This blog is called “Ask the Agent”. But I haven’t been dispensing much agently advice yet. There are some excellent books out on how to write book proposals, how to find an agent and how to get published. But I am here to give some tips as well. It is a tough world out there. And if you aren’t a disgraced ex-governor of Alaska, it is pretty hard to get a book contract. So here are some tips and examples of weak and strong pitches to make in your book proposal.
Weak: I am willing to go on an 8 city tour (they probably won’t send you, and this indicates that you might have unrealistic expectations. They used to let you travel first class and stay at the Ritz Carlton. They’re hard up now, so expect to go by Greyhound.)
Strong: I am willing to schedule an 8 city tour at my expense (or any other ideas that include: “at my expense” are always popular with publishers)
Weak: This would be a great story on Oprah (uh-huh. It’s also the oldest story in the book. Similarly unrealistic)
Strong: I am sleeping with Oprah’s hairdresser. ( If you are going to pitch media connections, they should be concrete and have reasonable expectations of results. But don’t oversell yourself. They can smell bull shit.)
Weak: I am willing to go to book signings at my local bookstore (They know that anyway. And this won’t sell books).
Strong: I have arranged presentations with the staff at Google. Steve Jobs loves my book and has agreed to purchase 5000 copies to give to the key employees at Christmas time. They are also interested in purchasing non-verbatim electronic multi-media rights as an app for the I-pod. (This is too good to be true, so you better get Steve to write a letter to that effect. Publishers love sales outside of bookstores. It is like extra money.)
Weak: I will reluctantly agree to be on Fresh Air, schedule permitting. (If you are not going to aggressively flog the product, this will not be well received. )
Weak: This will make a great movie (see Oprah above).
Strong: Film rights for this product have been optioned to Stephen Spielberg (there might be a possibility here, but there are many options out with few movies ever made).
Very Strong: Film Rights have been sold to Stephen Spielberg. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are signed up. Currently being filmed on location in Montana. (This pitch doesn’t happen very often).
Strong: I am the extremely charismatic and controversial governor of Alaska and vice-presidential candidate. (Don’t worry that she is inarticulate, has nothing to say, and can’t write).
Almost as strong: I am the extremely charismatic and controversial governor of Alaska who has quit with disgrace and lack of dignity. (Hey, it’s all about celebrity).
Weak: My neighbor will host a publication party. (See booksigning above)
Strong: My neighbor is Barack Obama, and he will give a publication party at the White House (nuff said)
Weak: My friends loved this book. (Your friends won’t tell you the truth).
Strong: My friend, Bill O’Reilly (Rachel Maddow) loved this book. (Connections, connections connections).
Weak: My mother and spouse loved this book. (Oh, come on!)
Strong: My mother is the disgraced former governor of Alaska and she loved this book. My former boyfriend hated this book and will go public and tell tawdry and salacious tales about me. (In this business, there is no such thing as bad publicity.)
Weak: I’ll set up a blog and a website (whoopee!)
Very Weak: I have a blog that gets 50,000 hits a day and will promote my new biography of Ludwig Wittgenstein. My blog is called GO.NASCAR.com. (All blogs are not equal. All successful blogs are not equal).
Strong: I have a blog that gets 50,000 hits a day and will promote my new biography of Ludwig Wittgenstein. My blog is called LudwigRocks.com.
Weak: Your readers are going to love this book. It is like Petrarch meets Robespierre. (Although publishers are infatuated with pitches premised on dubious and glib equivalencies, the pitch must be based on subjects that are readily recognized – usually in the Safeway checkout line.)
Strong: Your readers are going to love this book. It is like the Bronte sisters meet the Olson Twins.
We welcome examples of Good pitch / Bad pitch from our readers
Tags: advice to writers, andy ross, andy ross agency, ask the agent, book contract, book publishing, books, fiction, how to get an agent, how to get published, literary agent, literature, pitch, writing