This weekend, an editor is attending our local RWA chapter meeting. After her workshop, she’s taking pitches. At this precise moment, there are about ten or fifteen people hyperventilating in the Northern Alabama area. In honor of this, I’ve put together my take on the different types of pitches with the help of Wikipedia (since I have no actual knowledge of baseball aside from nachos and beer.)
(Note to those of you pitching tomorrow – none of this will actually help, sorry if I got your hopes up.)
The fastball is the most common pitch in baseball and also in the world of writers. Most authors have some form of a fastball in their arsenal whether they know it or not. It is basically a pitch thrown very fast, some with movement, some without. An example of this would be the eight-minute rehearsed pitch that is delivered to an editor in exactly 47 seconds. Some wildly gesticulate with their hands, some nervously clutch their index cards, but the common factor is the lack on breathing on the part of the author. The downside of the fastball is the remaining 9 minutes and 13 seconds of uncomfortable silence before the appointment is over.
A variation of the fastball is called the sinking fastball. This has extra movement that affects the trajectory of the pitch. Most commonly, this pitch is thrown when the author senses the book is hopelessly doomed in the eyes of the editor, but continues to throw the ball quickly to get it over with. This is usually followed by a walk to the bar.
Another variation is the cutter fastball, which slows slightly as it reaches home plate. This pitch is long-winded and manages to take up the entire allotted time. When the appointment keeper announces that one minute remains, the author will switch to the cutter fastball, cramming everything else they have to say into 30 seconds, leaving the editor enough time to request a partial, but not ask questions.
The curveball is known for its movement, usually sideways or downward in response to pressure. This pitch is thrown when the author realizes that the editor is completely disinterested in their project and starts changing the storyline in response to her facial expressions. This makes the pitch difficult or confusing for the editor/batter and she is less likely to be able to hit it back (ie. decline the proposal). Although this pitch provides the author with a sense of euphoria when they receive a request, it is usually followed by a panic attack when they realize they have to produce a book that doesn't exist.
The curveball is similar to the changeup, which also tricks the editor. It’s an off-speed pitch, usually thrown to look like a fastball but arriving much slower to the plate. This is used most often when an author wants to pitch a book in a genre the editor isn’t really interested in (but if they just read it, they'd love it). They disguise the book (a paranormal, for example) describing it primarily as a romantic suspense in the hopes of getting a request. The reduced speed coupled with its deceptive delivery are meant to confuse the editor/batter’s timing. Its a temporary victory, usually followed by the quick return of a SASE when the editor regains her footing and realizes she's been mislead.
Last, but not least, is the slider. This is the pitch scheduled deliberately as the last appointment of the day. This author counts on the editor to be tired in the hopes that she will agree to read their book regardless of what the author actually says or does, simply so she can be finished and move on with her life.
I couldn't come up with anything witty for a spitball, so I'll stop there. I admit I'm guilty of the fastball. Of course, I was also the only kid in my 10th grade English class who could deliver the entire 3rd Act soliloquy of Mark Antony from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar in under a minute. How about you? If you've never pitched, what's your favorite superstition (it's Friday the 13th, if you haven't noticed)?