Recent novel pitch to a literary agent:
Horizontal in the Dark: This novel tells the story of the disintegration of a Los Angeles family, the Morgenthalers. Richard Morgenthaler is an alcoholic lawyer in his early 50s who once had political ambitions. His wife, Jennifer, is the daughter of wealth. They have two daughters: Ashley, who is mentally-impaired and disabled, and Britney, beautiful and intelligent and doomed. Ashley is Jennifer's favorite; Richard forgets she even exists. Britney is the target of Jennifer's powerful loathing and Richard's overbearing affection ... if it can be called that. Richard and Jennifer have an awful marriage, marked by recriminations, bitterness and fear. For a time, Richard finds solace in his mistress, Tracie Hatchett. Hounding them all is a foreboding sense of godlessness. The immediate setting is Britney's funeral, after her suicide. But the conflicts between the narcissistic, alcoholic father and the emotionally disturbed mother, the hate between mother and daughter, and the near incestuous love of the father for Britney - all contributors to the characters' disillusionment and the suicide itself - are unfolded in flashbacks. Though the story is told in third person, the final section is an intense monologue recited by Britney before she flings herself off a cliff on the Palos Verdes peninsula.
Thank you for contacting ******* about representation. Unfortunately, we are unable to offer you representation at this time. Due to the large number of submissions ******* receives, ***** is forced to be extremely selective when considering new clients. After reflection, we don’t feel that this is a perfect fit for **********’s list. Publishing is very subjective, however, and another agent may well feel differently.
I sincerely apologize for the impersonal nature of this reply—we receive hundreds of submissions a month.
Thank you again for thinking of *************. We wish you all the best of luck in the future.
Reality? The pitch was the plot summary for William Styron's debut novel, Lie Down in Darkness, which was critically acclaimed when it was published in 1951 and won the Prix de Rome from the American Academy in Rome, a prestigious literary award.
Guess it wouldn't get published today.