Thursday, January 22, 2009

American Idol--For Books

by Joyce

I've been watching the tryouts for American Idol off and on this week. I think the auditions are so much more entertaining than the actual show. You can always tell which contestant is going to totally bomb. It's always the one who brags the most about how great a singer they are.

On Tuesday night, Ryan interviewed a woman who had the most annoying laugh I've ever heard. The people who put the show together must have thought so too because they kept running clip after clip of her laughing. She spouted off that American Idol was her life, that she was the best singer they ever heard, etc. She even brought a portfolio of photos (one was a lingerie shot) and a CD she made. Although Simon, Randy, Paula and the new person (why is she there, anyway? They didn't need another judge.) pretty much thought she sucked, they sent her to Hollywood anyway. I still can't figure out why, unless it was for comic relief.

Another woman on the same night was a total train wreck. She dressed like she got her clothes out of a dumpster. She was carrying a folder full of wrinkled paper with songs she wrote, along with diagrams of correct breathing techniques and what muscles to use when you sing. Maybe she thought she needed to cram. I don't know. Inside the audition room, she referred to Randy as Simon, which didn't go over too well. Then she was one of those who wouldn't take no for an answer and they almost had to throw her out.

These people would make great characters in a book.

Which got me thinking.

What if agents and editors looked for authors like American Idol looks for singers? We think query letters and pitch sessions are traumatic. Can you imagine pitching your book to someone like Simon? Maybe I'm on to something here.

Instead of sending out letters and scouting conferences for that elusive agent or editor, we send a panel of them out to various cities. Hundreds of writers show up with synopsis and writing sample in hand. Out in the waiting area, Ryan interviews potential contestants. One of them is carrying a bound copy of a 2000 page long tome. He spouts that he's the greatest writer the judges have ever seen. He says his book will be an overnight bestseller. Guaranteed.

Train wreck. Guaranteed.

Finally a writer stands before the panel. Nice, neat one page synopsis that hits all the plot points. Perfect hook. Rich characterizations. The prose in the writing sample is music to their ears. They give her the news--she's going to New York.

Hmm. On second thought, that sounds a lot like the query process. Forget I mentioned it.


Tory said...

Yes, Joyce, I'd rather it happen one-on-one with the agent in a private room and without the long lines!

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Joyce, the laughing girl would have be a strangle victim if she were a character in a book of mine.

I once did a public 60 second pitch at a conference in front of a panel and in a room full of people. NERVE-WRACKING

I did have one of the agents come up to me after the pitch and ask to see a synopsis and three chapters. Of course three months later I received a rather disappointing form rejection.

Joyce said...

Will, I was about ready to reach through the TV and stranger her myself!

I could never in a million years do a pitch like that.

Joyce said...

That was supposed to be "strangle" not "stranger." My excuse is that I've only had two cups of coffee this morning.

Annette said...

I think the Read and Critique sessions at the Pennwriters Conferece are a lot like American Idol. Except the author remains anonymous while someone else reads her work. Of course, when the "anonymous" author bursts into tears, it kind of gives it away.

Joyce said...

One reason why I've avoided those sessions like the plague!

Gina said...

Oh, yes, the read and critique sessions! Let's not even go there.

kathie said...

what a great post! I often ask my trusted readers "you don't think I'm like one of those people on AI do you?". Of course they say no... I actually think the critique sessions are a lot like AI...nervewracking but worth it!