Analysis, process, Publications

Pitching A Novel

TLDR: Pitch tips: Rehearse for your pitch. Prepare bold and succinct descriptions of your novel ahead of time. Practice telling others about your novel.

Here are my tips and takeaways from my first experience pitching a novel.

In preparation for the pitch I typed up two pages: one page of notes for myself, highlighting interesting features of character and setting, and another page with clean formatting containing the hook and synopsis, which I intended to hand to the agent. But when I entered the room and saw all the other pitches going on, I realized that no one had any paper. Things were more informal than that. However, creating the two documents prepared me well for the pitch itself. I’d been over key selling points of my novel and I’d rehearsed how to present them in an interesting and succinct manner.

The pitch began with the agent saying, “Hello, would you like to tell me about your work.”

I launched right in with the title, word count, and tag line.

The tag line was well received. I called my novel “a coming of age story for immortals,” which got a reaction. I recommend coming up with something catchy and unexpected like that for your novel.

Without interruption I began describing character then conflict then setting, in that order, in as brief and interesting a manner as I could.

At various points the agent asked questions about setting, character, and tone. Mainly her questions came in the form of comparisons to other work such as:

The world has a ceiling like the Truman Show?

Does your story investigate implications of immortality like Altered Carbon?

I was grateful to have seen the first and read the second, but the it wouldn’t have mattered much if I hadn’t. The important thing was that I knew my own novel thoroughly and I could describe it clearly.

Based on this one experience, I’d say that discussing with others the most interesting and salient details of your book is the best practice.

The agent asked a battery of questions, which I suspect are fairly standard. Be prepared for these. She asked about the primary conflict. She asked if the story was more about action or character. She asked what themes the story investigated. She asked what book or other medium I would compare it to and I was arrogant or bold enough to compare it to N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, explaining my choice by highlighting the world-building, character, and theme connections in my book and this three-time-in-a-row Hugo winning author.

I must have done something right. At the end of the pitch the agent requested that I email her a one-to-two page synopsis and the first three chapters.

My nerves were humming like a plucked string after that.

Have you pitched your work? Was your experience similar or different? Do you have any tips of your own to share?


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