Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Can I sell on proposal? by Terry Burns
It depends on what it is and who you talk to. For many years it has been taught that you have to have a completed manuscript in fiction but could sell on proposal if you were established and anybody could sell nonfiction on proposal.
But after things tightened up during the heart of the economic turndown I started to get some responses that caused me to wonder if things were changing. I did a survey of over 200 editors, mainstream and Christian publishers alike. I surveyed editors that did only fiction, only non-fiction and those who did both. I got some surprising results.
The tightening of the economy did cause some to start seeing things differently. A majority of those surveyed said they DID like to know that the project was complete before they invested any time in it, even in non-fiction, particularly for unproven authors. They want to be able to say "I'd like to see the full manuscript" and get it quickly before they turn their attention to something else and lose interest.
So after the economy changes is this attitude going to change? Your guess is as good as mine, but I think a lot of them have discovered they prefer it this way. This is a hard pill to swallow for the established writer who likes to turn out a bunch of story ideas, write a few sample chapters, then run them up the flagpole and only finish those that garner interest. Do they have to swallow it?
Nope! Are there still those who do business the way they always have? You bet! The problem is knowing which are which. If we send to an editor that wants to know a full is available and it isn't, chances are they aren't going to say, but just pass on it. If we have the full available and they don't really need it, what does it hurt? Seems to me we are narrowing our potential market one way but not the other. Of course there is a trade-off in having to do more work.
I'm asking my clients to complete the work, fiction or non-fiction if they are less experienced writers. I'm doing a mix on my better published writers and trying some on proposal for them but asking them to finish the projects they believe in the strongest. We'll see if that makes a difference.
Things change so fast in this business, this is just another area that this is just another area that we are foolish to simply assume it works the way it always has.