Saturday, October 10, 2009

Standing out from the crowd!

When we talk promotion having something to set us out from the crowd is a good thing. Authors often do promotional events and book signings in costume or use various promotional items to attract attention and draw readers to them. I like western wear, but when doing promotional events or when going to a conference I dress a little more flashy than usual for the same reason, so people will remember me and to draw people to me at a signing.

It’s a tried and true principle, just watch ads on television. When we want people to remember us it is a good thing to stand out. But is it always a good thing?

Not when submitting a proposal. I get proposals on colored paper or with huge type on the cover, maybe bound or with fancy covers. Anything to attract attention. This is NOT where we want to attract attention.

On Chip MacGreagor’s blog he was talking about people making exorbitant claims about their book. They were trying to stand out verbally. Doing things in a book proposal to stand out raises flags from the very beginning. Such things shout from the rooftop, “I am a newbie!”

We can’t hide the fact that we are a new or unpublished writer if that is the case, but the goal is not to advertise it. The goal is to have the person evaluating the proposal run across it after they are favorably impressed and be surprised with the professionalism of the presentation for a new writer.

So what’s the goal? The goal is not to stand out but to have our proposal look exactly like the carefully polished proposal of someone who has been doing it for years. The goal is to have the writing as polished and ready as we can make it, to look at the submission guidelines to make sure we are pitching the right person then to send them exactly what they want precisely how they wish to receive it. I have people argue with me about what I ask to see. Would you think that is more or less likely to make me look at something other than what I’ve asked to see?

Our Agency submission guidelines are at and to help make sure the manuscript itself is ready to go I’ve even posted a checklist on “is it ready to submit?” on my own website at and in the bookstore at that website I even offer a little ebook on “Pitch and Promote like a Pro” to walk someone through the process step by step. So, with us doing all we can to help make a very professional proposal and pitch, why do so many still feel like the best thing to do is stand out from the crowd? To that newbie trying to make the cut I say, “stand out in your promotion, make your writing stand out with the quality, but your proposal is not the place to stand out.”


Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...


Everyone knows you as the cowboy and Chip MacGregor as the Scottish MacGregor in his kilt. On another note, my Highland gown shipped out this week. I plan to do book signings while wearing it when Highland Blessings releases, especially at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in July.

Timothy Fish said...


While I understand what you're saying and I can see that some proposals must come across as a little odd, the fact is that no writer wants to be an old pro at querying agents. With the exception of those writers who are changing agents, the old pros are those writers who haven't had success. Why would we want to copy people who aren't getting results?

Amy said...

I see what you are saying but even published writers are querying all over the place. You'll be sending letters and proposals to libraries and booksellers to do programs, to freelance article sites or to get the proposal ready to publish your next book.

As someone who helps Terry by reading some of the submissions, a polished proposal means to me that someone put in the time and research to put their best foot forward.

Stevie Rey said...

Thanks, bro Terry. I'm with you on the "standing out" thing. On the jacket of The Hillbilly Bible, I describe myself as a rockstar wannabe. It fits with my being from Memphis and it just so happens I love rock and roll and dressing like a rock star! :-) Nevermind that I can't carry a tune in a bucket!

Stevie Rey

Jeanette Levellie said...

Terry: I appreciate you always telling us what you expect. It helps.