Friday, June 19, 2015

Are You Ready? by Jim Hart

When I receive a query that I find interesting my next step is to ask the writer to send me their proposal. At that point three things can happen:

1) The writer sends their proposal
2) The writer asks if they can send their synopsis, samples or manuscript
3) The writer ignores the request and sends sample chapters or the manuscript

Lately it seems as if options #2 and #3 are most popular. And that leaves me with three choices:

1) Ask again for the proposal
2) Respond that I am not interested in pursuing this project
3) Delete the e-mails and move on to something else
What this communicates is that:
1) The writer doesn’t have a proposal
2) The writer doesn’t know what a proposal is
3) The writer doesn’t have a clear understanding of how to get their book published

The simple point of this blog is this: don’t send a query unless you already have your proposal complete and ready to send. Without a book proposal an agent, or editor, will not be able to make an informed decision on what step to take next.

This is a challenging time to get a book published. And yet there are so many tools available, and information is so easy to find, that anyone can learn the steps needed to try and get a book published. The Hartline Literary Agency clearly spells out what we would like to see in a submission:

During the last two weeks I’ve participated in two free webinars, from two different organizations, and I gleaned a few more pieces of valuable information involving proposal writing and book launches. Did I mention that they were free? They only cost me two hours of my time. And of course the hosts of these webinars also had a product to sell at the end of the webinar. But you know what? I’m OK with that because I already received something of value for free, and honestly, the products being offered were competitively priced. If I was a writer with a manuscript to pitch, I probably would have purchased at least one of them.

Writers who fail to learn all that they can about the business of publishing, beginning with the query and proposal process, are just setting themselves up to fail. There are no shortcuts. For some of the authors that I’ve encountered over the past month it would have been far better for them to take another couple of weeks, or more, and:

1) Learn more about publishing
2) Research our agency
3) Have a completed proposal

So before you send your query, ask yourself: “Am I ready?”


Linda Glaz said...

It is frustrating. I send a letter that says: please go to the agency site and see if you think you fit with our authors. If you do, then please look over the fiction proposal guidelines, put one together, and feel free to send it along. I look forward to it. Hopefully it steers them in the right direction. Some do, some don't, some I never hear from again. The ones that make me crazy are the ones that write back and tell me to go to their website for more info. Not gonna happen.

Joyce Hart said...

I had a guy really get nasty about agents and proposals. His book was 150,00 words or more. I told him it was too big. He told me all I had to do was read his book. He called me names and swore at me, all because he didn't want to prepare a proposal. I don't expect to ever see that book in print. On the other hand I got a fiction proposal that I really like, but the author doesn't have a platform. I'll do all I can to help her work on that. She did nice job on the proposal and she is an up an coming person. This book has a chance of getting published. Authors don't realize how important it is to learn the business and to prepare a really good proposal. It is part of getting published.

Terry Burns said...

I've had a few say they don't have to make a proposal, that's the job of the agent. I told them they had to submit a good proposal to get me to represent them and THEN I would work on it so it would be a good submission to acquisition editors. Nobody can write as good of a proposal as the person who has been living with the project for a year or so.

David Smith said...

Jim, your blogs are always spot-on. Almost all good results in life come from explicitly following guidelines. (Ask any college professor who landed that coveted teaching spot because their resume and supporting paperwork was exactly to specifications.)