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There are lots of great blog posts about how to pitch a novel in a face-to-face meeting with an agent, but sometimes, what you don’t say can be just as important.
 
With that in mind, I’ve made a list of things writers probably shouldn’t say during an in-person pitch (with special thanks to Bill Mingin, my friend from the
GSHW, who inspired this post during a pre-meeting chinwag last Saturday, and also suggested I include #6 on the list). 
 

 

10 Things You Shouldn’t Say to an Agent During an In-Person Pitch

 
1: “Before I tell you my story idea, you have to sign this secrecy agreement.” 

2: “I’m here to talk to you about the book what I wrote.”

3: “Wow. You look so much older in person.”
 
4: “Help me agent person. You’re my only hope.”
 
5: “This is a great conference, don’t you think? Listen, I know you’re on the toilet, but from the sound of things, you’re going to be in there for some time, so while you’ve got a few minutes to spare, please read my first chapter. It’s in the envelope I just slid under the door. No need to rush. I’ll just wait here till you’re done.”
 
6: “You’ll love having me as a client. I’m great fun to work with. Here, pull my finger.”

7: “I thought about approaching you before, when I follow you to work each morning, or as you collect your kids from school, or when you put out garbage at night, but I know how you agent-types like your privacy.”

8: “You’ll love my book. It’s way better than all that other rubbish you’ve been getting deals for.”

9: “Personally, I think literary agents are nothing but parasites and vultures. Still, since you guys are also the gate-keepers, I suppose I’ll just have to hold my nose and let one of you represent me. Now, about my novel…”

10:   ___________________________

 

I’ve left number ten blank. What would you put on a list of things not to say to an agent during a personal pitch?

If you found this helpful, you might also like:

The Agent Pitch: 10 Responses You Don't Want to Hear

A Rejection With a Silver Lining




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Comments

( 72 comments — Leave a comment )
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peadarog
Mar. 14th, 2011 03:16 pm (UTC)
10) Unless you accept me as a client, this marriage is over!
jongibbs
Mar. 14th, 2011 03:41 pm (UTC)
Lol :)
(Deleted comment)
jongibbs
Mar. 14th, 2011 03:42 pm (UTC)
Good one :)
clarionj
Mar. 14th, 2011 03:25 pm (UTC)
Hahaha, I needed this today.

I've so much to catch up on. It has been weeks since I've gotten to your Friday writing blogs. Sigh. I want to go back to being a writer. :)

Hope you're well and life's being good to you.
jongibbs
Mar. 14th, 2011 03:43 pm (UTC)
I've got somewhat derailed my own self over these last few weeks, but things are finally settling down.
chant_1
Mar. 14th, 2011 03:29 pm (UTC)
LOL - great post, Jon! How about "My mom thinks I'm the next J.K. Rowling!"

