Friday, 8 February 2013


The Matterhorn. 
It's that stage again. The one I keep avoiding, putting off and then forcing myself to do as a necessary chore. Then, of course, I don't do a very good job. How nice if I could learn to love pitching my novel to an agent!

Here's what some of the experts say - first of all Blake Snyder, the Save the Cat man
  • the pitch should be somewhat ironic (huh? don't get that, especially as he's American and there is this great myth that Americans don't get irony at all)
  • paint a compelling mental picture (I try, I try!)
  • give an idea of genre and market (Well, OK, but my book isn't like any other book out there. And it seems a little conceited to liken my work to Sansom or Gregory or any other successful novelist. Can anyone imagine a mix of Sansom and Gregory? I'm not sure I can.)
  • give the work a killer title (Yes, of course. Easier said than done. When I look at the half dozen titles my wip has had over the last three years, I feel like throwing myself under a bus. No, change that - I'll toss my wip under a bus.)
Other experts say: state who the hero is, his goal, why he needs it and what stops him attaining it. Focus on the conflict at the heart of the novel. (A little more practical than Snyder's instructions, so I'll remember this)

Rachelle Gardner asks:
  • what's the story? RG has a blog post which claims that pitchers often tell her the emotional theme or journey of the hero but don't tell her THE STORY. H'mmm. Food for thought there.
  • Give your protgonist's choices, and the conflicts he faces
  • Consequences - what happens if he doesn't attain his goals
I know the answer to all those bullet points, but putting them all together in vibrant exciting prose is going to be hard going. Sigh. It's got to be done. Wish me luck.

PS Have just heard the York Minster does not want Richard III to be interred there. It's quite happy for Leicester to have him. I guess York just can't cope with any more tourists than it already has.


Dean Crawford said...

Not sure about "pitching", but if you're referring to a covering letter for a potential agent, then it should generally be one page. I used three paragraphs - there's a copy of it on my blog in one of the posts if you want to borrow the general template.

Don't bother phoning agents - they're busy and if you make a fluff of your pitch it's game over. With a letter you can hone it to perfection, just like your manuscript.

I'm sure you will, but just focus on presenting everything perfectly: you'd be surprised how achieving that will put you ahead of the crowd. My agent still remarks how my letter stood out for being clear, direct and attention grabbing.

Best of luck, Jen!

Jen Black said...

I'll check out your post, Dean. I'm sure it'll be better than my attempts!

Helen Black said...

Jen, whilst i have n't pitched books before, i've done plenty of pitching over the years as oart of my career in professional and financial services. What's worked for me is firstly, ensure the target already knows you or is aware of you before you even try and pitch. Secondly, really understand his/her work style and preferences (you could even ask them long before you pitch). Finally, understand their next steps in the the pitch process (e.g. is his/her next step to present to a committee, board etc). By understanding this stage you will be able to prepare your pitch in a format that makes their life a little easier. Just my observations - not sure if they translate from the business world to the wonderful and exciting literary world.

Jen Black said...

Hi Helen - I think your thoughts deserve a full answer, so look out for my post on Monday!