Blogger: Cynthia Ruchti
Wait. You really thought publishing success shortcuts exist?
Some try. Writers can successfully employ time-savers, but shortcuts aren’t the positive elements they might be in mountain hikes or traffic jam bypasses.
Cruel response? Not at all. Kindness colored the agent’s words. Why might years have been a success recommendation?
- The author may have needed time to support a great concept with a strong platform. The investment of two years in building a solid platform could have meant the difference between the book reaching a few or many.
- The idea needed time to percolate. It wasn’t yet fully formed.
- The pain was still too fresh. Sometimes books intended to encourage others out of the painful experiences the author has endured wind up being cathartic only. Given time and the perspective that accompanies it, the book’s impact might be stronger, richer, and free of anger that would otherwise fog the takeaway value.
At the same conference, I asked to read a sample of an attendee’s writing. He replied, “I’m working with a professional editor. She hasn’t edited this yet.” I still needed to see it. An author might shortchange his or her publishing success–and the agent’s success–if unwilling to show a snippet of unedited work. Why?
- For an agent to consider representing a writer, he or she needs to know the level of writing talent or skill the author has pre-editing. Your highly polished piece will tell me how well the editor edits. But will it give me clear clues to the writing strength of the writer?
- Can the writer present another book, many others, throughout their writing career? Or can the writer create only rough drafts?
- How rough is the rough draft? If it shows lack of understanding of basic writing premises, basic storytelling skills, basic grammar, spelling, punctuation guidelines, the writer may need to invest in more craft education before embarking on an agent/author relationship. Without that investment, the author’s first book could be the last.
- Computer grammar, spelling, and punctuation checkers leave red flags for writers. Or double blue lines. Or red squiggly lines. Successful authors take time to consider and correct, when needed. Ignoring red flags is a mark of a writer in too much of a hurry, or unobservant.
- Typos in a one-sheet don’t leave a good first impression.
- Multiple typos in an email query sometimes keep agents from going any deeper into consideration. It takes very little time to proofread an email. In an email as important as a query, not spending a few moments to proofread is a path away from rather than toward success.
Marketing Plan Shortcuts
When creating the marketing plan section of a proposal, a writer who takes a shortcut–or a cookie cutter approach–may miss opportunities to win the heart of an agent or editor. What shortcuts might derail potential success?
- Listing only local library or bookstore events.
- Including what the author is willing to do, rather than what the author will do.
- Noting that the author will cooperate with the publisher. That’s a given. More effective are the marketing plans that include innovative ideas that don’t merely “get the word out” but are likely to net actual sales.
Rather than settling for shortcuts, successful authors dig in, put in the work, and consider the time investment a small price to pay.
What other shortcuts are writers tempted to take?