For all those who’ve been working furiously on their Election 2008 book, here are a few tips on getting that book to the editor from a real insider, Laura Mazer. We’re lucky to have Laura here monthly with her column, “BookSmarts,” but she needs to hear from you: what do you want to know? -Kristen
Hi again Penners,
I’m back after a wee bit of a hiatus (read: several months during which I idiotically took on way too many books and paid for it by having to work long hours while everyone else was at the Hamptons). I’m very excited to be back now and to be writing the BookSmarts column in GWP’s new incarnation — and especially to be posting alongside the other amazing and talented GWPers here. Hi, ladies!
This month I’d like to pass on a few creative but common sense tips that I think can significantly increase your book’s chances of being considered seriously by editors or agents, and ultimately help you match up with one who wants to champion your project. Consider these strategies:
— Pitch wide. When pitching agents, go wide. Why query five agents if you can query fifteen? Why query fifteen if you can query fifty? Every agent who sees your proposal is another agent who could fall in love with it. The same goes for querying editors directly — unlike pitching newspaper or magazine stories, it’s perfectly fine to query multiple publishing houses at once. If you’re lucky, you’ll get interest from more than one editor, and if you’re really lucky, those editors will fight over you in a bidding war involving multiple zeros.
— Polish it up. I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: Make your proposal look as good as it reads. A dense, single-spaced, multipage document is a slush-piler for sure. Instead, make your proposal read as efficiently as a magazine: Include a table of contents, subheads, different typefaces, sidebars, pull quotes — anything that will make it more user-friendly for the editor or agent reviewing it. And write in the tone you’ll be using within the book itself. If your editorial voice is satirical and quirky, your proposal’s should be, too.
— Be open to options. Love your book idea, but be willing to change it if it’s not selling. If your book is about a historic world event, you may be able to recast your analysis in terms of current events and give it a fresh marketing angle. If you’ve written a memoir, you could give it an editorial makeover and resubmit it as a novel. Send your new (and maybe even improved!) package to a new crop of agents or editors, and to those you’ve approached before who sounded even somewhat enthusiastic about your book, especially if your changes address specific feedback they’ve given you.
— Get out and get social. Go to book readings, launch parties, and literary events. Not only are they fun and interesting, but they’re a great place to meet editors and agents. Plus I swear it’ll bring good juju to your own projects to get out there among other authorial types.
And, finally, not a tip but a request: Will you send me your questions about the publishing industry? I want to know what you want to know, and I’ll do my very best to tell you. So write, post, comment, or query!
Cheers for now,