Original story, in which any resemblance to current or recent bestseller trends is coincidental – check
Novel rewritten and polished – check
Work vetted by a punctuation-grammar-and-diction dominatrix for technical errors – check
Respectable list of short publications – check
With all this behind you, you send out your pitch. And you hear – nothing. Zip, zilch, nada. Publishers and agents aren’t beating down your door. They’re not requesting the complete manuscript ASAP, or even whenever you get around to it. Spiders are constructing webs in your mailbox, web-crawlers ditto in your email inbox. What’s wrong?
Writing that wonderful novel is only one part of the job. Another part of it is presentation. There are as many ways to go wrong when you present your work as there are when you write it – maybe even more. Let’s look at some of them.
1) Pitching to the wrong place, part one. Many publishers take pitches only from agents. Sending them your manuscript directly is a ticket to the round file.
2) Pitching to the wrong place, part two. Not all agencies are the same. Pick an agency that handles your genre. Remember that an agency may handle several genres, but each genre will be in the hands of a specific agent. Don’t just submit to the agency. Find and submit to the correct agent. Need I say “remember to get the name right”?
3) Failing to read the guidelines. This one is huge. If they ask for the whole manuscript, send that. If the ask for the first three chapters and a synopsis, send that. If they ask for email, use email. If they want paper, hie thee down to the post office and mail a paper copy. Read the guidelines. Do what they ask.
4) Failing to be professional. This is another biggie. Think clean typescript, readable font, pitch letter and whatever else is required, period. No pink paper, calligraphy, rainbow stickers, homemade fudge, photo cards, or other nonessential attention-getters. They will almost always get you the wrong kind of attention, and that fast trip to the round file.
An agent may see up to one hundred pitches per day. She could spend her whole day (or he could spend his) reading pitch letters, if she only had the whole day to do it. She does not. The trick is getting her to read your pitch. The fastest, easiest way to do that – once you’ve written and polished that perfect novel, of course – is to present her with exactly what she wants to see.
Forget about being a fascinating, eccentric writer. You can show your agent that side of yourself later. Right now, be a professional. Choose the target. Read the guidelines. Write a professional pitch. I’ll talk more about how to do that, and suggest some resources, in a later post.