Friday, November 30, 2007

Pitching Agents II: The Wrong Way

Agents Never Want to Hear:
  1. The words “fiction novel.” [Several agents mentioned this first, which means it happens a lot. I've heard it from wannabe authors my own self. Oy.]
  2. The word “novel” attached to a nonfiction project. A novel is fiction!
  3. “I'm putting the final touches on the proposal.” If you need months to prepare something for me to see, why are we here now? It's confusing, irritating, and potentially creates conflicts. I want to hear that the proposal is locked and loaded and can be emailed to me pronto.
  4. A play-by-play of the action of a novel. That makes my mind go numb. Pitch sessions can be done successfully in five minutes.
  5. That you're a better writer than Hemingway. Modesty IS a virtue.
  6. “It would make a great movie!” Take ONE step at a time.
  7. “This book will appeal to all readers.” If you think the audience is everybody, it's a sure sign it's going to be nobody.
  8. Hyperbole and exaggeration: “This is going to be a bestseller...” “This is the best novel ever written” – I swear that I’ve seen that in queries!
  9. “I've written the next [fill in the blank, say Da Vinci Code or Harry Potter or Oprah Pick] and it will sell millions of copies.” This shows that the author hasn't done their homework.
  10. That you're going to quit your day job because you're sure you're going to make so much money from your book that you'll never have to work again.
  11. “I’ve already sent this to 20 publishers, and am now looking for an agent.”
  12. “I’ve already sent this to 100 agents, and can’t find representation.”
  13. That you’re looking for new representation for a book that a previous agent has already shopped.
  14. Your disgruntled story about how much you’ve been rejected.
  15. The hardships you’ve survived in your life, unless that’s specifically what your book is about.
  16. Put-downs of your genre.
  17. “I'm the author of six unpublished novels” (and they’re under your bed) or “I've written many books that haven't been published.”
  18. That you have two or three sequels in mind for a book that has sold 2,000 or 3,000 or 5,000 copies.
  19. That you have twelve projects you'd like to pitch.
  20. What compelled you to write the novel, or too much other personal information. I only want to hear background info on the author or book if it’s relevant to positioning or selling the book.
  21. How much your mom, best friend, cousin and co-worker loved your book. Biased opinions don’t count
  22. Excuses or apologies: “I know it starts slow, but the book really gets going in the second half.” “I know it's too long, but it's...."
  23. “I am 93 years old and this is my last shot to be published.”
  24. “I've just been released from [fill in the blank] and need to get this memoir published.”
  25. “People have always told me I should write a book about my life.” You may have had a very interesting life, but most people know nothing about what publishers are looking for, nor what really has a chance of selling in today's tough marketplace.
  26. “I was hoping you could nurture me and help me develop my writing.” Sorry, that's not our job. That process can take years, even decades. Come to us when you feel your work is fully formed; not before.
  27. “I'd like to pick your brain about something.” PLEASE! Not only does that clumsy phrase conjure nauseating, even painful images, it also means that the next fifteen minutes are going to be spent dispensing free advice to someone I barely know when I just don't have the time to do it.


Katharine Weber said...

Good list.

One more wince-worthy: The thing you have written and hope to publish? That's a manuscript, a memoir, a novel, a collection of stories, an illustrated history of sand in Morocco -- whatever. It is not a "book." You hope it will be a book.

David said...

I've seen the phrase "fiction novel" in quite a few places lately -- including, I think, on some agent Web sites. Very odd.

Although in the case of an agent Web site, perhaps it's used preemptively, as in, don't send me non-fiction and call it a novel.

Lori said...

Love the list. Those first two can never be stressed enough (smile). Three weeks ago or so, on my own blog, I penned an entire post on the use (or should I say the misuse) of the terms "fictional novel" and "playwriter." It's nice to know plenty of others are saying the same.