Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Recently I spent considerable time working with clients in preparing proposals for submission to editors. As I interacted with various clients, I observed a truth I’ve seen time and time again–each of us has a preconceived notion about our projects that can make us intractable in the face of others’ opinions. That inability to listen and take another look at a project can keep us from finding a publisher for our work. How can you succeed in publishing? By listening.
Two cases in point:
1. A client has a stunning idea with much potential.
Tied to a key event in our country’s history with an upcoming anniversary, this idea could make a strong contribution in examining the event. The author is convinced a publishing committee will grasp the importance of such a book, and therefore he doesn’t need to submit the first two chapters of the book that explain the moment in history and how the manuscript adds to our understanding of it. Instead, the author wants to submit chapters starting with #3. This will not lead to how authors succeed in publishing. May I just say that I have no confidence an entire team at a publishing house would get it? Wouldn’t it be smarter to write those first chapters? And to listen!
I’m trying to get her to understand that she needs to more tightly focus her idea so it clearly is differentiated from books by well-known authors who have written on the same topic. But she’s so intent on her perception of her proposal that she can’t hear what I’m saying.
It’s like deciding to open an ice cream shop but refusing to recognize that the three already established ice cream shops in town present a major roadblock to success. Maybe you need to add clowns and free balloons to differentiate your shop. Or create ice cream with unexpected ingredients like basil and lavender. Whatever you choose, be smart about it; make your project stand out from a field crowded with celebs–that’s how to succeed in publishing.
So what’s with this inability to listen?
We all turn a deaf ear to advice at times, but these authors aren’t grasping that I’m pointing out significant issues that can make or break their next projects. It’s rather like the emperor who has no clothes. Plenty of folks will pretend right along with you that you’re regally garbed. And it can be dangerous to point out the, uh, naked truth, but somebody has to do it; wouldn’t you rather it be an astute critiquer or your agent–or even your mother–than an editor who chooses not to take your project to committee or a publishing committee that gives your project the thumbs down?
To Succeed in Publishing
If you want to succeed in publishing, you have to have a discerning ear: Whom should you listen to? Is it worth forcing yourself to put the brakes on your enthusiasm and refine your project? Or is the naysayer wrong, and you should barrel ahead full steam?
In these two examples, I’m not asking either writer to throw away an idea but to more thoroughly think about the idea. To take it to the next level. Now, that’s what makes a project one that is likely to break out–or break into publishing.
How do you bring yourself to overhaul a manuscript or book idea when you realize it won’t succeed in its current condition? How did you find the right people to listen to?
Want to succeed in publishing? Then try listening. Click to tweet.
How listening can lead to publishing successes. Click to tweet.