Secret Weapon– Perfecting the Proposal
Blogger: Wendy Lawton
You know what I love about some of my newer clients and many of you who are still unagented and unpublished? You don’t take things for granted. You worry about format for submission. You take care to craft the finest queries. You try to follow sketchy guidelines to a T.
It can make all the difference. Let me tell you three stories to illustrate this.
Client #1– Brand new. A young, powerful novelist whose manuscript arrived in pristine shape. I couldn’t put it down. She got “the call” offering representation while in the hospital, sitting by a family member’s bed. I told her I’d send my detailed client info form that I use to create the database but that she was not to worry about getting it back to me during this family crisis. I also sent her the Books & Such Style Guide and a sample proposal along with all the forms I use. Guess what? Within a week she not only had it all back to me but she included the proposal formatted perfectly to our style guide. I’ve had it on on my desk only two days when an editor sent a wish list for which this book was perfect. I made a couple minuscule changes and voila! Her proposal is on an editors desk within hours of when he requested it, all because she had it in perfect order.
Client #2– Brand new. A specialist in the field about which she wrote her book. Her website was already up and vigorous. Her materials came in. . . yep, you guessed it, near perfect. I asked her if she could do a v-log on her blog, talking about her book. She had that done in less than a week and it was amazing. I was able to slip her project into the projects I pitched at ICRS and received numerous requests for it. Now I’ve got serious interest.
Client #3– Seasoned author but new client. She took my material and redid her proposal so that when I received it, it was perfect. I asked if she could get me video clips of her giving a live presentation as a keynote speaker. It was up on Youtube within a week. I was able to get the proposal right out and I’ve got one offer and expecting at least one more.
This afternoon I was speaking to a colleague. She bemoaned the fact that she had proposals to get out but they were so far from being ready they were queued up waiting for her to whip them in shape. Some longstanding clients were still sending separate files for each chapter. (Hint: Back in the days of the Commodore 64, when we used dial-up for the internet, files had to be small or they would take hours to transmit. Guess what? It’s no longer the case. Your proposal or your full manuscript should be one continuous, numbered file.)
Too many long-established writers send it rough and dirty, expecting the agent to clean up and finish the proposal. Most of us are happy to do that but it means we miss many an opportunity while we work our way down the pile of projects.
If you do your part, you give us the tools we need to make magical things happen. If you believe you are somehow entitled to skip this step, you’ll only hurt your own career by slowing down the pace. I’m just saying. . .
Yes we work hard on the proposals we send out because it is also a reflection on us but when we get clients who offer a pristine product, boy oh boy, can we ever fly together.
My question for you is this: Are you following the most up-to-date practices? Do you know what has changed in the industry. If you are agented, do you follow your agent’s guidelines or style sheet carefully? Are you following outdated format books? (I have one on my shelf that says for a chapter by chapter summary you need to use a different page for each chapter. So wrong.) How do you compete with the new wunderkinds– the fabulous, hungry new writers– if you’ve been around for a while? Let’s talk.