Or "My story is too complex to sum up in a short format so I've taken the liberty of putting it to music. Here, hold my guitar case..."
jongibbs
Mar. 14th, 2011 03:45 pm (UTC)
Ooh, a musical pitch. I like it, especially if you can get some Tuvan throat singers to provide some backing vocals :)
(no subject) - chant_1 - Mar. 14th, 2011 08:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - paulwoodlin - Jun. 2nd, 2011 06:22 am (UTC) - Expand
wendigomountain
Mar. 14th, 2011 03:31 pm (UTC)
I'm just willing to bet an agent hears #8 more than anything else.
jongibbs
Mar. 14th, 2011 03:45 pm (UTC)
I sincerely hope nobody's ever tried #6 :)
wendigomountain
Mar. 14th, 2011 03:39 pm (UTC)
10. I don't read much, but I'm sure you'll find that my novel is very much in the same vein as what is popular these days. It's like Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean with a little Michael Bay thrown in for action. I can also write the screenplay, and direct if they can't get Spielberg...now, I've already put together a prototype for the action figures that will follow the movie when it releases...
jongibbs
Mar. 14th, 2011 03:46 pm (UTC)
Excellent :)
naomi_jay
Mar. 14th, 2011 04:13 pm (UTC)
10. If you don't sign me up as a client, you're missing out not only on the millions of pounds my book will assuredly make, but also the chance to share in a project that will change the lives of everyone who reads it.
jongibbs
Mar. 14th, 2011 04:57 pm (UTC)
Confidence in one's own ability always goes down well, I think :)
(no subject) - msstacy13 - Mar. 14th, 2011 05:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
uglychicken
Mar. 14th, 2011 04:22 pm (UTC)
Yore skin sure is soft and purty, ain't it?
jongibbs
Mar. 14th, 2011 04:58 pm (UTC)
But what if the agent's a woman? :)
Walter Giersbach
Mar. 14th, 2011 04:27 pm (UTC)
"10 Things..."
"I done a little writing in high school, and all my friends said if I'd have went to college I could've been a writer." (spoken in a New Jersey dialect)
jongibbs
Mar. 14th, 2011 04:58 pm (UTC)
Re: "10 Things..."
Hehehe :)
Re: "10 Things..." - msstacy13 - Mar. 14th, 2011 04:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
blood_of_winter
Mar. 14th, 2011 04:47 pm (UTC)
"If this gets picked up by a publisher, the editor will fix my spelling and grammar, right? I read that somewhere on the internet."
jongibbs
Mar. 14th, 2011 04:58 pm (UTC)
Lol, you mean to say they don't? Dang :(
(no subject) - brni - Mar. 15th, 2011 05:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - blood_of_winter - Mar. 17th, 2011 03:50 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - brni - Mar. 17th, 2011 04:24 am (UTC) - Expand
(Anonymous)
Mar. 14th, 2011 04:51 pm (UTC)
#10 by Albert Difilippantonio
Look,I've got so many projects going on that I'll leave this Manuscript with you; call to discuss terms when there's not a CSI Episode on. I have had several incredible novels so far on the back burner that some of them fell off the stove. So, I belch this thing out in 2 week just to get something printed and sell about 10,000 copies.
Talk soon, gotta go...
jongibbs
Mar. 14th, 2011 04:59 pm (UTC)
Re: #10 by Albert Difilippantonio
You know, I may even try that one :)
maryjdal
Mar. 14th, 2011 04:56 pm (UTC)
This was a great laugh for a Monday. Thanks.
jongibbs
Mar. 14th, 2011 05:00 pm (UTC)
My pleasure, Mary :)
msstacy13
Mar. 14th, 2011 04:58 pm (UTC)
Hmmm...
“Help me agent Juan Quixote. You’re my only hope.”
does have a lovely sound to it...

I did actually conclude a half-page contact/query letter with this:
In any case, it does occur to me that anyone who would
recommend that an author write The Lost Life of Eva Braun might
also see the real value of my novel. If I’m right, please let me know
at your earliest convenience. If, on the other hand, I am entirely wrong
about you, kindly disregard this inquiry.

Warmest regards and best wishes,


Someone told me that
"If, on the other hand, I am entirely wrong about you,"

was the best piece of self-sabotage they'd seen in years,
so I've been careful to avoid saying anything like that since.
jongibbs
Mar. 14th, 2011 05:01 pm (UTC)
"If, on the other hand, I am entirely wrong about you,"

If you do say that, your only hope is to try #6 and offer a finger for pulling :)
(Anonymous)
Mar. 14th, 2011 05:03 pm (UTC)
Brilliant, Jon. I love these.
jongibbs
Mar. 14th, 2011 10:03 pm (UTC)
Thank you :)
JFHilborne
Mar. 14th, 2011 05:10 pm (UTC)
10th no-no

"This is the very first draft of my 250,000 word novel. I finished it last night and I want you to be the first to read it. You just HAVE to read it."
jongibbs
Mar. 14th, 2011 10:03 pm (UTC)
Re: 10th no-no
Excellent! :)
bogwitch64
Mar. 14th, 2011 05:37 pm (UTC)
You had me on the floor with #5.

