A Poor Pitch

When “pitching” a book, or other piece you have written, it is suggested by publishers and editors alike to send in a formal and professional query letter.  This is the best way to ensure that your work has its best shot possible of getting read.  However, there are exceptions.  Daniel Handler is one of those exceptions.

Daniel Handler openly admits he is bad at pitching in an interview with bwog.com, “I’ve never been good at pitching. To this day, sometimes a magazine will write me and they’ll say, ‘We like your writing and you should write something for us—why don’t you pitch it?’ And I’ll always write back and say, ‘If I pitch it, the pitch will take longer than the article. So if you want me to write something I’ll write it, but I won’t pitch.’ And then usually they say ‘Yeah, never mind.’”  With this approach to publishers, it is hard to believe any of Handler’s writing has made it to print.

When Handler first had the idea for A Series of Unfortunate Events he felt it was “so terrible” that it could only be told to his editor in person at a bar.  That way, when she hated it, they could “have another drink and it [wouldn’t] be a complete waste for everyone.”  However, luckily for readers everywhere, Handler’s editor had better taste than he and liked the book, despite the unprofessional pitch.

This “anti-pitch” theme continued on in the way Handler chose to market his series.  He struggled so immensely with why someone should read his book that he instead decided he would market it as reasons one should not.  He strived to immolate the warning labels on drugs for the back of his books.

This is post is not meant to be a suggestion to subvert all known rules and standards for pitching and marketing.  It is just to let you know that in the case of Daniel Handler, it is possible.



One thought on “A Poor Pitch

  1. alivalerio March 16, 2015 / 12:54 am

    I absolutely loved reading Lemony Snicket as a kid, and I’m pretty sure I remember reading about why I shouldn’t read his work. Of course, back then I had no idea what I learned just now, how he did it that way because he couldn’t figure out the alternative. I think this is a great example of a writer playing to their strengths, even if they don’t completely realize it. There are always exceptions in the writing world, and like you said, Handler is one of the those exceptions. I also think it’s a good example to help remember that if the quality of the work is high enough, it will find success no matter what the struggle, if the writer is willing to put in the effort. Being able to pitch your ideas is very important I’m sure, but Handler’s lack of ability to do that didn’t stop him from achieving the success he has today.


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