How NOT to Pitch Your Novel to an Agent or Publisher

So you say you've written a book-- and now you must weed through the thousands of web sites out there written by everyone--

From best-selling novelists to people who once penned their phone number on a cocktail napkin--

All ready to advise you on how to pitch your beloved novel.

Yet very few of them will tell you what you shouldn't do.

And that's why here at Of Cabbages and Kings, we have pulled together a helpful list of phrases that you should never, ever use to promote your novel. Unless you want to give publisher-type people something to snigger at around the watercooler. Which they might appreciate, if only from a place of schadenfreude and ironic sadness.

What Not to Say in Your Pitch Session or Query Letter:
  • "I have sent my 1,064 page manuscript to your offices posted C.O.D. because I am that sure the moment you read it, you will want to sign it."
  • "This darkly romantic Gothic saga is in the tradition of Stephanie Meyers and Anne Rice, if Edward or Lestat were giant talking squids."
  • "My novel is so hilariously funny, I laughed so hard that I cried. Then I wet myself. Then I paused long enough to change my trousers, and start the cycle over again. You've never read anything so uproarious as Mr. Wiggins' Fiscal Analysis of the 90s Recession."
  • "Contains a cast of characters bigger than Tolstoy's and Dostoyevsky's works combined!"
  • "I'm giving you the unique opportunity to be the first to read my manuscript, even before I have. That's how much I value your opinion."
  • "I'm the ideal person to write Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer because of my remarkable experience in the field. I have watched Silence of the Lambs 147 times and..."
  • "Deer Ageint..."
  • "So, in closing, my non-fiction self-help book, Procrastination: How-To Stop Putting It Off isn't yet complete, but I expect it to be ready sometime in 2012. Or at the latest 2013."
  • "I know I sent you this manuscript twice before, but I really think if you would just spend some quality time with it... say, take it to dinner, share a few bottles of wine... cuddle up with it before bedtime... you would see..."
  • "I know you receive so much mail daily, so to save on paper, I have decided to communicate my manuscript to you via telepathy... coming... NOW."

So there's the complete list, folks! Simply scan each query you send for these ten key pitfall phrases, and soon you will be on your way to receiving rejection letters based on more fulfilling reasons--

Like your plot sucks, you didn't happen to go to school with the editor's brother, you never were on a reality television show, or you just mailed your power of positive thinking guide to a publisher specializing in nihilist literature.

Good luck!

And PS- Do you folks have any "Don'ts" to add here? Leave a comment and share them! I promise there will be no rejections... unless you spam.


GS said...

My mystery, "Liechtenstein; The country or Roy?", will be the bread basket of your success for years to come.

Jenn Thorson said...

GS- Heh, oh yes-- the amount of times I, as an avid reader, have thought how lacking my knowledge of Liechtenstein is... Or Liechtenstein."

timethief said...

I have nothing to add to your list which I laughed my way through. I can't imagine being an agent and having to sort through such dross. I suspect they must have huge trashcans filled to the brim that need continual dumping.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sirs and Mesdames,

Have I got an amazing book for you. My book. It's amazing. It has an amazing plot, and amazing subtext, and it would also make an amazing text book for the higher education market.

The name of my book is Amazing, the story of how the word 'amazing' has become so mainstream and caused our intellectual curiosity to turn to mush.

It's just SO, like, AMAZING.

I'm so sure you will be amazed at this amazing groundbreaking thought-provoking tome.

And besides, when my sex tape hits the interwebs, I can parlay that into an amazing reality TV show, and sell more amazing books!

Yours truly amazing,

JaneneMurphy said...

"You are one of 246 agents I am currently querying, so you'd better act fast before this one goes to someone else!"

Seriously, great list. Thanks for the chuckle.

Jenn Thorson said...

Timethief- While we're joking here, I imagine they really have seen some examples that boggle the mind.

MadTexter- AMAZING! I feel amazed just reading about the amazing potential of this amazing new talent.

Janene-- Ah, good one!

Glen said...