You're too funny.

#10: My book really represents itself, but since I need a drone to do the paperwork, I thought I'd give you first shot.
jongibbs
Mar. 14th, 2011 10:04 pm (UTC)
From what I hear, #5 happens more often than you'd think.
careann.wordpress.com
Mar. 14th, 2011 06:21 pm (UTC)
#10 - The first chapter might not grab you, but keep reading. It's a great story.
careann.wordpress.com
Mar. 14th, 2011 06:23 pm (UTC)
Or maybe better still: #10 - The first few chapters might not grab you, but keep reading. Once you get into it it's a great story.
jongibbs
Mar. 14th, 2011 10:05 pm (UTC)
Talk up the ending, right? :)
arbraun
Mar. 14th, 2011 06:58 pm (UTC)
10th No-No
Your search for the ultimate novel is over!
jongibbs
Mar. 14th, 2011 10:05 pm (UTC)
Re: 10th No-No
Lol, I like that one :)
peachette48
Mar. 14th, 2011 11:00 pm (UTC)
Sick #10 I have a bomb in my underdrawers.

(That has soo many things wrong with it.)
jongibbs
Mar. 14th, 2011 11:19 pm (UTC)
That sounds more like a pick-up line ;)
snaky_poet
Mar. 14th, 2011 11:52 pm (UTC)
10. All those idiots who wouldn't touch it just didn't have any vision.
jongibbs
Mar. 15th, 2011 09:01 pm (UTC)
Lol :)
writerjenn
Mar. 15th, 2011 12:13 am (UTC)
10. "I don't actually have a book, but I thought if I told you the idea, you'd see how awesome it is, and you could find someone to write it. I only ask 90% of the profits."

10. "Should I wear this outfit on Leno and Letterman, or maybe something a little brighter? You ARE going to get me on Leno and Letterman, right?"

10. "My parakeet is sick and I have this weird tingling feeling in my elbow and my water heater broke last night and I think I might be starting to get an allergic reaction to the strawberries I ate at lunch, but my sister says my allergies are all in my head, but what does she know, she lost her job last summer and since then all she does is make dolls out of old bleach bottles and tell me how to live my life, and her husband, let me tell you, her husband is just the craziest--oh, my book? I just wanted you to understand the kind of pressures I'm dealing with, because my landlord is threatening to evict me and my cousin won't help me pay the rent even though she could totally afford to ..."

10. "If you want a bestseller, jump on board right now, because I guarantee every other agent in this room is gonna want me by the end of the day."

10. "All I ask is that nobody change a word of my manuscript."

10. "I really just wanted to ask you about the other agent that you were sitting next to at lunch. Do you know if she's taking on new clients?"

10. "Are you in on the conspiracy?"
jongibbs
Mar. 15th, 2011 09:01 pm (UTC)
Lol, this is a post all by itself :)
(no subject) - writerjenn - Mar. 19th, 2011 02:09 am (UTC) - Expand
dmoonfire
Mar. 15th, 2011 01:53 am (UTC)
You know, you look just like the person I brutally murder in chapter four. Here's the chapter, what do you think?
jongibbs
Mar. 15th, 2011 09:07 pm (UTC)
That should do the trick :)
tracy_d74
Mar. 15th, 2011 05:02 am (UTC)
I'll have you know, I used #5. It totally works. LOL!!!! I laughed so hard I can't think of a #10.
jongibbs
Mar. 15th, 2011 09:08 pm (UTC)
I'll have you know, I used #5. It totally works.

Naughty, girl. You knew you weren't allowed in the men's loo, but you went in anyway :P
jakobdrud
Mar. 15th, 2011 09:27 am (UTC)
#5 - priceless :-)

#10: I want to save the rainforest, so I took the liberty of printing the novel on both sides of this matchbox.
jongibbs
Mar. 15th, 2011 09:09 pm (UTC)
That sounds like some teeny-tiny print font :)
(no subject) - jakobdrud - Mar. 15th, 2011 09:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
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