You said last year that you could sell War and Peace. I’ve been wanting to know ever since: how would you do it? Please tell me. It’s Christmastime. :) Happy holidays!Because agentsplaining is one of my great skills: War and Peace is a novel by Leo Tolstoy first published in 1869. It's a novel only because it's fiction and not a poem or a short story. (In other words, the structure and content doesn't conform to any kind of "a novel must or can't" edict.)
It has 1200+ pages and 100+ characters.
Impossible to sell, right?
The first thing is not get bogged down talking about who the main character/s is/are. That's the road to madness.
Nor are we going to talk about the plot, cause see above.
Talking about a book like this is akin to writing a caption for Guernica by Pablo Picasso
The first draft of the pitch:
Set during the time of the Napoleonic wars (1805-1820) this swashbuckling epic ripples and reverberates across five aristocratic families. While the invasion of Russia was the turning point in the Napoleonic wars, it was cataclysmic for Russia. The price of victory was higher than defeat.
Often novels are the only way to see the beating heart of history. This novel will be one of those.
Think The Crown flavored instead with vodka, snow, ermine, and the savagery of absolute power in the hands of a despot.
Then I'd draft a submission list with every editor who acquired a novel in the last five years that was called epic, sprawling, or saga.
Then, I'd swim off to the library and read chunks of those books if they'd been published. I'd make sure those books had sold well enough that using it as a comp was a plus.
Then I'd go through what I used to call my Rolodex of editors and ask myself if this book was a fit for the editor's tastes or needs.
Then, I'd rework the pitch for at least a week. I'd include a reference to a book that the editor bought that had page count challenges or why I thought they'd like/want this book.
Then, I'd call up the editors who remained on the list and say "just a heads up that this is a great novel, with a page count problem. It's worth a look."
|my battered and bruised copy of W&P|
I should also mention that it took me about an hour to write and revise this post. A challenging submission like War and Peace would get a LOT more than an hour of strategizing.
Most likely a couple people in my office would have read some of it and weighed in on the pitch and the editor list.
Our film guyz would have been consulted as a matter of course.
I'd probably have yapped about it to friends and listened to their opinions.
And of course, I'd fret about when to send it out. Is it good to send before the holidays when maybe the editor wants something to read? Or wait till everyone is back from the hols and ready to think about work?
When it was out on submission, I'd grab my rosary, head to church, and pray.