Pitching a Novel

Originally posted on Michael Runs the Gamut on July 21, 2012

[Comments from 2021 are in italics, enclosed in square brackets, like this one.]

During the past two years [2011 to 2012], because I thought my novel, If a Butterfly, was nearing completion [silly me], I started writing (and practicing) pitches for it. I wanted to be ready to present it to agents at the June 2011 Writers’ League of Texas Agents Conference. I worked about six months on that pitch, and was ultimately pleased with it, but the earliest attempts were much too long.

I’m planning a series of posts I’ll call something like The Evolution of a Pitch. They will follow the changes from the earliest versions to the one I used at the 2011 conference, to the one I prepared for a Pitchapalooza session at the 2011 Texas Book Festival (October 2011), to the one I used last month at the [June] 2012 Writers’ League of Texas Agents Conference. Each of the versions was flawed in some way, and each had elements which either intrigued, confused, or irritated the various agents I pitched it to. I won’t go into detail in this post, but several posts will follow about how my pitch changed while I worked on it.

The main thing I want to say, for the moment, is that pitching is extremely difficult. You’re a writer. You walk up to a literary agent, usually in a crowded room with other people also trying to get their attention. Then you have to capture ten second increments of their attention. You have to gain the agent’s focus with the first ten seconds, then keep them interested in ten-second bursts, by explaining your book in a way that will convince them it’s a book they could potentially sell to a publisher. They will either reject it on the spot (which instantly deflates your ego), or will tell you it sounds interesting and they would like to see more (which can produce instant excitement and heart palpitations).

I’ll have several posts later about pitching If a Butterfly, but how do you feel about the idea of selling someone on your writing with a less-than-one-minute face-to-face interview? Have you pitched a novel yourself? What was the experience like for you?


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