A patient complains to his psychiatrist: “Nobody pays any attention to me.”
The psychiatrist says: “Next.”
You may only have seconds to seize the interest of agents and editors before they say to themselves: “Next.” In descending order of importance to agents and editors, the ten most important elements in proposals for promotion-driven books aimed at big and midsize houses are:
- The idea: Is it fresh and exciting?
- The promotion plan: Will it get enough books to the cash register?
- The author’s platform: Does the author have continuing visibility online and off?
- Markets for the book: Will enough readers buy it?
- Competing books: Will it stand up to past, present, and future competitors?
- The title: Does it tell and sell—say what the book is and have a compelling reason to buy it?
- The writing: Is it a pleasure to read?
- The sample chapter: Does it prove the author can write the book?
- The outline: Does it prove there’s a book’s worth of information in the subject?
- The author’s future books: Does the author have the potential to grow?
The relative importance of these elements depends on the book and the author. For a memoir, the writing might be the most important element, and the platform, promotion plan, and competing books will be less important. If your proposal or manuscript has these elements, editors will be eager to insist to their editorial boards: “This is the book we have to buy next!”
Next up: the fiction list.