch competitions, but this was the first and only time I did anything beyond 140 characters!
Qu3. Nik: Tell us about your experience with #Nestpitch and with Dannie, you’re Mentor.
Kimberly: I almost didn’t enter! My decision was really last-minute, and it all seemed to happen so fast. I did have a lot of fun watching the slush pile readers and then bloggers give vague hints about what they were choosing, and even more fun reading the other selected pitches. After a lot of querying and waiting, it was nice to feel like I was being active and DOING something to get my work out there. Dannie was great. She helped me fine-tune my pitch before it went live and was very encouraging and supportive throughout the contest, and beyond.
Qu4. Nik: I remember getting that first update when Gina requested the 25-page partial to a full and how happy I was for you. Tell us how it felt and (aside from doing a little happy dance) did you do anything before sending, like re-reading the manuscript?
Kimberly: Well, it was actually Jessica who requested the full, and I was thrilled and a little shocked (see answer #5), because she was someone I’d wanted to work with for awhile. As far as special preparation, I don’t think so. I’d been kind of fine-tuning for a couple of months, so I was pretty confident that it was ready to go. I emailed my CP to give her the good news, and then I attached the file and hit send!
NOTE FROM NIK: Again wonderful advice here folks. Don’t rush it, *if in doubt, leave it out* that goes for scenes and entering/submitting work.
Qu5. Nik: With regard to Jessica Negron, what was it like sending that first email to Jessica? Did you do any research beforehand or did you already know of her?
Kimberly: I had actually queried Jessica before! It was a rejection, but she gave me some great feedback which I used to completely overhaul my book, deleting large chunks and rewriting others. I remember feeling extremely disappointed at the time, because I really wanted an editorial agent, and felt like we would have clicked! Fortunately, she remembered me and saw that I had taken her advice, and it ended up being a match after all!
Qu6. Nik: Now I know that while you were waiting to hear back from Jessica, you also had interest from other agents. What was the waiting like? What did you do while you waited?
Kimberly: Well, I did keep querying other agents, and I also started a second book, which is nowhere near complete enough to talk about… but I kept querying, and I kept writing, and stuck to my writer friends for support!
NOTE FROM NIK: And here is another example of Kimberly being proactive. Even though she had requests from Nestpitch, she understood a request is not an offer, as I’ve said several times “It’s a long way from bended knee to altar.” Do not do yourself a disservice and put all your hopes in one basket, if an offer does come through, you can (and always should) approach the agents with partials or fulls at that point.
Kimberly: I think it was pretty typical, even if typical meant “terrifying” for me! Most of my writing friends I met online, so it had probably been a couple of years since I had actually talked about my writing, or even spoken my characters’ names aloud! But Jessica is SO nice, and that definitely calmed my nerves a little bit. The first thing I did was to give her a slightly more detailed version of the “how I came up with the idea” answer above. Then she told me what she liked about my novel, we discussed revisions, and then I had a chance to ask her some questions. I had a couple of days between when we scheduled the call and when it actually happened, so I had done my research, figured out what questions I needed to ask about her agenting style, and which questions could be answered just by reading her profile or existing interviews. I was getting a little bit teary eyed at one point, when she said she loved one of my characters particularly (and we were on Skype, doing a video chat, so I was really fighting not to let it show!). But other than that… Google “What to do when you get the call,” and that was pretty much what happened!
Qu8. Nik: After having gone through the query process and the #pitching competition process would you recommend your aspiring author friends do pitch competitions? And what advice would you give them?
Kimberly: I would, if they feel comfortable with it. One of the main reasons I almost *didn’t* do NestPitch was because I’m just usually very private with my writing. It definitely made me feel exposed to have even a small excerpt out there! So I do understand why some people don’t want to. However, it’s also a really great way to meet other writers, to get your pitch in front of a variety of agents in one shot, and to get some helpful feedback from mentors. The best advice I can think of (besides polishing your pitch to perfection, anyway) is to choose your pitch contests carefully. I entered NestPitch because the majority of the agents involved hadn’t seen my query yet, and because a few of them seemed like they were interested in similar projects. Don’t enter every contest you see, even if they’re legit! Be sure that at least a handful of participating agents rep your genre and
category, and haven’t already seen your query.
Qu9. Nik: What do you say to people who dismiss the Slush Pile and/or #pitching competitions in general?
Kimberly: Wow, are there still people who dismiss the slush pile? I’d say that every agented writer I personally know connected with their agent one of three ways: the slush pile, a pitch contest, or a conference. I know that some writers get their foot in the door by knowing someone who knows someone… but I think that’s actually a pretty small percentage. Especially if you’re not able to make it to conferences because of location, like me, or for any reason, pitching and querying are the best ways to make it happen!
Qu10. Nik: So what’s next, I mean after you’ve got over the giddiness and the copious congrats and thank-you’s, what happens now?
Kimberly: Well, edits, first! Jessica has some great ideas to strengthen my novel and I’m going work through those first… and then maybe again, and again, until we’re both completely happy with it. And then I suppose I get to go back to book #2 while she works her submission magic? Signing with an agent is definitely a big milestone, and it feels a little like reaching a goal… but our work definitely isn’t over!
Thank you so much for taking part in this Q&A Kimberly, I know the entire #Nestpitch Team are so very happy for you, and promise, when you have your first book deal, you’ll come back and visit (and share the cover too) 😉
If you want to follow Kimberly’s progress, you’ll find her on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/KimberlyIto and her blog. Kimberly actually wrote a great blog post on April 17th just before she submitted to #Nestpitch as to why she entered with us. The blog post is called: In which I enter #Nestpitch – and its a really interesting read. Some of her answers above are covered in this post, but if you’re an aspiring writer, reading this from her prospective prior to getting an offer is extremely interesting; especially her point about judging if the agents represented are ideal for your manuscript. Kimberly looked at it from the “have I submitted to most of these agents before” prospective – a very important point. Other factors should be “are there agents in this competition that cater to my category & genre” and (also mentioned by Kimberly) “is my manuscript truly ready” – perhaps the most important point.
And don’t forget to congratulate Kimberly’s awesome agent Jessica on her great taste and foresight – you’ll find Jessica on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/JesNx and Jessica also has a great section on her blog on how to submit to her called “How to Submit to me” that you’ll find here: http://www.jessicanegron.com/2013/07/how-to-query-me.html
Final thoughts: Pitch competitions DO WORK – period. No, they are not for everyone and no, not every pitch that is selected to be featured will result in an offer from an agent. Not even every pitch that has a request by an agent will end in an offer of representation, but as Kimberly pointed out, pitching competitions offer so much to all those who enter. You *meet other authors, people with whom you can form relationships, some of whom will become friends/BETA readers/CP partners. You extend your contact list to include successful authors and not just successful but successful generous authors who give freely of their time, people who are there for you well beyond the pitch-faze. You increase your presence on social media. You develop confidence.
These are all intangible but invaluable benefits to entering pitching competitions. Oh yes, and you might get yourself an agent too! So, as you look at upcoming events (and there are several excellent ones in the next 6-months which I will be posting updates on), and as you scroll through the Mentors and the Agents, don’t dismiss the opportunity and positive effect of #Pitch Competitions.