Hi, Laura Mazer here. As Deborah mentioned, I’m a longtime editor and book consultant, and I'm very happy to be joining the crew over here in the girlwithpendom! Deborah has asked me if I’d answer some questions for her readers, and I will do my best. Starting with this first one Deborah has tossed out, which is a great one: What do editors really look for in book proposals?
Well, let's start out with the obvious: gorgeous writing, a fascinating book idea, more gorgeous writing. But of course. However, before I let those things get me invested in your book, I’m going to want to know 4 things:
1. Are you a Mac or a PC? Or, what's your authorial sensibility, your creative look and feel? Consider: Your proposal is your client deliverable. Are you going to give it to me single-spaced, Times New Roman 10, no subheads, no cover page? I get word-wall weary really, really fast, so I love when authors take it up a level—by boxing essential facts and impressive quotes, using subheads to draw attention to important sections, and writing in a voice that represents the book's narrative itself. If I see that a writer has put creative energy into the complete development of her proposal, I'll know she understands (though she may not actually celebrate—fair enough) that to succeed in our contemporary marketplace of ideas, it takes more than interesting words, or smart words, or important words, or gorgeous words.
2. Is your bio degradable? Your author profile can be even more important than your pitch and your writing sample. It tells the reader if you've been test-driven in the marketplace. Have you been published before, either with a previous book or in magazines, newspapers, or visible blogs? What's the big picture of your career: Is your book topic a whim or a cause? Can you articulate your expertise and your ideas in an accessible, reliable manner? Impress me with whatever you've got that's impressive about you—even if it's not directly tied to your subject. Show me you’re worth investing in.
3. What's your mantra? What's your "thing," your sexy sell, your elevator pitch, your conceit? Put it right there at the top of your proposal in three sentences or less, in a way that can make me think right away: "Yeah, sure, I see that! Cool." If you can nail your book description, really Ezra Pound it into the ground, you'll have a much better chance of hooking an editor's attention from the get-go. Editors—and agents, for that matter—have scary-big piles of manuscripts to review, so it's not likely they'll stick around for Vague or Complicated. And yes, go ahead and get your Hollywood on, you can definitely compare your book to others, as in, "It's like Eat Pray Love but set in Canada and drawn as a graphic novel." "It's like Rebecca Walker's Black, White, and Jewish but funny and with a sub-theme about CIA corruption." Etc.
4. Where's the ammo? We eds need big guns. In other words, some serious data points supporting your project's creative and monetary potential. Your editor is probably going to have to champion you and your book to a whole lot of people before she can offer you a contract, so give her as many selling points as possible. What comparative books have performed well, proving this is a popular topic? How big is your target readership, and how will your publicist reach those readers? Examples: If you're writing a parenting book, include a complete list of parenting magazines, websites, specialty baby stores, and other outlets that reach your audience. If your book is a sci-fi novel, include a complete list of all sci-fi conferences where your readers will congregate. Think like a marketer, and help your editor to do the same on your behalf. (Here's one more tip: Make it clear you're willing to pound the pavement to promote your book. Plenty of authors go AWOL after the book ships to the printer, and that's a drag for the marketing department, which is counting on you to be out there advocating for your work.)
On that note, I'll sign off. Readers: Send me your questions in comments! I want to hear what you're thinking about.
Cheers til next time,