What I Learned While Pitching My Novel

Written by Pinar Tarhan | November 12, 2015

I didn’t jump into writing my first novel blindly. I studied my favorite books in similar genres. I read quality books and articles on how to write, format, and sell a manuscript.

I moved onto the querying process with the same diligence. I researched a lot, followed agents’ blogs and Twitter accounts. By the time I started pitching agents, I’d thought I knew what was there to know about writing and selling a first novel. I was wrong. The process of pitching, which continues today, taught me even more than those months of studying:

My normal-length novel is too short for some agents

My contemporary romance novel is about 60,000 words, which is an acceptable length on the shorter side. However, there are some great agents and publishers who will only look at manuscripts longer than 70-75,000 words.

Agents have varying requirements and preferences

Some agents want 200-word synopses while others opt for 500 words or more. I currently have different sets of outlines, chapter summaries and synopses for my book. I also have varying lengths and styles of query letters.

Moreover, because I write in such a mainstream niche, I didn’t know before that there would be plenty of agents who specifically didn’t want romance.

You might not need an agent

Not landing an agent doesn’t mean the traditional publishing dream comes to an end. Many small and mid-sized publishers don’t require an agent for submissions.

The industry changes often

Agents leave, publishers change their demands, companies decide to call it quits. Writers have to keep up and maintain pitch lists accordingly.

While I was working on my book, I had a particular publisher in mind. I had read several of their books and loved everything from the authors’ voices to worldwide distribution. Their covers looked fun, professional and enticing. And you didn’t have to have an agent!

Imagine my disappointment when I learned they closed shop.

I killed my darlings due to advice from an agent, but I still question that decision

It took me ages to decide when my first chapter should start. I narrowed down my options to the present and a couple of years in the past.

When I begin in the past, it’s funnier, it lets you glimpse into the nature of the male protagonist faster, and it shows as opposed to tells.

Beginning in the now is more accepted as story experts repeatedly advise writers to begin at the latest moment possible. I find it better suited to my story’s tone to start earlier. However, one agent sent a personalized rejection, suggesting I cut back the background information. I keep going back and forth.

I routinely pick myself up with the famous rejection stories of bestselling authors.

As I collect form and silent rejections, I have to remind yourself a lot of celebrated authors today had to go through this numerous times. They didn’t give up.

I love and hate my manuscript.

One minute I think I’ve so much potential and decent penmanship. The other I’m wondering why anyone would want to publish me. The fluctuation, one that happens to many writers, is natural yet ultimately exhausting.

I love and hate the fact that I’m a writer.

I cannot not be a writer. I write in my head when there’s no access to a pen or computer. I think about my stories before I go to sleep. I love creating. I even love outlining and structuring my stories. But the constant need to market, query, wait and accept rejection depresses me. I do wonder if I’ll ever be able to make a living from my fiction.

As writers, our brains are in constant overdrive with doubts, fears and anticipation. Yet stopping would be the worst thing I could ever do for myself.

You’ll discover great publications such as this one.

Finding about as much as you can about the industry has its benefits. You discover many useful resources. I stumbled into Authors Publish this way.

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It’s a blessing and a curse to have to balance this certain manuscript with your other fiction, as well as your freelance writing business. My fingers do their best to keep up with my brain. A writer’s life is a daily roller coaster. Good thing I love roller coasters.

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Pinar Tarhan is a freelance writer, blogger and fiction writer for hire. She’s been published on Coffee Break for Writers, GoWeLoveIt, Bang2Write, Brazen Careerist and Be a Freelance Blogger among others. You can catch up with her on the blog Addicted to Writing, or on Twitter @zoeyclark.