Sunday, December 6, 2009

Let’s Talk About Rejections

Some tips on getting your book proposal read.

1. One of my stock answers is: “This isn’t a good fit for our agency.” Have you researched our web site? Did you read what we’re looking for? I get several queries and/or proposals a day for Young Adult and children’s novels. We don’t do either of those categories. Under “guidelines” we list what we are looking for and the categories that we are not interested in seeing.

2. Do you know how to prepare a proposal? Again, we have proposal guidelines on our web site. We tell you exactly how we want to see a proposal. We can bend a little, but basically our guidelines reflect what editors are asking from us. When we don’t send them this way we get comments like this, “Joyce, this is not your usual style.” Then they ask us to do them over. Authors tell me that preparing the proposal is harder than writing the book and I know this is true. However, please know that it is a necessary step in getting your book published.

3. Your bio is important. Every day I get queries with only a summary of the book. I can’t make a decision without your bio and your publishing history. It’s all part of the drill.

4. The marketing comparison – we get a lot of “groaning” about this one. However, again it is essential. One editor recently asked us, “Does this author know where this book fits on the bookshelf?” In other words do you know who your audience? Very important in presenting your book to the agent and to the editor.

5. Don’t give us too much information. We need all the elements of the proposal, but we don’t need pages and pages. About the summary: for fiction, I personally prefer one to two pages. Some agents want more. For non-fiction, we need a small summary of each chapter.

6. Are you willing to complete the book? Terry recently did a survey of 175 editors and his conclusion is that the majority of editors want the book finished. We will accept a partial on non-fiction and also from published authors of fiction. However, for new authors, we need the whole book. And the editor might want the whole book finished even if you are a published author. Your agent will work with you on this.

7. Did you remember to put your contact information on the cover page, and yes, a cover page is necessary. Also, don’t forget to put a header on each page, using the “insert” button and please, number the pages. Amazing how many proposals we get without contact information and without the pages numbered. Even if we love the manuscript, we can’t contact the author because we don’t know who to contact. The e-mail or the envelope has gotten separated from the proposal, more than likely.

These are just a few tips, if you have questions please ask us. We are caring agents and it is not easy for us to reject your work. Sometimes, it’s simply not what we are looking for, other times we don’t know of anyone who is looking for your particular project. Let me point out that we get far more rejections than you do, because we have close to 200 clients. Some days we’ll get several rejections. I hate to tell an author their book is rejected. We hurt along with you. It’s one of my least favorite parts of my job.

Right now I’m looking for romance, romance, romance, either contemporary or historical. My personal favorite genre is romantic suspense and almost any kind of a mystery/suspense. However, this genre is a little hard to sell at this time. Amish is hot, whether contemporary or historical. Who knows how long this will last, it’s anybody’s guess. Thomas Nelson told me “we don’t want any dead bodies, we want lighter stories.” Mystery does not do well at Revell. Harvest House and WaterBrook are willing to look at mystery, but the book needs to be completed. Bethany’s specialty is romance, historical and contemporary. We are willing to look at women’s fiction. Bottom line is this, in spite of anything I’ve said we will always look at stellar writing in any category. Send us your very best work in a well done proposal.

I’m wishing you the best. Don’t get discouraged; remember selling anything takes persistence and consistence. If you are called to write, put your trust in God and keep writing.

One last word, publishing kind of dies this time of year. People are taking vacations, getting ready for Christmas. It will pick up in January 2010.




Anonymous said...

I just discovered your blog a few days ago through another agent. I began reading a few of the articles last night, beginning with Terry's. He left me in awe, or maybe it wasn't him but God using Terry's post to speak.

Today was no different. Ms. Hart, I know you don't know exactly what it was you said that blessed me so very much, but you did, and I thank you!

Jill said...

Well, here's my two cents...

Bingo - to all of teh above. Bingo.

At the risk of sounding cocky, I landed a publishing contract relatively quickly and relatively easily.

On Aug. 16th (2008) I snail-mailed 20 query letters. On November 28th (2008), The Dundurn Group offered me a contract.

I did my homework before sending out any query letters. I did teh reserach, I read how-to books and advice columns.

Of the 20 query letters I sent, 8 or so asked to see the whole MS, and as I said, Dundurn offered a contract in November. A few month after I signed the contract with them , anothe rpublisher also offered me a contract (which I had to turn down of course).

So, all this was about a year ago... and my book has just been released!! "Blood and Groom" is now in stores and I am so glad to see it there.

Follow the advice in this posting. Create a good product. Do your homework.

Good luck!

Cheers, Jill Edmondson

Krista Phillips said...

As a contemporary romance writer... it does my heart well to read, "We're looking Romance, romance, romance!" *grin*

Thank for the tips!!

Caroline said...

I know the rules, but it's good to read them again. Thanks for the good post.

D. Ann Graham said...

Thank you for taking the time to share such a timely, informative, and sincerely encouraging post. We writers don't often consider the vulnerability an agent must endure in order to front all the fiery darts aimed at their authors. Here's wishing you double blessings for that, and peaceful happy holidays!

Hartline Literary Agency said...

Thanks to all of you for your comments. We aim to please :) We sincerely appreciate your comments and the fact that you read our blog!

Jill - you were fortunately to land a contract quickly and easily. It does happen, and sometimes it takes a long time.

Blessings and great success to all of you.

Sandi Rog said...

Joyce, you're the best! Thanks for sharing all your wisdom with us. I couldn't have asked for a better agent. :-)

Timothy Fish said...

Joyce: Thomas Nelson told me “we don’t want any dead bodies, we want lighter stories.”

Timothy Fish: Is that dead bodies in romance or is it dead bodies in everything?

Terri Tiffany said...

Thank you for writing this out so clearly! Over a year ago, I submitted to your agency and clearly wasn't ready with the wrong book. It was my first attempt at writing a proposal and looking back now, I am so embarrassed. Your agency was right in rejecting me. I hadn't put it together properly and know that. I hope to try again someday:)

Jeanette Levellie said...

Joyce: I wonder if Satan often whispered in Jesus' ear: "You are not called by God; look around you at all this rejection!"

I'm so grateful HE didn't give up.

Bess said...

I just saw Mr. Burn's response in an ACFW email loop and thought I'd check out his blog. WOW! I am impressed by the wealth of information in this single entry! Thank you so much for your honest summary of what your agency is looking for, including the specialties of many popular publishing houses. I will follow your blog and try to read through older posts.

God Bless!

Terry Burns said...

Thanks, but I just posted the blog - this was written by Joyce. That would be her picture next to it. She did a great job.

Pat Jeanne Davis said...

I recently found this blog and come back to it often. Thank you, Joyce, for this useful information and explaining what you're looking for at this time. I think the proposal is very difficult to write, but I see why it's so necessary that it be done the right way. It took a lot of time and effort and even then I'm not sure I've hit the mark.

Debbie Fuhry said...

Good reminders, but I have to admit that I find your submission guidelines a little confusing in one respect. I'm not sure exactly what you mean by a 'sell sheet' and how it differs from a synopsis.

I did google the term and incorporated others' suggestions; but in the query I recently sent Tamela, I wasn't at all certain I'd done it correctly.

sanjeet said...

it was you said that blessed me so very much, but you did, and I thank you!

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