Selling Blood, Sweat and Tears

Give me three minutes and I’ll show you how you can’t go on another day without this Handy-Dandy Vacuum Cleaner made right here in the good old USA!

vacuum_cleaner_salesmanAny author who has forged out into the unknown and put their work in front of editors or agents for publishing consideration will identify with this cheesy pitch. Selling a book is much like selling a vacuum cleaner, door to door. You knock on door after door and most don’t ever open. Just an “I’m not interested. Thanks!” from the other side. Of the ones that do open, they usually slam closed. The precious few that consider your pitch, well, they already have a vacuum cleaner and need to be convinced why yours is so much better but that is the opportunity you have been looking for.

And for goodness sake, knock on the right doors. Don’t pitch a horror novel to an agent that only represents authors of Chick-lit. Do some homework and know something about who you are pitching to. This will increase your margin just a bit. If you have connections, USE THEM!

All of that is just to get read by an editor or agent; just to get them to take a look. Publishing or representation is still a long way off, but this is how it starts if you don’t have any connections. You can’t blame the editors and agents – they have a line of authors pitching their great stories all day long. How can they not become jaded and tired of it? How many times can they say no in one day?

Authors connect with their work. Their novel is their baby. It represents their blood, sweat, tears and untold hundreds (if not thousands) of hours. But to have any hope of getting a contract or even representation with an agent, you’ll have to suffer through rejection after rejection, shake it off and go to the next door. Allowing a rejection to devastate you is not an option. Allowing 10 rejections to discourage you is not an option. Or 100 rejections. You must keep going.  You haven’t failed until you stop trying.

And you have to keep developing your art. Not good enough? Thank you for your consideration. I’ll be back in a year with a new novel and maybe you will take a look then, after I’ve refined my writing prose?

One of the most amazing things I realized about myself is that, although I consider myself a writer, the task of writing down the pitch for my novel was daunting. I thought it would sound canned and rehearsed.

I could write a query letter easily enough, but a short speech was intimidating. And you need the speech. You need to know what you are going to say if/when you get a chance to say it. You need a 10-20 second pitch (elevator pitch) and then the longer, 3 minute one that hits the key points but isn’t an information dump. Hopefully, that will develop into a more natural conversation where the details can then come out. Then, you need to practice it. A lot. In front of a mirror. In front of people.

So, I’m back out in the market again with a re-re-re-edited Life in Sixty-Four Square Feet, and I’m knocking on the doors. If you’re doing the same, then I wish you well! Just stay off the porch while I’m talking.

This list of links is helpful but far from inclusive. If you’ve found a really helpful resource on this subject, please share it with me!

How to Write a Novel Pitch (I particularly liked the comments and warnings.)

Make the Perfect Pitch: A Novel Query by Kelly James-Enger

Novel Pitch – by Lynn Viehl

Pitching and Selling Your Novel to Agents and Editors by Louisa Burton

How to Pitch Your Novel in 25 Words or Less by Barbara Scott (Editor)

© 2011, Mitch Lavender


3 thoughts on “Selling Blood, Sweat and Tears

  1. Well, Mitch
    it’s really not for the faint hearted. You’ve gotta have balls — and decorate them.
    Do you ever think — if we all clubbed together and bought shares in a publishing company we may wield some clout?
    No? It was just a passing thought.


  2. I think we all have enough headaches without taking on the responsibilities of a real publishing company. Lots of partners (all writers) wanting to take it in different directions and likely none of us will be thinking about how to make it profitable. More likely it would be a money pit.
    I’ll keep taking my knocks with the publishers and agents. It’s more about validation for me than anythnig else.

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