Month: September 2014

What the Dog Saw: Pitching and Receiving

By Callie Oettinger | 11 Comments

I’ve been on the pitching and receiving end of books and films, as a publicist sharing information and as an editor and/or writer receiving and deciding what to do with that information. Personal value is the common thread. As both a publicist and an editor/writer, you have to find the elements of value. What is of interest on the surface and what is of interest if you dive deeper—and how can they be pulled out? A good example of this process resides in the following from Malcolm Gladwell, on how he finds a story: You don’t start at the top…

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Nobody Knows Nothing, Part Two

By Steven Pressfield | 8 Comments

We were talking last week about how hard it is to evaluate material, particularly your own. How do you tell if your new novel, your start-up, your Cuban-Chinese restaurant is any good? Who can tell you? Whose judgment can you trust? In the literary/movie field, entire industries have evolved to respond to this need. Robert McKee (full disclosure: my friend) has established himself, among others, as the guru of Story Structure. A vocabulary, from Bob and other analysts, has spread through every studio and production company. “Inciting Incident,” “Second Act Turning Point,” “All Is Lost moment” are phrases that every…

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The Small Press Conundrum

By Shawn Coyne | 12 Comments

So despite your literary agent’s best efforts, your first novel/first nonfiction proposal didn’t sell to any of the Big Five publishers. What do you do now? You ask your agent to plumb the directories of small presses and start cold calling. Right? Well, if your agent is a realist, that is if she has a family to support or she isn’t in the habit of taking money (her time) and throwing it out a window, she’ll beg off. She’ll tell you that your time is better spent writing another book and trying your luck again with one of the majors…

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Nobody Knows Nothing

By Steven Pressfield | 17 Comments

I used to work for a big New York ad agency named Ted Bates. The agency was constantly pitching new business. The way it worked was the entire Creative Department, about 150 people, would be assigned to come up with new campaigns for Burger King or Seven-Up or whatever business Bates was going after. You were supposed to put 20% of your time against this, with usually a two-week run-up before the first inside-the-agency meeting. These meetings were called “gang bangs” because everybody took part. They were held in the giant conference room around a table that felt like it…

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Focus on the Person, Not the Product

By Callie Oettinger | 27 Comments

Flannery O’Connor hooked my interest through a school-assigned reading of A Good Man is Hard to Find and her personal story kept me reading more. I was certain that a bit of that geranium she wrote about—“with its roots in the air”—was her, a transplant to New York City, from Georgia, where the geraniums weren’t put on apartment windowsills for sun, but thrived just fine on their own at home. While her body was long gone when I arrived on the scene, her stories and articles about her have kept me re-reading her work, always finding something new each time…

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The Difference Between 14% and 15%

By Steven Pressfield | 20 Comments

I was talking to a friend at the gym the other day. “How much strength do we all have?” he said. “Think about it: a ninety-five-pound mom can lift a Buick if her baby is underneath it, right? Then why is it so hard for that same woman to lift a 25-pound dumbbell here at the gym on a Tuesday morning?” The answer, my friend said, is that the muscles can but they don’t want to. They resist. They’re afraid of success, afraid of failure, afraid of pain, afraid of the unknown. “What we’re afraid of,” my friend said, “is…

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When Not “Earning Out” is a Good Thing

By Shawn Coyne | 24 Comments

Here’s how big shot literary agents make a compelling living. A client brings an idea to the agent who advises the client about its commercial possibilities. It’s important to note that this advisement traditionally means whether or not the agent thinks he will be able to sell the project to a major publisher for a compelling advance against royalties. Not whether there are actual people out there willing to pay money to read such a book idea. The way the best sale works (meaning to the best advantage of the writer and agent) with a major publisher is to make…

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Why #5

By Steven Pressfield | 26 Comments

Continuing our exploration of why I write this blog and why anyone might read it. Let’s consider a topic we’ve discussed previously in this space: the idea of personal cultures. We’re all familiar with the idea of institutional cultures. Apple has a culture. The New York Yankees have a culture. The Marine Corps has a culture. You and I have one too. We might not realize it. We might not be aware of it. But each morning when we wake up, a pattern of thought boots itself up in our minds. This pattern is habitual. It has evolved within us…

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