It’s conference season again, that wonderful time of year when we agents listen to hundreds of pitches—some good, some bad, and some ugly. Here’s what not to say. (And yes, these are real lines from real-life pitches.)

#1 My villain is so bad he kills the dog.

It’s almost impossible to sell a book in which a dog (cat, horse, etc.) is killed. I’m just saying.

#2a My hero dies in the end.

Readers want your hero to survive his trials and tribulations, overcome the obstacles you put in his way, and become a better version of himself.

#2b My heroine dies in the end. It’s a series.

No, someone else can’t take her place in Book 2. If you’ve done your job right, readers have fallen in love with your heroine. They want her back in Book 2.

#3 I can’t find any comparable titles.

You need comps to prove there’s an audience for your book. And these should be recent comps by up-and-coming writers—not blockbusters by bestselling authors.

#4 I know you don’t represent picture books, but you’ll want to represent mine.

No, I won’t. And you don’t want an agent who doesn’t know the category anyway.

#5 There are no murders in my mystery.

Murder mysteries need murder. The sooner you drop the first body, the better.

#6 I’m saving that for the second book.

If you don’t sell the first book, there is no second book. Go for broke in your first book. Don’t “save” anything for the next book.

#7 I know you told me last year that I should rethink using a dozen points of view, but I still think it works.

I won’t represent any debut novels with more than five POVs, and I’m not the only agent who feels this way.

#8 The bad guy accidentally dies in the end.

Accidentally? The antagonist must get his just desserts—and if he dies, it can’t be an accident. His death must come as a result of his own villainy, even better if it’s at the hands of your hero.

#9a I don’t write in Microsoft Word.

Microsoft Word is industry standard for submissions. No Scrivener, no Pages, no PDFs.

#9b I could convert my document to Microsoft Word for you but the formatting will be off.

It’s your job to submit your work in a professional manner. Anything less marks you as an amateur.

#10 It’s 1000 pages. I don’t know the number of words.

Word count is what matters. For most genres, aim for 90,000 words. Too short or too long and odds are you won’t sell it. If you don’t tell us the word count, we’ll ask.

This article originally appeared at The Career Authors.

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