I always swore that my next house would have no kitchen since I appear to lacking in the culinary arts. However, I do support this kind of a remodel.
Is there anything more irritating than toothpaste commercials that cheerfully tell you their product will brighten your teeth, give you fresh breath, and make you a chick/dude magnet, only to find out that the product didn’t brighten your teeth, your breath was only mildly enhanced, and that hot dude you’d been oogling threatened to blast you with pepper spray?
Welcome to my world of book proposals. Agents and authors are obviously eager to sell their manuscripts, so the proposals are normally filled with glowy, cheery stuff about how amazing the author is, how HUGE their platform is, and all the wonderful people they have on board to enhance marketing and promotion.
Many times the proposal lives up to the hype, and sales slide out the door, and everyone jumps for joy…and even The Rescue Beagles dance a jig.
But just as many times, the proposal is more like the toothpaste commercial, and all those glowy things that made my sales teams and me slobber like bassethounds end up not going anywhere…be it the PR team that was hired (but I never heard from them), or the established speech tour that was planned (but never happened). As a result, I’ve learned to take proposals with a grain of salt, because I’m the one left holding the financial bag.
If you’re writing a book proposal, be honest. If your promo plan looks lean, that means you need to work on your preparation. Don’t make stuff up. Remember, you’re looking to be a benefit to your publisher, not a risk. When you’re a benefit to your publisher, there is nothing they won’t reasonably do for you. When you’re a risk, editors want to cry and eat way too much chocolate.
Don’t oversell yourself. Don’t be a toothpaste commercial.
For the love of all that’s holy, don’t include links in your query letter as a means of getting further information about your book. No matter whom you query, know that they’re insanely busy. They’ve made the time to open your query letter to see if your writing is what they’re looking for. If you do little more than say a few words in your “query letter,”then direct them to a link where you have your bio, full synopsis, and reasons why you think this book is a “gotta have it,” I assure you that those bleary-eyed editors will delete your email without a second thought…because, well, links are rude.
A query letter is a job interview. Would you meet with a potential employer and hand them a link, so they can take even more time out of their day to accommodate your laziness? I assure you they won’t. They’ll move on to the next job applicant who is actually prepared and knows what they’re doing.
I know, I sound like a cranky pants, and I suppose it’s because I’m seeing a downward trend in the niceties of polite society. Everything is self-serve. It’s like the gal working in the shoe dept of my local department store. It was Sunday…the place was empty and you could have shot a canon through the place. I found some shoes I wanted to try on. She got them for me and unceremoniously dumped them on the chair and promptly returned to the cash register where she could talk to her co-worker, thereby completely ignoring me. I guess that was more important than waiting on a paying customer. In a word, she was rude.
Seems few know or care about excelling at their job, yet they scream bloody murder when/if they’re turned down or fired. But I have enough covered-over gray hairs to give a rat’s patootie about good manners and doing things correctly. And there is a correct way to query.
As for Ms. I-Can’t-Be-Bothered in the shoe department, who then wanted my email address for their records, maybe I should have just given her a link…
…isn’t always pretty, and it can make me a bit snarly.
A literary agent with whom I’ve never done business queried me on behalf of her author client. I had a couple questions, so I picked up the phone to call the number she had listed on the book proposal. All I got was a fast busy signal. So I looked up the agency site and called the number. Their voicemail box was full, so I can’t leave a message. This was over a week ago.
She hasn’t answered my email, either. So I don’t have much choice but to delete this potentially wonderful book from my Submissions folder.
Who’s the loser in this drama? The author.
Please, dear writers, before you sign a contract with anyone, RESEARCH. There are so many writing sites with forums dedicated to the classic, “What have you heard?” Don’t let the excitement of saying, “I have an agent!” cloud your judgement as whether they’ll actually do a good job for you.
I have no use for an agent I can’t contact, and my heart breaks for the author because the potential is quite huge.
Seems Richard Brittain in the UK took a review of his book rather poorly. He hunted down the reviewer, traveled 500 miles to Scotland, and bonked her on the head with a wine bottle. This is a man who can’t handle rejection, wouldn’t you say?
I’m infinitely thankful that in my thirteen years as Editorial Director, no one has bonked me on the head with a wine bottle. On the other hand, I have been invited to do the horizontal mambo with the barnyard animal of my choosing…