Renewed Optimism: Pitching Your Novel

Isolated on white empty, half and full water glassesOkay, so I know I was being a crybaby about pitching my newest project at my last posting. I shouldn’t be. I’m old enough to handle pain and rejection. I had two babies without so much as a Tylenol. But when it comes to rejection, well, it’s always painful. I’ve talked about the biology of rejection before and I understand that some of it is unavoidable.

The other interesting research I stumbled upon is that once an optimist always an optimist. People who suffer traumatic injury, after an initial period of depression, always revert back to their hopeful personalities. So, in synchronicity with my research I awoke last Monday with my glass brimming over with optimism. I’m going to tell you what I learned in my most recent round of submission requests—okay, I just had a revelation. Submission is a terrible word. To submit is to accept or yield to a superior force of authority or the will of another person. I get that agents and publishers probably have their fingers on the pulse of the industry—the market, but how will they know when something new, something that will challenge the accepted genres, can break out and find a new audience? I’ve written before about crossing genres, breaking the rules, and coming up with something different and exciting and I’m sticking to it. I’ve been paralyzed before by experts who told me “don’t do this” or “don’t do that” because agents will reject you before you know what hit you. But I’m done with that and just like Kathy, I write the story I want and when and if an agent or publisher signs me, well then I’ll consider story edits.

What do you think woke me from my dread-of-submission-coma the other morning? I decided to sit down and read my most recent project from start to finish, looking for typos and other inadvertent mishaps. My sister had offered to proofread for me, but she’s been so busy lately that she just hadn’t gotten around to it. It had been months since I’d given it a full read, so I dug in last weekend, which just happened to be rainy and cold, my favorite climate for reading, and well…I found three typos and one place where I’d opened a car window twice. But the best part…I fell in love with the story all over again. I thought, someone else has to love this story as much as I do.

I began to search for agents and small presses who were interested in my type of story and quickly realized that there are tens of  thousands of literary agents and publishing houses out there, so to be put off by twenty or thirty who don’t embrace my vision is just plain stupid. “Buck up! Girlfriend,” I told myself. “There’s someone out there who will want your story.”

I sent out 9 queries to both agents and small presses and will probably try for a few more in the next few days now that I’ve got a rhythm going.

Here are my tips for submitting your manuscript:

  1. Read my posts on writing the perfect pitch and query for added tips to sharpen your skills.
  2. Do your homework. I thought querying small presses would be easier than querying an agent. Not so. Hone your pitch, synopsis, and query letter before you begin. You can trim and edit as needed, based upon each press’s requirements.
  3. Don’t fret yourself into inaction. The first hour I started this I was obsessed with proofreading, fearful of a typo or grammar error. Attend to detail, but at some point just let if fly. Give it over to the universe. If someone really connects with your story a typo won’t put him or her off.
  4. When querying agents, don’t let them intimidate you. They need you more than you need them. You’re selling your manuscript, you’re not selling yourself. This is just business, not a reflection of your self worth.
  5. Seek out fledgling agents. They’re hungry and looking to build their client list. Writer’s Digest often posts new agents and what they’re seeking. If you buy their book “Writer’s Digest Guide to Literary Agents” you get a year membership to their newsletter for free.
  6. Check out these sites with “Agent Wish Lists” for additional leads.
  7. Strengthen your author platform. Some asked me about my followers: Twitter, Websites, etc. If you haven’t jumped into the online community of authors you might want to. Don’t overlook affinity groups on Facebook—special interest groups that might be a theme in your book. They provide support and can serve as beta readers and people you can ask for an honest review.
  8. Map out a marketing plan. No one has asked me for one yet but Sharon had to provide one on several occasions. Read her marketing post.
  9. Avoid the agent drama. Go online and look for small presses where you can submit without an agent. Although some of them aren’t so small. Harper Collins lets you submit without an agent through their imprint Avon Books.
  10. Keep the faith. Persistence pays off. After 5 years of continual rejection, Agatha Christie finally landed a publishing deal. Her book sales are now in excess of $2 billion. Only William Shakespeare has sold more. Dr. Seuss’ first book, And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street, was rejected 37 times. JK Rowling and Stephen King Writing have similar stories. The Help was rejected 72 times. For more on famous author rejections check out this site. “Publishing is even harder than writing,” according to Stephen King, “and the sad thing is, many writers bail out before they make it to this stage, sullenly stomping off to shove their manuscript into some drawer, never again to see the light of day.” Remember: Rejection is a test of one’s character. 

I’ll keep you posted on my newest journey to sell a manuscript. I haven’t quite arrived on the threshold to self- publishing, not yet. Maybe you’ll read about that in a future post. The worst part? Most reply with an auto message reminding you that due to the overwhelming number of submissions, it takes up to three months before they will respond. Maybe I’ll get a great birthday present in January, or a Valentine’s surprise, perhaps a reason to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with added enthusiasm and an extra shot of Jameson. I’m hopeful, thank goodness. Again.



Author: Caryn McGill

Caryn is a former high school science teacher, school district administrator and adjunct college professor.

2 thoughts on “Renewed Optimism: Pitching Your Novel”

  1. Thank you so much for this! I just finished my very first ms, a mid-grade mystery. This post and all of the links in it to previous, related posts are exactly what I need as I begin my journey to publication. I will do my best to heed your advice to stay positive and focused, but it is a very big challenge at times to do this, isn’t it? Good luck to you!

    1. Thanks for leaving a comment! I know how tough this journey can be but I’m committed to staying focused. Persistence is my new middle name! I remind myself that nothing worthwhile comes without hard work. Good luck to you also! Keep me posted on your process. BTW, I’ve had some positive responses this time. Fingers crossed!

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