How NOT to Pitch Your Work

This weekend, I was reading blog posts and came across one by an editor who explained that certain key phrases in your cover or query letter will bring a hasty rejection.  I was surprised because I had seen warnings about some of them early in my career.  Apparently, the world has not wised up.

For those of you who don’t want to sour the deal before the editor or agent reaches your signature, here are five things to avoid.

  1.  God told me to write this.  Also avoid the variant “God wants you to publish this.” While you may be on a mission from God, telling a potential editor or agent this puts you into a category that you would rather avoid.
  2. I wrote this because I have a lesson kids need to learn.  Work worth publishing may very well contain a lesson but it can’t be preachy or heavy-handed.  Kids need your lesson about respecting their elders.  Wonderful.  In your letter, simply state that you’ve written a book about respect.
  3. Today’s books aren’t as good as the ones I grew up with.  Don’t like children’s literature?  Then don’t try writing for children.
  4. This will be as big as Harry Potter.  Even if you have a great idea, don’t announce that you are the next blockbuster.  Those are notoriously hard to predict.  Will your magical world appeal to fans of Harry Potter?  That’s another matter altogether.
  5. I know you don’t normally publish children’s books, but . . . If you know a publisher doesn’t normally publish children’s books, you should know that they aren’t going to want to look at yours.  Find a publisher that does.

Agents, editors and publishers are all on the lookout for great books.  But they also know that great books are most likely to come from professionals, people who love literature and media as well as their audience.

Impress them with great writing and your professional savvy.  You don’t want to send them the letter that is being discussed in the break room.


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