I just got back from the Post Office, where I waited in line 20 minutes for a certified letter. The carrier hadn't delivered it yesterday, because she needed my signature.
Thinking it might be important, I drove to the Post Office. Fortunately, I took a paperback to read as I waited.
The envelope contained what I expected: a prospective author's attempt to attract my attention.
The experience left an impression, but not the one the author wanted. Having worked in publishing for more than thirty years, I appreciate those who act professionally. Such people learn what's expected, deliver what's expected, and don't try to become an exception to the rule.
Mary from Arizona fell short in every way. She missed or chose to disregard the clear directive to communicate via email.
Worse, her eight-page double-spaced printout contained only a few of the nonfiction proposal essentials spelled out on the Hartline website. And for today's author-platform-driven world of publishing, she left out the most important information.
While she told me about her manuscript's content, she failed to make a case for its significance. I got no sense of:
● who would want to buy such a book
● if similar books had ever been published
● how hers might meet a unique need
But that's okay, because she also did nothing to present herself as someone even remotely positioned to promote and market her book. Not only did she give no information about her website and social media pages, she didn't even provide an email address.
I suspect she viewed a book proposal as just an annoying formality. Instead, it's a potential-packed essential.
I wish she had realized that a book proposal, beginning with its cover letter and one-sheet, was her primary sales tool in trying to get her book published.
I wish she had designed it to convince an acquisitions editor, then a company's publications board, that her project deserved a spot in their release schedule.
I wish she had even tried to make the case that hers was one of those rare titles that would sell in sufficient quantities to actually turn a profit.
But she didn't. And that's not what any agent needs.
If you know Mary, or another newbie author like her, I hope you can help coach her as she tries to write her proposal. Please encourage her not to rush the process. There's a reason – and a need – for each element.