Thursday, December 31, 2009

A strategy for the New Year

For many writers the goal for the New Year is to get published. Any worthwhile goal should have a viable strategy to get there. What might such a strategy look like? The first and most important thing is to effectively target who we want to approach.

Just going down the Writer’s Digest and picking names to submit to is a recipe for failure. The odds of such a cold-call submission succeeding is very slim, but what do we have to lose, right? Actually what we have to lose is burning bridges that with the right approach might be a successful contact. But once we have managed to successfully secure a rejection, that avenue is gone.

No, successful contacts are not made with publishing houses, but rather with editors, and ideally with editors or agents that we have managed to establish some sort of contact with. This is the difficult part of making submissions, finding the right people and knowing WHY they are the right person to submit to. The best way is by identifying what projects they have been involved in that makes us believe they are right for our project. Not just the house, but the right editor.

Ninety per cent of making a successful submission is targeting the right person to send it to. The majority of such submissions aren’t successful and the reason on a high number of them is they simply are not sent to the right person or to a specific person at all. “To Whom it May Concern” submissions are quite likely to draw a “To Whom it May Concern” response which is not likely to be favorable.

If we have effectively targeted the right place to go, then the next step is a great query letter and proposal. These are the sales documents for our books. Occasionally I have someone say “I don’t want to put a proposal together, that’s what I want an agent for.” I wish them luck. I can only take a few of the many submissions that are made to me and they are going to be people who have given me a terrific proposal that shows me how strong a sales pitch can be made on the project. I’ll never know a project as good as the author, so the starting point for me has to be a good proposal.

So the strategy is good targeting, a very professional pitch and proposal, (I have an ebook at my website on ‘Pitch and Promote like a Pro’ at if you need help ) and finally we need patience. At any given time, even with good research and targeting, our project may only fit at a single place in the industry. Within a short period of time it may only fit at ANOTHER specific place. That means making a good connection will by definition entail a lot of misses and near misses. Too many people don’t understand and get discouraged when it is simply the process of finding the right match. Those who publish have the patience to see it through, learn the editing that is required, and get the training they need to grow in their craft.

So what is your goal for 2010? And have you formulated a strategy to give you the best shot at achieving it?


sdg said...

As you've often pointed out, "Getting published isn't a selection process, it's a survival process!" As writers (and many of us with full-time jobs) it is almost impossible to make all the necessary contacts to succeed in today's market. That's the great value in having an agent, and you're one of the best. Happy new year, Terry!

Andy Van Loenen

Terry Burns said...

It's a pleasure with such great clients to represent - 2010 is going to be a good year