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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.

6 comments:

Sue Harrison said...

Love your attitude!

Nicole L Rivera said...

Thank you for the insight into the industry. I like your roll with the punches attitude. :)

patriciazell said...

Your comments emphasize why I really appreciate God nudging me into writing my book on my blog. Presently, between 500 and 700 visitors per week are finding my weekly posts. I plan to have my book finished by the first day of summer and then write my proposal. Of course, at that point, I will have to find an agent.

Terry Burns said...

You are putting your book online in your blog? A lot of publishers don't mind if a chapter has been put online, but if you put it all on it is considered published and most publishers won't be interested

Jeanette Levellie said...

This is why I am finishing my two non-fiction books. I want to be able to send the full ms. to anyone who asks.

Thanks for your wisdom, Terry.

patriciazell said...

Terry, actually Michael Hyatt is the one who has encouraged me to write my book on my blog. He, too, is putting together a book of blog posts. By writing my book this way, I have the opportunity to test drive the content before I officially approach an agent and publisher. If I can build traffic to my blog through Twitter and Facebook and keep visitors coming back, I can prove that my content is worth publishing. I appreciate all that Michael has done--his blog posts and his answers to my questions--to help me. By the way, I'm on target to finish my book by the first day of summer! :-)