Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Location: Books & Such Central Valley Office, CA
So, since we keep talking about things your agent prefers not to hear, here’s yet another one: “I just wrote a proposal for a whole new idea and I’m sending it to you.”
You may be scratching your head at this one. Whatever can be wrong with a writer coming up with a new idea and proposing it?
There’s nothing wrong, technically, but. . . Well, let’s just say that if you’ve done this, created a book idea in a vacuum, you’ve missed one of the most important parts of an agent-client relationship—collaboration.
Here’s how it’s supposed to work:
Agent: Hello, Jane. Is this still a good time to talk?
Jane: Yes. I’m so glad we could schedule time to brainstorm. I’ve had a fabulous idea for the next book and I want to get your input.
Agent: Okay, sketch out the book for me. I just got back from a series of editors’ meetings and I have a list here of many of the things they are looking for. I also have a list I’ve been compiling of what editors do not want to see. Let’s see how your new idea stacks up.
Okay, that’s simplistic, but you get the point. You will save yourselves hours of work if we talk first, before you begin the hard work of creating a proposal. For instance, if you write women’s fiction and you tell me the book is from the male point of view, I’ll tell you about the brick wall we’ve hit recently with male POV for women. We’ll talk about whether the story can be told from the female protagonist’s point of view.It’s important information you need to make what might be a risky choice if your goal is to sell this book. If you were to tell me you want to write a parenting book, I’d have to tell you that most publishers have their “parenting experts” in place already. Unless you have an enormous ever-growing platform including national radio or TV or your book has such a unique slant (think Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom), I can’t imagine getting a publisher to request the proposal these days.
As you describe the book I’ll be thinking about editors who may be interested. I may have you do a couple different proposal variations, each aimed at a different house.
I may hear your idea and see a series or a franchise instead of one book. We’d want to put that option into the proposal.
The point is, one of the reasons you have an agent is to help you hone and target your proposals. Take advantage of that.
Your turn: Does this make you crazy? Does it seem to curb the all-important muse? Do you hate having to consider the market realities during the creative process? Chime in and give us your point of view. (Even if it is a male POV. :-))