Editor’s Pitch

I file into the ballroom with six other conference attendees for an appointment with an editor from St. Martin’s Press. It’s only my second  Pacific Northwest Writers Association’s summer conference. Over the next two days I have private appointments to pitch my novel to two New York literary agents. I hope this editor’s meeting will be a simple formality, something to build my confidence for my two appointments with the agents.

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I’d attended one of these editor’s meetings last year and this is how it works: You sit around a ballroom table with an editor and five or six of your fellow writers. The editor introduces herself, explains what she’s looking for, and passes out her business card. “Send me your first chapter,” she says, “and mention that we spoke at this conference.” The meetings last a half-hour to give everyone time to pitch their work, but no one actually talks about their manuscripts.

That’s how this year will go too, right?

We settle around the circular table. The editor, Erin Brown (who will later become a columnist for Author Magazine), steeples her hands in front of her. She has long, delicate fingers. A piano player’s fingers. “So, how does this work? I’ve never done this format before.”

Uh oh, I think. She’s not going to make us actually pitch, is she?

Erin spends a good deal of time talking about herself and the kind of projects for which she’s searching. I settle down, waiting for the customary moment when she asks us each to send her a chapter.

“Okay,” she says, “let’s go around the table and hear your pitches.”

Only fifteen minutes remain. There are six attendees sitting at the table with me. I do the math. That doesn’t leave each of us much time. Only one person separates me from Erin, but Erin choses to start from the opposite side of the circle. I’d written and rewritten my pitch for weeks. I have it down to a cool ninety seconds. If everyone keeps theirs to a few minutes, I might still be okay.

The attendees begin. They ramble on and on. Not only are none of them rehearsed, the writers seem to be figuring out what their stories are really about right here at the table. I groan inwardly, calculating and recalculating the remaining time.

“It’s like about this girl who, you know, is like trying to find herself after 9/11.” Erin: Send it! “I was a truck driver for forty-eight years and it’s about all my experiences.” Erin: Send it! “It’s an English translation of my novel that was published in Nicaragua.” Send it!

I relax a little. No matter what they have, she wants it.

Finally, it’s my turn. Three minute are left for me and the woman to my right, so I start. Unlike the others, I sound polished. Mine has a beginning, a middle, and end. I have props. A soundtrack. Toward the end, I light off a few sparklers.

When it’s over, the whole table is staring at me like I’m crazy. Erin’s expression suggests that she’s contemplating calling hotel security. “Well, you know, that’s really not what I’m looking for…”

On the way out the door, the old trucker who prattled on and on about the women he’d seen during his years on the road offers to give me pointers on how to pitch. I emerge from the ballroom destroyed, embarrassed, my confidence in flames.

There, on business of his own, is Bill Kenower, editor of Author Magazine (we’d just started publishing the magazine a few months before). I relate what happened. How can I possibly meet with the agents after that disaster?

His expression is intent and confident. “Cancel all this. Success, it’s coming! Know it. Feel it. This is just a step in the journey. It’s not the journey.”

I go on to meet with both agents. Both want to see my manuscript. I begin to understand the power of perception. Viewpoint is everything when it comes to perceiving a no.

It serves as a beginning.

This blog entry was originally published for Author Magazine‘s Author Blog.

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Brian Mercer is the author of the supernatural YA novel, Aftersight (Astraea Press, 2013). He is also co-author with Robert Bruce of Mastering Astral Projection: 90-Day Guide to Out-of-body (Llewellyn, 2004) and The Mastering Astral Projection CD Companion (Llewellyn, 2007). A board member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and senior editor at Author Magazine, he lives in Seattle with his wife, Sara, and their three cats.

 URL: www.brianmercerbooks.com

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Why Windows 8 is Flat and Ugly and Why iOS 7 Should Not Follow

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I used to love Windows.

Windows 7 was beautiful. It had style. It had texture. It seemed alive. When one of those gorgeous glass-bordered windows opened, it felt like a forgotten treasure submerging from the calm surface of a pond.

Enter Windows 8, Microsoft’s Post-it Note inspired operating system. Those once-stunning transparent-edged windows are replaced by flat, lifeless lines, as if Windows 3.1 had risen from the grave. Gaudy, flat tiles and primitive graphics attempt to dazzle us, but only succeed in getting in our way.

Many think Microsoft’s design choice was a matter of aesthetics. That is not so.

Recognizing the popularity of the iPad, Microsoft knew it had to make an entry into the tablet market or risk irrelevance. Ignoring 99.99% of their customers, who use laptops and desktop computers to get their work done, they designed their Window 8 operating system around a non-existent market: The Windows tablet.

In order for a Windows tablet to succeed, Microsoft knew tablets sold with Windows 8 would have to match, among other things, the iPad’s long battery life. But how could they do that? Microsoft makes software, not hardware. It would be impossible for Microsoft to force PC makers to match the engineering marvel that is the iPad.

If they can’t make hardware, they can control the operating system. They realized if they dumped the beautiful Windows 7 Aero Glass for simple, Windows 3.1-like objects, it would require less processing power to draw those simple objects on the screen. Less processing power means less battery draw, hence a longer battery life.

Thus, Microsoft unilaterally declares that Windows 7’s look and feel is out of style and replaces it with the unappealing, two-dimensional display that we have come to loathe; and, like every other Star Trek movie, Windows 8 proves to be a disaster.

Personally, Windows 8 made me jump from a PC to a Mac. And, having made the conversion, I absolutely love it. I have never been happier. Thanks, Microsoft, for screwing up so badly that I left.

I was therefore stunned to learn recently that Apple has redesigned their gorgeous iOS to make it flat and lifeless, too. Defying all reason, Apple has decided to steal Windows 8’s flat, lifeless design and put it in their iOS 7.  (If you were going to copy answers from your neighbor, you wouldn’t cheat off the F student who never gets his homework done, would you? Read: Microsoft. No, you would cheat off an A student like, I don’t know, Apple maybe.)

It’s true that many iPhone and iPad users, myself included, have been clamoring for Apple to innovate its stale looking iOS 6 with its boring grid of icons. Yet no one complained they didn’t like the look of the display; we only wanted more functionality and interconnectivity with our apps. Maybe throw us a widget or two.

By following Microsoft, Apple is blowing a huge chance to differentiate itself in the market. Don’t like the primitive, childish objects in Windows 8 or the minimalist design of your Google phone? Come on over to Apple. We’ll give you something to show off on that beautiful Retina display of yours. If iOS 7 looks like everyone else’s phone, what’s to stop consumers to from switching to phones with larger screens, or to manufacturers that update their hardware more than once a year?

What is Apple thinking?

Many years ago, Apple founder Steve Jobs left the company. What followed was one deplorable decision after the next, resulting in Apple’s near extinction. Jobs eventually returned to Apple, not only reviving it but taking it to heights previously unimagined.

With Steve Job’s tragic death in 2011, investors and consumers have been holding their breaths, waiting for that first really bad decision to come out of Apple that would spell the beginning of the end for its dominance in the market.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, it looks like that bad decision has arrived.

iOS 8 Preview

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Brian Mercer is the author of the supernatural YA novel, Aftersight (Astraea Press, 2013). He is also co-author with Robert Bruce of Mastering Astral Projection: 90-Day Guide to Out-of-body (Llewellyn, 2004) and The Mastering Astral Projection CD Companion (Llewellyn, 2007). A board member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and senior editor at Author Magazine, he lives in Seattle with his wife, Sara, and their three cats.

 URL: www.brianmercerbooks.com

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