Multiple Choice Queries: Eeny Meeny Miny Mo

You and Mom are at the pound, looking for the right puppy to rescue. Mom rests her hand on your six-year-old head. “Go ahead, sweetie, pick one.”

You scan all the precious furry tail-waggers wearing their best “Come Adopt Me” faces. You’re conflicted. “Noooo! I want them all!”

And of course you do; they’re all so adorable, right?

So it goes for authors who not only write a bunch of manuscripts, but query them. Together.

I don’t know what’s going on, but lately I’ve been getting quite a few “You Chose” queries where authors list their entire repertoire of completed manuscripts. Just yesterday, one scooted into my inbox that offered no fewer than four manuscripts; each covering different subjects:  addiction, divorce, gardening zen, and driving cross country. Each title had a brief blurb and ended with the invitation that I could request one or all four. Lucky me!

It’s sweet of you to offer, but I think I’ll have to pass; and here’s why.

Jack of All Trades, Master of None

When I see these multiple choice queries that cover completely different topics, I suspect the author is tossing out a bunch of arrows, hoping one finds a target and sticks. I’m not that target because I’m looking for someone who is an expert in their topic and has the platform to back it up. Few have that ability.

I could see it with with the achingly talented Kim Kircher because she is a master at two things:  skiing and dealing with  a husband living on borrowed time waiting for a transplant while fighting bile duct cancer. If she had approached me with two separate books, I would have seen the logic. Luckily, she combined the two and the result is a fantastic book that goes to the heart about how vital it is for caretakers to have someplace where they can go to find their own inner strength in order to fight the good fight.

Most don’t have that kind of crossover, so these multiple choice queries books are totally unrelated, and the author is unsure of which book to pitch. So they pitch all of them and ask us to make the decision.

No Noob Zone

By querying your multiple books, you project the idea that you lack confidence in any particular book, and don’t know enough about the industry or the marketplace to know which book has more commercial appeal, or the widest readership. In short, it reveals you as a noob (someone who doesn’t know what they don’t know…and doesn’t care).

You’re basically saying, “I wrote all these books and have no clue as to what’s better. Since you know more than I do, you chose.” And we won’t do that.  I’m more likely to reject the whole enchilada.

Of course, you *do* care, so you need to do some research in order to find out which book has the most potential in terms of marketability and where you have the biggest platform. I can promise you one thing; we will not do your job for you.

There’s nothing wrong with being a debut author, but it’s really hard to work with authors who don’t know anything because they tend to have unrealistic expectations. It can be like herding cats…something the beagle would love to attempt, but gives me the shivers.

Is It OK For Fiction?

The same can be said for fiction writers as well. If one manuscript is romance, and two others are SF and crime, then you’re talking about three totally different audiences. Most writers write in one genre because it’s what they read; they’re familiar with the plot structure, the tone, the style. For instance, the writing style for romance is completely different from a political thriller, and I’d doubt that any author could write in totally different genres with the same efficacy.

Even if you have four different manuscripts that are in the same genre, you should have one that stands out from the rest. Go with that, and let the others play together in the sand box.

The idea is to do things that will enhance your chances for success, and Eeny Meeny Miny Mo is a bad idea. Really.

7 Responses to Multiple Choice Queries: Eeny Meeny Miny Mo

  1. For every thousand jacks of all trades you have one genuine polymath.

    I, for example, could legitimately claim to have expertise in three utterly distinct subjects:

    1) electric guitar playing – I’ve published seventy or so articles on the subject already
    2) Francis Bacon (the philosopher) – the subject of my PhD
    3) Parkinson’s disease (early onset) – yup, you guessed it, I have it.

    You say you understand Kim submitting more than one book, yet don’t countenance the possibility that this anonymous author of whom you write may also posses similar talents and experiences.

    It all comes down, as usual, to who you know. You know Kim, so would accept her proposal. You don’t know anon, so assume it’s idiocy.

    You don’t know me, so you’ll assume the same.

    Usually, you’d be right. It’s really about time – do you have the time to waste checking them out? Or can you not afford not to spend this time?

    It’s a conundrum. At best one can only trust to instinct. But instinct is just guesswork. You only hear of the times when it pays off. Like dolphins – you never hear of the swimmer driven clickingly and laughingly into the open ocean or the jaws of the waiting sharks.

    Either get another beagle, or accept that some people really don’t know what their best work is … and understand that what they really suck at is salesmanship.

    So, I’ve got these books, see …

  2. Pete, it’s true that there are always exceptions and whenever I write, I’m talking to the most common denominator. Of course, that jack-of-all-trades may be out there, but I doubt they’d have a large enough platform for every one of them.

    And no, it doesn’t come down to who you know, but what you’ve written, how well it’s written, and how marketable it is. Authors should have an instinct about which of their works is the strongest, and concentrate on that one.

  3. Lynn, it’s difficult to compose a reply to that which remains composed. I do, however, contend that the hoary old saying that talent will out is simply a romantic fiction. Being good enough simply isn’t good enough.
    But hey, that’s just me … perhaps I’m simply not good enough, and never have been. But if that’s the case, why are so many awful writer getting commissions? Why do so many jobs go to pre-selected candidates?
    It really isn’t sour grapes, no matter what you may think, but simply observation.
    Anyway, it’s all a rather pointless argument. After all, you don’t know me, and won’t read anything I’ve written …

  4. Frank Mazur says:

    I don’t know that I would want to read any author who only reads in the genre he writes.

  5. How would you know?

  6. Frank Mazur says:

    There are signs. It’s part of what makes some writers better than others. I’ll grant it’s not an easy call in every case.

  7. Robert Binghardi says:

    For any potential client I advise them to read anything and everything, even comic books. the plots in the comic books are so much more than what children should be reading. From Shakespeare to Spider-Man and everything in between.

    The use of frames of reference in the graphic novel also teach pacing and allow the writer to deal with plot points.

    Yes, my email has changed.

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