Good morning, Seekerville! You asked and we answered with a four-part series covering some very important aspects of writing... My assignment? To talk query letters and proposals this week. These are important matters. You know this. That's why you asked. But you also know that the first and most ginormous part of getting published is Write a Great Book... and you can do this! So get that part done. Nobody buys a blank page. No one buys an idea.... Put the proof in the pudding, write the book(s) and polish them... and have fun doing it! I want you to love this job, this career, these amazing opportunities surrounding us today! And then let's write that query and polish that proposal...
Yes, you read that right. Seventy-nine pages. More about that later!
There's a lot to talk about here. And I mean A LOT. There are multiple reasons for this. It used to be a fairly cut-and-dried process. No more. The publishing landscape has changed radically in the last decade. Heck, it's changed that much again in the last few years. How do you keep up? How do you sort it out?
It's all mathematical.
If you are aiming at building a strictly indie audience, you won't need to use query letters, proposals, synopses or cover letters. That's a ginormous difference in time out-put. Don't minimize that from a professional standpoint. Time is money in every business. Including yours!
If you go the indie-route you will write your book(s), arrange for a cover and formatting (or do it yourself), hire an editor (or trade editing with another writer and possibly ruin a friendship or the story), revise as needed and publish, taking your chances on an excited readership. So if you pick CHOICE ONE: Indie publishing, you don't need this blog post, but keep it in your writing folder because a lot of authors cross over the lines... and it's good to have info on hand.
Let's talk query letters first.
Basically a query letter is a one-page sales pitch. It's not the chance to talk about your hopes and dreams or kids and hardships, although relatable glimpses can help agents and editors "see" you better. It's a chance to attract the editor or agent to read more. Now if they read two paragraphs of your work and set it aside with a stamped rejection, a great query won't save you. Think Chip and Joanna and "Fixer Upper" (I love Fixer Upper)... when people know it's a match, they'll plunk down their money right quick. So write the best book you can... and think of the query as the frosting on the cake.
My post from 2011, "Nail That Query", the same advice I'd give today because it worked well. I'll be watching my 20th Love Inspired hit the stands next November... so catching Melissa Endlich's eye with that letter (and a story she loved!) was clutch to launching my career.
Myra's post from 2015 "Crafting a Catchy Query Letter", great advice, point by point. Myra gives you a step-by-step approach and explanation based on her years of experience. And like anything else, practice makes us better. Write... then re-write the letter, parsing words and phrases to make yourself sound (perhaps!) a little better than you are... but still honest. :)
|Courtesy of Tina Radcliffe, Seekerville.blogspot.com|
Do not let this scare you. A basic proposal is generally this format for submitting to agents and our Love Inspired editors:
- Cover letter (I use the same thing I would do in a query letter)
- Synopsis (I suggest 4-5 pages long, be concise and chronological. Think technical writing, not creative writing)
- First three chapters
- Author Bio (here's where you can either sound very professional or funny. I like to match my bio with my personality, so my bios are humorous and poignant.)
A basic proposal is primarily your chapters, synopsis, bio and cover letters. So about 50-55 pages.
So why was mine 79 pages long, you ask?
Well because once you have a track record, you have to note it. So if a book bombs (and they do, for multiple reasons) it's right there in black and white for the entire publication committee to see. (SERIOUS QUAKING GOING ON).
There is no hiding numbers.
But if there are lots of good numbers, and a few shakier ones, savvy publishers realize that writers can only do so much. Some things are out of our control.
I also have to include comparables in my project, books in the Christian or ABA market that my books would stack up against. I include reviews from Amazon and Goodreads. I present my online profile, what I do on facebook, twitter, website, blog and here in Seekerville (thank you, my friends!) and Yankee Belle Cafe. My job is to show the editors and publishers and the SALES TEAM that I'll do whatever it takes to help present my work to the public.
The sales team needs to see you and your work as marketable. You are impressing them as much as you are anyone else, and they are an unseen entity. When I was offered my contract with Waterbrook for the Double S Ranch series....
I found out they'd been watching me for a while. My online presence. My work ethic. How I interacted with people on my blog, my website, facebook, Seekerville and Twitter. I had no idea they were tuning in... Because honestly, once you're online, your life is pretty much an open book.
It wasn't that I impressed them with my skills. (grinning!) But I never stop trying, and they noticed.
Once you are published, the record-keeping of those sales numbers becomes part of your job. It can be a humbling effect.... but also a great motivator. Writers learn to enrich their "discoverability" in whatever way works.
Things are different than they were that decade back. From Publisher's Weekly 9/14/16: Meanwhile, Dave Lewis, executive v-p of sales and marketing at Baker Publishing Group, said changes in the Christian market reflect struggles in the general trade. “Christian bookstores went away dramatically in the last decade; what’s happening there is what’s happening to everybody,” he said, citing losses due to the recession, digital sales, and Amazon. “Consolidation is happening across the board.”
As authors it's our job to be savvy to the market. Not to jump on bandwagons... that wheel still goes round, and that fly on the top will make his way to the bottom. We are more than authors. We are businessmen and women.
Your proposal should be crisp and clean. A straightforward cover page. Your very best opening chapters, no mistakes. No grammar, formatting, spelling errors allowed... that means slice and dice as needed.
Laurie Tomlinson did a great blog on synopses last week. LINK IS HERE
|Courtesy of Just Commonly.blogspot.com|
Contests are a huge way of cleaning up your work. Getting feedback that isn't from a critique partner or group is good for us. It can be eye-opening.... possibly gut-wrenching.... but it's a teaching tool for a very reasonable price.
Mostly, you need to write. Make writing a habit. A good habit! And don't let fear or discouragement dog your days.
Our theme for 2017 is "Look How Far We've Come!" and that's the positive attitude I want you to take into your daily routine.
One day at a time... a solid work ethic... with blinders on. Don't assess yourself by someone else's win/loss ratio. Be your own person. Plan the work and work the plan.
And wow, this was a whole lot of serious going on here today.... So to lighten things up, I've got a book and chocolate combo pack coming someone's way. You get your choice of any Ruthy book I have in stock.... and chocolate. :) Because Ruthy and chocolate go hand-in-hand! And for you authors out there, I'll do a cover or query letter critique.... but let me know in the comments that you'd like it, that you're ready for it... Let's go into this new year with light and encouragement brightening our paths.
ruthloganherne.com and @twitter as @ruthloganherne.
You can also stop by her personal blog ruthysplace.com, a fun place to stay up to date on contests, thoughts, books... or visit her today at the Yankee Belle Cafe where she'll share the most delicious apple cake she's ever made.... Print it off and try it, see what you think!
Come on inside... coffee's on... and tell me what scares you most about the business side of writing.... and I'll talk you off the ledge, darlings!