Writing Tips and Tricks

Five Places Not to Pitch Your Novel

I may be off in London, but I’ve still scheduled a fun post about what NOT to do!

I get it. There’s nothing you want more than to get your novel published. Me too. And we all know the way to do it is to get it in front of agents and editors. But there are good ways and bad ways to go about it. Good and bad, polite and creepy, smart and desperate. So here are five places NOT to pitch your novel.

  1. Twitter

Let’s kick it off with one that isn’t always wrong, but can sometimes be a disaster. Twitter pitch parties are great places to pitch your book. Editors and agents are on the lookout, ready to like anything they want to see. They want to see pitches, and so does everyone else following the hashtag.

But Twitter isn’t always a good place to throw out your pitch. Imagine this example:

You: Mmm, I love eating #cheese!

Cheese Company: Hi, @You! We heard you like cheese! Our cheese is the best! It’s very cheesy! You should buy our cheese! We’ll PM you about our cheese!

That would be annoying. But people actually do that:

Editor: I just read this really good #scifi book!

Writer: Then you’ll love my book! It’s a sci-fi historical fantasy! Blorg is a Civil War soldier from Mars who rides dragons! Let me know if you’re interested, and I’ll PM you the details!

Writer in PM (without reaction from editor): Here’s my ten-page proposal!

Yes, this happens, and yes, it’s incredibly annoying. The poor editor just wanted to talk about a book she read, and all the sudden, she’s getting spammed. Remember, editors and agents are people too.

  1. Facebook Messenger

Hooray! You were able to become friends with an editor or agent on Facebook. Or, at least, you joined the same Facebook group and they accepted your Messenger request. And so… you decided to pitch your book through Messenger.

Let’s talk about this for a minute. They’re called Facebook “friends.” The assumption is that you’re going to be friendly. How would you feel if you accepted a friend request from someone who you thought just had similar interests, and now they’re trying to sell you something? Face it, we all hate it enough when our friends start selling Avon or Origami Owl, let alone random strangers. This is the worst.

Also, for goodness sake, don’t message editors or agents on Facebook and ASK THEM TO EDIT YOUR BOOK FOR FREE. Yes, this has happened to me several times. Would you ask an electrician to come wire your house for free? Editors and agents are busy professionals with specialized skill sets acquired through years of education and training. They won’t randomly give a stranger feedback on their novel any more than a mechanic will give you a free tune up just because you walked up and asked.

  1. In an Elevator

Okay, we’ve all heard of the “elevator pitch.” It’s your short, succinct pitch that you could give in the time it takes you and an editor to ride the elevator together.

BUT.

The idea behind the elevator pitch is that the editor asks, “So, what’s your novel about?”

The idea is NOT that you mob said editor, trap him in the elevator with you, and make it super awkward while you force him to listen to your pitch. Rule of thumb: if they don’t ask, or if it doesn’t come up naturally in conversation, don’t attack with your pitch.

  1. LinkedIn

I hop on my LinkedIn app. I see a connection request. It says something about “writer,” so I shrug and accept. Two seconds later, a three-page-long pitch appears in my messages. I facepalm. This is the third time this week.

LinkedIn is for building professional relationships. My assumption is that, if anything, you might ask where you can submit to our agency. I don’t expect a pitch and an attachment. I didn’t ask for it. It’s against all our protocol. LinkedIn notifies me that I have a message, which I assume is someone who wants to have a conversation, but instead, it’s someone trying to bypass the system. And usually, doing it really poorly with awful grammar.

If you’ve done this, I understand, and I forgive you. It’s so exciting to connect with people on LinkedIn. Trust me, I’ve been tempted to use LinkedIn to pitch my clients to high-profile editors. But that’s a great way to be pushy, annoying, and show you don’t know proper etiquette. Instead, I thank them for connecting with me. If they respond, I MIGHT ask them what sort of things they are looking for so I can keep an eye out for them. Sometimes, they offer an email. Sometimes, they don’t. If they do, I submit through email ONLY—and only genres they take.

  1. In the Bathroom

Okay, I just wanted to use an absurd header. For number five, I really just mean, don’t be weird in people’s personal lives. I know several people who are fairly influential in the publishing sphere. But I also know that it’s wrong to try to use them. Just be a good friend, acquaintance, or coworker. If it comes up in conversation, go ahead and talk about your book. Otherwise, just be a decent person, and chances are, if an opportunity arises, they’ll think of you and let you know.

 

In the end, be a decent person. Read submission guidelines. Follow proper etiquette and procedures. Remember that editors and agents are people and have lives besides publishing. It may take longer to get noticed, but when they do notice you, it will be in a positive light.

 

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