Blogger: Wendy Lawton
I just returned from ICRS (International Christian Retail Show) in Orlando where I had the opportunity to pitch several of my clients’ projects in person. This is one of my favorite parts of agenting. Instant feedback. As I prepare the presentations for each editor or editorial team I always try to choose the projects I think will be a good fit. But as I begin to talk about the author and the book, there’s nothing like seeing an editor lean forward, start making notes on the margin of the presentation sheet and then pepper me with questions. Fun! When they dream up different ways to slant the book, or come up with stronger titles, or brainstorm how it can be marketed , I can’t help but grin.
This year I had a number of projects that seemed to spark that kind of reaction. One of those is Kim Van Brunt’s book, Telling the Truth About Adoption: How Honesty Can Heal. With Kim’s permission, let me use her as an example of why a book sparks interest across the board.
Unique Angle— Most books on adoption tell about the joys, the moral imperative, the process or the happily-ever-after. Kim’s book is about what happens between excited adoption blog posts. It’s an honest, vulnerable look at the difficult emotions and painful realities in adoption while exploring how God redeems our brokenness with His beauty. A distinctive take on a familiar subject is always a plus.
The Right Writer— Publishers no longer want the jack-of-all-trades writer, the generalist. Nothing has as big a draw as a book written by a potential go-to person for that category. Using my example, Kim is an adoptive parent and has invested years in the adoption community. She’s known and respected there. She’ll be able to help her publisher reach her key demographic. Bingo!
An Innovative Partner— These days publishers are looking hard at platform for nonfiction authors. I know we hate to hear this but it’s reality. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a mega-platform but having a savvy sense of how to use social media is a huge plus. Kim not only uses social media to connect with her potential audience but she created some innovative tools for her eventual publisher. She’s written a practical self-help adoption guide to be issued as an ebook “short” and offered it to the publisher to be used as a promotional tool. Brilliant! And she also created a video blog post (vlog), talking about the book. Her publisher can use this with the sales team or even the pub committee. It allows the team to see how she communicates– an important aspect of being a go-to person. Here’s her vlog:
A Compelling Proposal— I pitched this book confident that the proposal answers all the publisher’s questions. Next week I’m going to blog about the importance of the proposal, but for now, let me just say that a carefully constructed proposal sells a book to a publisher in the same way that a professional business plan sells a business to the banker.
Great Writing— We always say, “This goes without saying,” but we need to say it. Over and over. As I sent out Kim’s proposal and sample chapters, I was confident that her decade as a professional journalist shows.Great writing.
The perfect pitch grows out the perfect package. With Kim’s project I had a unique offering, written by the right author– one who had invested years in her subject and audience. Her knowledge of social media and how to effectively use it gave us a leg up. Her proposal was polished and engaging, showcasing her writing skills. We were able to create a QR Code to drop into the proposal, taking the editor or team member right to Kim’s video and website with one click of a smartphone. What’s not to love?
I used Kim as an example. (Thanks, Kim for volunteering as our guinea pig.) These ideas and approaches worked perfectly for her subject and audience. But each author has to come up with his own distinctive way of showcasing his proposed project. Remember, we’re talking about a nonfiction project here. Platform is entirely different for a novelist.
My questions for you: Did deconstructing this pitch/ proposal/project give you ideas for your own? How is it different for fiction? Are you spending pre-published time connecting with your potential audience? (Or are you spending the majority of your time connecting within the writing community?) Do you see why saying, “I hate writing proposals,” or “I hate thinking about marketing” just won’t cut it in today’s publishing world?