Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Pitching the Great Books

I'd like everyone to welcome the fabulous and talented Linda Rodriguez! She is not only an amazing friend, but one heck of a writer. If you don't believe me, her novel Every Last Secret is out TODAY! Trust me, you'll want to check it out. In the meantime, Linda has an excellent challenge for all of us today! Take it away, Linda...

Recently, I served as a judge on a panel billed as “American Idol for book pitches—without the Simon Cowell.” Four of us judges listened to twenty-five aspiring authors give one-minute pitches for their books as if we were editors or agents they’d met at a conference. We then gave the authors feedback designed to help them improve their book pitches, and the author we decided had the best pitch was later connected with an appropriate agent and editor in the book’s specific field.

This event was so entertaining and educational that people paid just to come in and watch it without participating. It gave me a new appreciation of the power of a good book pitch. I wrote a blog post about the event, and a commenter lamented what book pitching would have done to Melville’s Moby Dick. This left me wondering how some books I’ve read would be pitched in today’s competitive market. See if you can guess the author or title of the books being pitched below. Then, in the comments, try pitching some book you’ve loved.

Book 1

In this great noir novel, Ethan’s secret love for his wife’s sweet cousin and nursemaid, Mattie, grows daily as his wife becomes more ill-tempered and demanding. He struggles with his desire and his conscience. When his wife decides to send Mattie away, Ethan can no longer bear it. He tries to run away with her and fails, so Mattie suggests a suicide pact. Ethan agrees, but at the last minute, will he be able to carry this off, or will his weakness cause him to fail yet again and pay a grim price the rest of his life?

Book 2

Mystery upon mystery fills this novel, and it ends with one of the most suspenseful chases in literature. A great lady has a great secret, but Tulkinghorn, her wealthy husband’s lawyer, ferrets it out with the intention of blackmailing Mrs. D. to do his bidding. Tulkinghorn has other plots, as well, forcing a retired soldier, George, to tarnish his honor and ruining him anyway, using a discarded French lady’s maid as a cat’s-paw with a promise of a job and threatening her with deportation when she calls in his promise. In the midst of all these crimes and plots, a police detective, Bucket, keeps an eye on the main players, especially Tulkinghorn. When Tulkinghorn is murdered and George arrested for it, Bucket searches for the true murderer all the way into Mrs. D’s boudoir. But even if Bucket finds the killer, can he keep a greater tragedy from occurring?

Book 3

A poor but beautiful girl is violently raped by a wealthy man and left pregnant. After her newborn dies, she tries to start a new life where her sordid history is not known. She falls in love and marries, only to be deserted by her husband when he learns of her past. With her father’s death, she and her family become destitute and homeless. Finally, she is forced to become her rapist’s mistress, only to murder him when her husband returns to find her. Her landlady sees the blood seeping through the ceiling and calls the police. Will our heroine escape to freedom with the love of her life or be caught and executed for the murder of a brutal aristocrat?

Answers: Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton; Bleak House, Charles Dickens; Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy

Linda Rodriguez, author of Every Last Secret, blogs about books and writers at www.LindaRodriguezWrites.blogspot.com. She reads and writes everything, even poetry, and she spends too much time on Twitter as @rodriguez_linda.


  1. Hi Linda! Congrats on the release of EVERY LAST SECRET! I can't wait to read my copy:) And I can't imagine trying to pitch some of the great books. I have a hard enough time pitching my own. I blew numbers one and three, but I got Bleak House right!

  2. I enjoyed this very much. I wonder if today's publishers would go for the "pitch." I plan to check out your book.

  3. I think a lot of the great books would have a hard time finding publishers today. I mean, who would publish Moby Dick?

    Joelle, you did good getting Bleak House. I made that deliberately hard.

    Thanks, Lil. I'm glad you enjoyed it. You should try your hand at pitching one of these old classics.

    I'm off to get gussied up for tonight's launch. I'll check back when I get home.

  4. Awesome blog. I enjoyed reading your articles. This is truly a great read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles.

    1. Glad you liked it, Essay Writer! Thanks for stopping by.