What to include in a book proposal

For the last several weeks, we’ve focused on getting ready for a conference. So you go to a conference, pitch your book, and the editor says, “That sounds like it has potential. Send me a proposal with your first 50 pages.”

And your stomach caves in, because you don’t have a proposal.

Agents and editors often say that many of the people they make this kind of offer to don’t respond. I believe that’s because writers are paralyzed by fear and therefore don’t move.

Hear me: It’s better to send a bad proposal than none. Continue reading

How to pitch a book

When attending writers conferences, many people get extremely nervous about meeting with editors and agents. I know I certainly have. It’s understandable. The key to remaining calm when you pitch a book is realizing, first, that agents and editors are just regular folks doing their jobs, and second, that you will get many, many rejections before you get an acceptance. When you start understanding “no” as just another tick on your list of things to do, it gets much easier to move on. Continue reading

Finding the right editors and agents to pitch

One of the most important reasons to attend a writers conference is the opportunity to meet directly with editors and agents to pitch your manuscript. It’s been my experience that pitching in person has a much greater success rate than sending query letters. By “success” I mean getting a request for the proposal.

If you’re dealing with an editor directly, the submission process usually goes something like this: Continue reading

Where to find agents

If your goal is to be published by one of the major houses, you’ll need an agent. Writer’s Market lists agents on its website, and also publishes a Guide to Literary Agents. The Association of Authors’ Representatives, the main professional organization for agents, maintains a directory of its members. Check agent websites to ensure they’ve been in business for a while, and that they handle books in your topic area or genre. Approaching an agent who specializes in contemporary Amish romances with your bodice-ripping historical novel is Not Recommended.

The same way you would review resumes if you were hiring, or the way you would investigate companies if you were looking for a job, you must examine agents and publishers to find those that are the best fit for your topic area and personality. That’s one of the reasons conferences are a great way to find an agent. Continue reading

How to choose a publisher

One good way to find the right publisher for your book is to find similar books in your topic area or genre, and submit your manuscript to the publishers of those books.

When using this method, you do need to ensure that a book very similar to yours hasn’t been published very recently. Publishers will often reject books that are too similar to those they are currently trying to promote. You’re looking for books related to yours, but not exactly the same. Books that will have a similar audience.

Yes, that’s very hard to figure out. I never said this was easy.

Continue reading

When your agent is your publisher

Many people say the new publishing landscape makes agents irrelevant. I’m not sure that’s entirely true, but it certainly seems that, except for those able to represent the biggest best writers to the biggest best publishers, agents have a hard time justifying their role. Agents often won’t take on new and unknown writers, because the big publishers only want big-name authors with big platforms. Publishing is a gamble, and they are trying to reduce their risk.

The best agents provide more than contract negotiations. They provide coaching and administrative support—what some call literary management. That’s one way some agents are answering the charge of irrelevance. Another way is by going into publishing. Continue reading