Over the last couple of days we’ve gotten information on writing, and on self-publishing, and now Ms. White from White Fire Publishing is going to close us out on a post how on to keep an Editor from Deleting you! 🙂
5 Ways to Keep an Editor from Deleting You
By Roseanna White
Getting an editor’s attention—and keeping it all the way through a proposal—is tough. Pinpointing the “right way” to do this is also tough. But you know what’s pretty easy? Pinpointing the wrong way to do something. 😉 So that’s what we’re going to cover today—those things that will get your proposal sent to the trash bin before an editor even opens it.
Let’s assume you’re doing cold calls, just sending out queries to publishers or agents you see online. Resist the urge to send out a query that sounds like this (and for reference, this is based on actual queries I’ve received, yes. Don’t laugh. Okay, laugh. I did.)
Hello Mrs. Rossana Black of WhiteBlazeAgency,
Do you want to represent the next bestseller? Well, I’m coming to you today with an opportunity to do just that! My fictional novel is destined to be the next Harry Potter and will appeal to everyone from age 9 to 90.
The Story of a Truly Great Lady is an epic historical fantasy love story thriller based on a true story that God revealed to me in a dream, in which He told me I must write this book and that it would save souls for Him. I know you want to obey the Lord, so please find attached the complete manuscript of Truly Great Lady as well as three chapters of the third book in the series, though I haven’t written the second yet. TGL is 400,000 words and is completed. I realize this is long, but I’m sure you’ll agree that nothing can be changed without losing the essence of the story God Himself gave me.
Please respond promptly, as if you don’t jump on this opportunity, I feel certain another publisher will.
Ahem. Now, where do I start? Oh yeah—at the salutation.
Avoidable #1 – Get Your Info Right
Please, for the love of macaroni, do not misspell an editor’s name or, even worse, send them a letter made out to someone else! Sounds basic, I know, but it’s happened to me. Many times. Needless to say, I didn’t request anything from those people. If you don’t know the editor or agent’s name, that’s okay—a “Dear Sir or Madam” works fine, as does “To Whom it May Concern” or even “Dear Acquisitions Editor” or “Dear WhiteFire” (in the case of my house). But let’s note that my name is Roseanna, not Rossana. White, not Black. And it’s Fire in my publisher’s name, not Blaze or Rose or House. (Catch that one? White House? Tee heehee) For that matter, I am an editor at a publishing house, not an agent at an agency. I can’t tell you how many times I get letters obviously tailored toward agents—they mention representing them in one paragraph and then have changed later instances to publishing, but not all. If you’re not paying attention to these details in a 500 word cover letter, how am I to trust that you’ll pay attention to details in your book?
Avoidable #2 – Do Not Be Presumptuous
Again this might sound basic, but there are a lot of people who think that to sell their book, they have to make it out to be the best thing ever. Resist the urge—humility goes much farther than pride. Do not liken your book to an all-time bestseller. Do not claim your book will be the next one. And for goodness sake, do not make it sound as if you’re doing the publisher or agency a favor by submitting to them. That won’t gain you any points. And this applies to later parts of the sample query there, too. Don’t try to tell me this is what God wants—it may be, but that’s something we get to decide, not you. After all, it’s our money on the line. And one of the biggest presumptions—don’t say your book is perfect as is! It’s not, I can promise you that. We all have to change things, and saying up front you’re unwilling to do so will have an editor hitting that delete button before you can say, “But it’ll make you millions!”
Avoidable #3 – Know Your Target Audience
By telling an editor your book will appeal to everyone, you’re basically telling them you don’t know who you actually intend it for. Narrow it down. This doesn’t mean people outside your target won’t read it and like it, but you’re trying to tell the publisher to whom they should aim their marketing. Men or women? Kids or adults? Baby-boomers orMillennials? Even those books that have crossed generational barriers—Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, the Hunger Games—had a target audience. And those audiences are very clear when you read the book. I might love Percy and his friends, but I could tell from the start that it was written for my daughter, not for me. It just so happens that great writing and amazing stories transcend their ages.So write your best story, and hope that it will appeal broadly…but had the publisher or agency a narrow target to aim at.
Avoidable #4 – Messing Up Your Book Description
I know we never want to be put in a box—but genres exist for a reason. They exist because readers can make decisions based on what genres they like. Genres equal readership. Sowe as authors should know our genre, and know it well. Don’t ever, ever call it a “fictional novel.” The redundancy makes us cringe. 😉 (Although, worse is to call it a “non-fiction novel,” LOL. I’ve gotten that one too!) Also don’t try to cover every possible genre in your description. It’s fine to say it’s “young adult fantasy” or “historical romance with an element of suspense.” But limit your terms to avoid confusing the agent or editor. You don’t want to make them have to puzzle out how to pitch your story to their team.
Avoidable #5 – Not Reading the Guidelines
My last point is this—each publisher has very specific submissions guidelines, both in the kind of books they want and how you can send them. Read them. If they say to send a query first, don’t attach anything. If they ask for a proposal, send the correct elements—don’t assume you know better what they want to see than they do. Pay attention to the particular things they’re looking for, and in what format they should be. When they ask for a manuscript in an attachment, don’t paste the first 50 pages in the body of the email. If they ask for the query to be the body of an email, don’t attach it. Each agency or house designs its guidelines for maximum efficiency—they need to be able to glance at something, make quick decision as to whether they want to see more or not, and move on. Following their guidelines at least keeps you from being an insta-delete.
So there you have your 5 simple steps to avoid getting deleted. Now, as for how to get a request . . . that’s another post. 😉 Have questions? I’m happy to answer them!
Roseanna M. White is a bestselling, Christy Award nominated author who has long claimed that words are the air she breathes. When not writing fiction, she’s homeschooling her two kids, editing, designing book covers, and pretending her house will clean itself. Roseanna is the author of a slew of historical novels that span several continents and thousands of years. Spies and war and mayhem always seem to find their way into her books…to offset her real life, which is blessedly ordinary.
Being educated at St. John’s College (the Great Books School) taught Roseanna to ask questions, to value conversation, and to never accept the simple answer without exploring it for herself. She and her family make their home in the mountains of West Virginia where she and her husband both grew up. Roseanna is a member of ACFW, a frequent speaker at writers events and small groups of readers, and an unabashed email addict