Back when I was working as a literary agent, Writer’s Digest published an article I wrote on thinking like an agent. Though I’m an acquisitions editor now, not an agent, these pointers are all still true. I wanted to update them and share them with you.
What I wrote then:
3. It’s easier to pitch something of you didn’t write it.
I think all of my clients are brilliant, and when it comes time to share my enthusiasm with editors, it’s not hard. I hit the highlights of a project and say what struck me about it. But ask me to do the same for my own writing, and I’m all, “Well, it doesn’t suck. At least in my opinion.”
At the agency, we often share our pitch letters with one another. It helps us make sure we’re striking the right tone. If I were pitching my own work now, I’d be all over my critique group, asking them to help me hit the highlights of my manuscript without coming across as too obnoxious (“the most stupendous work of literature you will ever be lucky enough to lay your eyes on!”) or too self-effacing (“I know you’re really too busy to deal with a lowly screwup like me, but if you could take a few seconds of your precious time to review my pathetic attempt at a synopsis . . . .”)
What I say now:
I still think this is true. It’s much easier for me to talk about the books I’m editing and publishing than it is the ones I’ve written. But I’m better at being able to take a step back and be confident, yet not obnoxious, when I’m writing about my work. It takes practice, though.