Tag Archives: book query

The Most Important Thing I Learned as an Author

Very early in my writing career, I attended a large conference on the West Coast. One of the panels lined up representatives from 5 publishers, some of the largest houses in the world beside some of the most highly regarded smaller houses.
One question came up from the audience about pitches. The attendee said, “I’ve heard I’m supposed to put sales information and comparisons in my pitch. But what exactly are you looking for and where can I find that information?”
The first response from a pubishing executive at a large house was, “I don’t know but perhaps someone else can answer this.”
The acquisitions editor from the smaller house said, “I don’t know either.”
And so on down the line.
Yes, every one of the five individuals responsible for finding the next gem in the slush pile said, “I don’t know.”
One tried to be helpful by adding, “But I know it when I see it.”
Well, you might have guessed that the mood in the room grew very ugly. The remainder of the 45-minute session was spent blasting the panel with outrage or asking ever-more sarcastic questions about how on earth authors were supposed to break in if even the folks at the top didn’t know what they were looking for in a pitch.
I was as angry as the rest. WTF, anyway?
Soon after that conference, I calmed down. I realized the most important lesson in my career:
You must know the market before you approach publishers and agents. You must hold their hands and guide them through the process of understanding why your book is a good financial risk for them to take.
You are the best advocate for your own work. Own it, and own your skill.

7 Ways to Make an Agent or Publisher Say Yes!

Traditional publishing is growing again. Sales are up, ebooks have become another channel rather than the death of books, and disruption is creating beneficial changes. Here are 7 ways to make an agent or publisher say, “Yes!” to your manuscript.
1. Write a fantastic manuscript. Tap into your passion and write something that relates to that. You’ll produce a much better manuscript that way.
2. Run the manuscript through beta readers. Use your writer’s group, friends who are readers and writers, or a professional editor to spot those critical flaws you’ve missed because you’re too close to the story.
3. Create a professional query letter (see Dec 18 post for more).
4. Create supporting submission materials. For a nonfiction book, this is a book proposal. For fiction, this means a bio that includes your platform, a synopsis, and an overview of marketing opportunities the author can fulfill. Juvenile fiction and nonfiction needs an author bio as well as an overview of current trends, additional books from the author, and marketing opportunities.
5. Contact the right agent or publisher for your project. Rather than blasting out hundreds of emails, select one agent or publisher every day to contact. You’ll also save yourself time in the long run and eliminate a lot of frustration.
6. Approach agents before you approach publishers. Once you’ve submitted to a publisher, agents generally can’t resubmit on your behalf. A rejection is a rejection in the minds of the publisher. Don’t sink your agent’s ability to represent you to their full network before you even begin. Help an agent say yes by letting them do their job.
7. Keep moving foward. Mention your next project…then stay busy with it while you wait to hear back.

3 Common Flaws that Sink Query Letters

In the twenty years I’ve been connecting authors with agents and publishers, I’ve rewritten a lot of query letters. The most common flaws that keep writers from capturing an agent or publisher’s attention are:
–Lack of a tagline. This is a single sentence that encapsulates the protagonist’s journey, the story’s universal appeal, the audience, and the category. Although queries can succeed if they don’t have taglines, the agent/publisher will have to read the entire first paragraph (or more) before their interest is sparked. That’s too long. Taglines captivate in ten words.
–Descriptions that confuse and/or fail to evoke an emotional response. The one or two paragraphs that describe the story need to relay the protagonist’s journey and the universal aspects of the story. In order to do this, these paragraphs must be clear, concise, and evoke the emotional tone of the story. Too much detail, inclusion of details that aren’t important at this initial review stage, and the wrong details are just some of the ways the description fails to open the door.
–Skipping any information about the author. Writer’s don’t have to be celebrities to get book deals. They do have to make a connection with the agent or publisher, however. This works two ways. First, it makes the agent or acquisitions editor a champion for the manuscript. Second, it proves that the author can find ways to connect with readers.
Avoid these three common flaws and improve your chances of being offered a contract.