Thursday, February 19, 2009

How can I not take this one?

I just talked on the phone to a very intelligent young man who realizes how badly change is needed in this world. Can’t argue with him there. He has the outline for a book that lays out just how such change can be achieved. Great, sure to be a best-seller. Send me a proposal on it and let me look at it. What’s a proposal?

Hmm, I see where this is going. I referred him to our website which lays out what we like to see in a proposal and what each portion of it entails. I told him it includes three chapters. Well, I don’t have three chapters, I’m not really a writer, I have the outline and I have all of these great notes that will explain just what needs to go into the book and it is world-changing.

I see, let me see if I can explain it this way. I’m not in the business of putting your book together for you. There are professional editors you can hire that will do that. I even have a list of a bunch of them on my website if you need to talk to some and see what it would cost.

I guess the best way to explain it is this: as a literary agent I’m like a used car salesman. My job is to take your car and sell it to a buyer, who in this case happens to be a publisher. So I tell you to bring it by so I can test-drive it, look at the sales literature for it (the proposal), put it on my lot, and have it available so a publisher can see it and drive it. The only problem is the car is in pieces in your back yard. It isn’t up to the salesman to put it together, nor is it the job of the buyer. No editor is going to sit down with you and help you turn all of your notes into a book.
It’s the job of a mechanic to put it together. Either the home mechanic (writer) who puts it together maybe with the help of friends in a critique group, or hiring a professional (editor or ghostwriter) to help. But an agent can’t do anything until we see the car because we see hundreds of cars each month with great sales literature and they are ready to drive off the lot.

Then I said on a nonfiction like this to make sure the proposal has your credentials for writing the book. What will give the reader confidence that you know what you are talking about. Lack of credentials? Only 21? That’s a bit of a problem, it had better be a really good book.
That’s like telling me your car is not from a major car manufacturer that you made it in your back yard. A custom car made by someone who is an awesome mechanic would be terrific but I’d sure want to know something about how good of a car you make. Where can I see some of your other cars? Oh, sure, this is your first. Well, a guy has to start somewhere.

Get it built and get back to me, we’ll go from there.

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