Novel Pitching Notes

Snark alert! I thought I would say this up front so those of you who don’t want to read snarky comments from an editor can find something else to read.

Still here?


Here’s the deal. I want to publish your novel as much as you want me to publish your novel. Pitching isn’t hard, though you might be nervous about doing it. Most authors are lovely, and, even if their pitch is less than stellar, or their writing isn’t spectacular, I can usually tell that they are genuinely doing their best. I love authors like this.

Occasionally, though, and much more often than I’d like, there are oblivious people who send me things which aren’t ready for publication. There are people who send me exactly the same submission that I rejected last week. C’mon people, really? Do you think I won’t notice? Especially after the third time?

There are also people who apparently think the pitching process is not worth their effort, and somehow they seem to expect me to comb through their crap and extrapolate the necessary information I need to make an informed decision about their work.

I won’t.

I just delete these at this point and don’t bother to respond. Anything else is just a waste of my time, and my staff’s time. If they don’t take their work seriously, why should I?

Now, if you are still reading, then you must be one of the lovely authors. So let’s talk about the pitch. Okay?

Why do pitches matter? They matter because acquisition editors, publishers, and agents get tons of emails. The submission process is designed to allow the recipient to get to the important stuff quickly. If all the submissions are set up the same way, the reader has an easier time of it. A clean, well written pitch written by someone who followed directions is a good sign, and the agent or editor will pay more attention to that well-written pitch.

Note that each publishing house has different requirements. Read the directions on how to submit to them. That’s half of it. Seriously. Just follow the directions, and alter your submission according to the requirements of each publishing house.

Tell the recipient of your submission things like: the title, the word count, the genre, and a bit about you. Include your actual pitch. Include whatever pages are listed in the directions. Say thank you. Send.

It’s not hard.

Well, waiting for the response is hard. Yeah, but get used to it.

The most important part of submitting your novel for publication is making sure your pages are the best they can be. A good story, is a good story, and it is the main thing I look for. The second most important part of submitting is coming up with the pitch.

What’s the pitch?

The pitch is a two to three sentence summary of your novel that includes whowhatwhy, and why not. The pitch includes just enough information to intrigue the decision maker. Note that a pitch is not a synopsis which contains all the action, plot, main characters etc. and includes the ending.

There is no specific formula for creating a pitch, but the following may help.

When [1] happens, [2] wants [3] because [4], but [5] must first be overcome before [6].

1 = inciting incident

2= protagonist

3= story goal

4 = motivation of main character

5= obstacle / conflict

6 = Ending

Here’s an example from the Wizard of Oz:

When a tornado deposits a girl in the Land of Oz [1], Dorothy [2] needs to find the wizard who can help her get back home [3] because her aunt is sick [4], but first Dorothy must defeat the wicked witch who wants back her magical shoes, which Dorothy is wearing [5]. When the wizard can’t help her, Dorothy discovers she has the power to get back home, where she has everything she’s ever wanted [6].

You should know your novel well enough to come up with a pitch. If you don’t, then it’s not ready for publication, and not ready to be submitted. Don’t send it. You are wasting your time. More importantly, you are wasting my time.

Next week I should be over my snarky moment and we’ll get back to genre specific topics.


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