Dear Sir,
Please find attached my hilarious, and hand written, comedy account of the misadventures of a young woman driving across France. If you are too stupid to see its potential, please post it back to me carefully, as it is the only copy.
My ‘laugh out loud’ novel is called ‘Chasing the Princess” and…

Sorry – too soon? – No offence intended – it just struck me as the wrong thing to write to a publisher.

Or to a writer you don’t know?

thanks for the laugh with your list

Tricia said...

So THIS is where I've been going wrong!? ;)

Great list!

Jenn Thorson said...

Glen- I believe you managed to cover at least four different things never to do. Sir, I salute you.

Tricia- Heh, well, speaking for myself I know I haven't committed these PARTICULAR offenses with the recent queries for my humorous space-fantasy, but I imagine there's a whole list of offense untapped we can get ourselves in trouble with. :)

laughingmom said...

Ummm...Let's see:

Dear Sir or Madam,

I have a great idea for an award winning novel. Here's the first sentence. Feel free to fill in the rest.

Jenn Thorson said...

Laughing Mom- "It's a choose your own plot, character, and conclusion book. I read once that the first sentence is the most important one. So I stopped after I wrote that, knowing it would all be downhill from there." :)

laughingmom said...

Oh Jenn, I just love that! You rock! Although, I personally find that the first sentence is one that I have the toughest time writing and edit it many times.

Jenn Thorson said...

Laughingmom- I'm having that very problem with the beginning of a short story I'm working on, actually. I usually just plod on and then tweak the beginning afterwards. (That won't help for our imaginary writer, though, will it.)

SprigBlossoms said...

Enjoyed reading your post : ) I am currently not involved in the publishing business, but I will keep in mind to heed to all your points above if I change my mind ; )

Jaffer said...

I shall leave the writing to those who do for a living.

K Fields said...

My Favorite:
"Deer Ageint..."

Jenn Thorson said...

SprigBlossoms- Always good to have solid info in advance.

Jaffer- Chicken!! :)

K Fields- I HAVE heard agents say they sometimes get mail addressed to other agents because the writer forgot to change the name on the letter.

Rico Swaff said...

Haha, my favorite was "I'm giving you the unique opportunity to be the first to read my manuscript, even before I have. That's how much I value your opinion."

The main no-nos I hear of are; "my friends and I think this is hilarious" or "I am the next Louis Lamour."

meleah rebeccah said...

Okay, first of all, I am cracking up at your blog post.

I think this might be my favorite:

"I'm giving you the unique opportunity to be the first to read my manuscript, even before I have. That's how much I value your opinion."

And your conversation with Laughing Mom is making me pee in my pants. But I'm going to change them so I cam start the cycle all over again!

Deray said...

How about..."my mommy read my novel and found it perfect, romantic, hilarious and great so I'm sure you will too"

Rhonda Albom said...

Thank you so much, I was just about to make three of those mistakes myself. Now I better understand my difficulties. I think the best part of joining humor bloggers is reading and laughing. Thanks. I am your newest follower

meleah rebeccah said...

Hmmm... I know I left a comment already, but it seems to be missing.

Anyway...this list is hilarious. My favorite one is:

"Deer Ageint..."

And your conversation in the comments with Laughing Mom cracked me up so much that - I laughed so hard that I cried. Then I wet myself. Then I paused long enough to change my trousers, and start the cycle over again.

Kelly said...

My personal fave of the bunch was... 'My novel is so hilariously funny, I laughed so hard that I cried. Then I wet myself. Then I paused long enough to change my trousers...'

Here's a few more:

To Whom It May Concern: The manuscript you see before you is so full of mystery and enigma, that even I didn't know what to make of it. Will you? If you do, please tell me.

Hey you, read this and publish this or I shall place a curse upon you and your offspring! Sincerely, An Aspiring Writer and Your #1 Fan*

*Bonus points given if the manuscript is obviously sealed in a big envelope by some blood.

Sci-Fi Gene said...

@Kelly I am confused. Is there some other way to seal your manuscript envelope?