Is your book a Fence-Sitter? Consider finishing your book!

I haz a sad. No, I haz a frustration. I read a proposal (unagented) that sounded right up my alley. The writing of the sample chaps was solid, and I stayed fully engaged right up to the end of chapter 3. Of course, I immediately wrote the author asking to read the full. And here’s where my blackened, soulless, little heart fell.

It isn’t written.

Now before you cry, “No fair, Pricey!” I’ll allow that many books are bought based on a few chapters, but it’s mostly in cases where the author’s agent is shopping ideas because the author has a track record, the story is known, or the author’s platform is so huge that someone would be insane not to buy the book. For the rest of us mortals, we are an unknown quantity with no discernible track record to hang our hats on.

For instance, I’m far more likely to nab something written by Lev Raphael than Jane Swanthbabble because Lev has a billion publishing credits to his name, and he’s a very respected writer. And he’s so nice, he can melt buttah.

Jane, on the other hand is a big question mark – a blank slate. She has no publishing credits, but she has a pretty good platform for her story. However, her story is personal, so I don’t really know if the ending will be a kapow and satisfactory, I have no idea how well the story will be organized, I have no clue whether she even has a story.

The Fence-Sitter Book

Not all books make us jump for joy or spritz them down with bug spray. There is a lot of gray area where we ask, “Do we like this? Is there a story?” Without having more to make that judgement call, that book sits on the fence – meaning it doesn’t have enough going for it to push it to one side (a publishing deal) or the other (rejection).

If we only have are a few chapters, it’s far easier to walk away rather than take a chance because publishing is expensive. I’ve bought a few projects based on a few chapters and ended up cancelling them because the final product fell far short of our expectations. Cancelling a project is expensive and a huge time-suck. If I feel a book is a fence-sitter, I have to go down my checklist to see if I can teeter it to one direction or another.

  1. Does it have a huge, universal appeal? If I know the topic is hot and vast, and not much is in the marketplace, I may consider taking a chance.
  2. What is the author’s platform? If the author’s platform is huge, then I’m willing to take the chance because I know the author will be a major advocate for the book.
  3. Do I love the book? If points 1 and 2 are a go, then it comes down to how much I love the book. And this is the hardest point to decide because I’m hindered with the lack of content.

It’s easier to walk away than it is to take the chance when confronted with a fence-sitter. Problem is, how do you know whether your book is a fence-sitter? You don’t. And that’s why I always recommend finishing your book.

Is this logical?

I understand people are extremely busy and have a million things vying for their attention, but I will never understand the logic in saying, “I’m waiting to sell the book before I finished it.”

My comeback is, “Are you committed to this book, or not?”

If this subject is near and dear to your heart, then why aren’t you writing it? What are you losing by not writing it? With a partial submission, I have few cues in which to formulate an opinion, so I have to draw conclusions that may not be valid; like questioning the level of commitment to your book.

That may be completely unrelated, but when we’re pouring thousands into publishing a title, we have to feel confident it and the author can go the distance for the life of that book.

I have bought many books from debut authors because the books were complete, but I’ve rejected far more because they sat on the fence and were incomplete.

I would think writers want to make themselves as attractive a target as possible, and you can only help that cause if you finish your book because it truly is the difference between “no thanks,” and “may I offer you a contract?”

2 Responses to Is your book a Fence-Sitter? Consider finishing your book!

  1. tbrosz says:

    In my (limited) experience, agents and publishers often accept non-fiction work on the basis of a detailed proposal only. Fiction is where you need the completed manuscript before submitting.

    Is this incorrect? Personally, I’d finish the book before trying to sell it, but that’s just me.

  2. Your question is exactly why I wrote this blog post because most people are of the same opinion. But as I mentioned in my blog post, nonfiction often sells with a full proposal and three chapters. However, you risk being put on the fence if you’re an unknown without publishing credits, and your story is very personal. Reason being, editors have no way of knowing what kind of quality story they’ll get once it’s written.

    So if one is really committed to his/her story, then it only makes sense to write it and increase their chances of getting a book deal.

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