Brian Tibbetts

August 13, 2015

Tiny Bubbles, in the Blood


Publishing & Technology: Tiny Bubbles, in the Blood

Brian Tibbetts is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Wednesday, Brian posts about trends in the publishing industry and developments in technology that impact the industry. You can find him on Twitter @BRIANRTIBBETTS

This week in Publishing & Technology I’m not writing about technology. I’ve just come off my first appearance as an agent at the venerable Willamette Writer’s Conference and, though I had an excellent time hanging out with writers and other industry professionals, I’m afraid that I’m just too mentally exhausted to do any meaningful research into what is happening in publishing at the moment. It’s as if I was deep, deep in the ocean, under the relentless pressure of a six eight-minute pitches an hour, every hour, from nine in the morning to five in the evening for three days straight, and after all that, I came up for air too fast and developed a case of what feels like the bends.

I know, if I were still working for a living (and I mean with a shovel), I’d probably scoff at the idea of being exhausted after three days at a writing conference. But, I’m not lying when I say that it can be completely tiring hanging out with several hundred introverts all doing their best to be extroverted enough to sell their work to agents, editors, and the like. And to have so many of them pay to sit in front of me and try valiantly to explain their plots and characters and platforms was both disheartening and absolutely beautiful at the same time. The least I can do to honor their courage is to offer up one little insight that I have for authors as I walk away from this experience for the first time.

My one insight: Anyone that tells that there is one perfect way to pitch your novel to agents and acquiring editors is either a hopeless fool or selling something. Agents and acquiring editors are individuals. They have varying tastes, different communication styles, etc. Sure, commit a few facts about your manuscript to memory. Facts like word count, whether the manuscript is complete or not, the point of view you employ, descriptions of the setting, the protagonist, and other key characters, are all great ways to get the conversation started. But, sitting down in front of a prospective buyer and rattling off (or reading aloud) something that sounds like the VO to a bad horror movie trailer can’t possibly be helping your efforts to sell your book. Also, don’t get offended if the prospective buyer interrupts you to ask clarifying questions, etc. They want to understand what you’re talking about.

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  • Peggotty says:

    I wish I had met you, Mr. Tibbetts. You may have caught my act a couple tables over with bugle and tambourine. Who knew the staff would have that cane handy.

  • Iola Goulton says:

    “introverts all doing their best to be extroverted” … yes, that’s the perfect definition of a writer’s conference!
    And I like your second insight as well. You’re right. Many people telling/selling the “one perfect way” to pitch a novel are either agents/acquisitions editors saying how they like to be pitched to (relevant and important, but not universal knowledge), or authors presumably sharing what worked for them (even less universal knowledge).

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