How Not To Pitch A Book

You sit down and place your manuscript on the table. Behind you, fellow writers line up for their upcoming critiques, but, for this moment, you have the agent’s attention all to yourself. After all, this is why you attended this writer’s conference: to sign the book deal that will launch your career.

The agent reaches for your manuscript. He seems to be struggling with immense amount of paper.

“Oh, you won’t like it,” you say. “My book is trash.” There. That should prepare him to be blown away.

The agent raises an eyebrow.

“Care to tell me about it?”

“It’s the story of a young orphan –well, not really an orphan since he’s reunited with his father at the end, but they don’t know that at the beginning. But see, Adam’s never known true love, but he meets this girl at the orphanage and they fall in love. It’s a sweet story. It doesn’t have a lot of tension, it just focuses on their relationship. I can’t stand a love story where you don’t know how it ends.”

“It would be difficult to build a relationship without some tension.”

Is he being sarcastic with you? You spring to your own defense. “Theirs is a once-in-a-lifetime romance. It’s a retelling of Romeo and Juliet, just set in an orphanage. And they don’t know their families are dueling.”

He scans the first page. Grimaces. “I’m sorry –it’s just the layout. I’ve never received a manuscript in Old English Font before.”

Is he trying to be nit-picky? “I chose that font because of historical accuracy. That is how the characters would have written.”

He smiles, but it looks strained. “In the case of a proposal, our agency only accepts manuscripts written in Times New Roman or a similar font.”

Proposals? He’s already mentioning proposals? This has to be a good sign.

He finishes the first chapter. Lays it down. “Tell me a little more about the book.”

“It’s 150,000 words. I know your website says you only accept manuscripts under 100,000 words, but I know you’ll make an exception for this. I couldn’t possibly cut out a single sentence.”

“Actually, your first chapter seemed…cluttered. There were a lot of participial phrases and repetitions that could be cut,” the agent says. “Have you considered hiring an editor?”

The thought is insulting. You know your story best, and you certainly don’t need anyone altering what you’re trying to say. “I am my own editor.”

He slides your manuscript back across the table to you. “I’m sorry, but I don’t think I could represent this.”

“But you’re looking for historical romances! My research is flawless. And you would never see a romance like this again.”

He checks his watch. “I’m sorry, but our fifteen minutes are up. I have to move on to the next query.”

“But you didn’t let me finish explaining the story! You can’t turn it down!” He was supposed to sign you on. To make your book famous. But instead he looks past you and motions the next writer to the table. You take your manuscript –all 150,000 words — and begin the hunt for your next critique.

Maybe, you think, the next agent will be more understanding.


My name has been changed to spare the guilty. 😉 What is one thing you wish you hadn’t said as an amateur writer?




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