EZ Ways to Tune Your Novel Pitch

Psst! Wanna read a good book?

Last post we talked about taking advantage of face-to-face pitches at writing conferences. This time let’s go into crafting the pitch itself.

Writing Tip for Today: Find pitching resources in books or on writing conference sites. The following 3 tips are things I consider important to any agent/editor pitch:

KNOW Your Book.

If you can’t talk about your story for ten minutes without using cue cards or a cheat sheet, work on it until you can. Often this begins with knowing what your story is about. As I said in last post, try to come up with a single sentence (similar to a screenplay log line) that gives an instant picture of the gist of the book. Cinderella meets Interview with the Vampire gives me a picture (not necessarily pleasant) but I understand the idea. You can also try Nathan Bransford’s nifty “formula:”[protagonist name] is a [description of protagonist] living in [setting]. But when [complicating incident], [protagonist name] must [protagonist’s quest] and [verb] [villain] in order to [protagonist’s goal]. 

The shorter, the better. WARNING: If you have a lot of trouble crafting this summary sentence, your novel may be dangerously flawed. Go work on your writing skills, write another novel. Don’t waste your time & money pitching a half-baked project.

BE Yourself.

You are going to be nervous. But think of this pitch as you would a job interview. Dress and act accordingly. Goofy stunts are probably only going to get you labeled goofy. This means you don’t arrive at your pitch wearing a tiara, glass slippers and vampire fangs. Instead, be as “normal” as you can. This means you will not grovel, nor will you be arrogant. You will not affect a character’s voice or chuck your one sheet at the agent and say, “You’re gonna love this.” No. You will be polite but funny (if at all possible!), real but avoiding TMI (Too Much Information). This may sound hard but the agent is sizing you up as much as the novel. Will you be an asset to place in front of executives making the decisions? Or will you make them the laughingstock? Publishing is like any other contemporary job: if you are professional yet casual, you’re more likely to receive a request for your stuff.

LOWER Your Expectations.

The novel you have been workshopping with your crit group thinks it’s brilliant. Maybe so, but the writing world is very crowded these days. There are LOTS of good writers and so competition is stiff. If you lower your expectations (of say, walking home with a contract in hand) you are more likely to act normal, real, professional yet casual. Practice talking about your novel to complete strangers in preparation for this ten minute golden ticket. Then, think of this opportunity as a possibility–not the last chance you’ll ever have. Without all of your eggs in one basket, maybe the rejections won’t sting as badly and the odd acceptance will feel that much sweeter.

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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