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Friday, November 24, 2017

How Literary Agents and Publishers Think

This week I heard from a writer who's pitched to agents and publishers without success. And the query reminded me how important it is for writers to be able to get inside the head of these important gatekeepers. Here's what I want not-yet-published writers to know about how agents and publishers think...

When they're reading your proposal, the agent is thinking about what the publisher wants, and the publisher is thinking about what the reader wants. And the reader is thinking about...the reader. The BIG question you have to answer for agents/publishers is, "What's in it for the reader?" Whatever book you are writing HAS TO meet the felt need of the reader. Reader's don't buy books they "should" read, they buy books they "have to" read. Why is the book you're pitching a must-read?

Without knowing what book you've written, I will hazard a guess that an agent/publisher has seen this book before. Maybe 100 proposals for this book and 5 that made it to market--saying the exact thing you're saying, in a slightly different way. While that can sound jaded, that's their reality. So whatever message you want to communicate--ideally, in the words of Stephanie Smith, a "timeless truth"--must have a FRESH FRAME. Whether you're communicating that "God is gracious," or "You are loved," or "Kittens are God's gift to the world," the agent/publisher must read your proposal and say, "Hmmm...I haven't heard it quite that way before." Are you saying something in such a fresh way that the agent/publisher wants to know more?

The #1 rule of good writing is "show, don't tell." Your proposal needs to prove to agents/publishers that your project has FOUR THINGS: (1) a unique and compelling project, (2) a market of people who can't wait to buy this book, (3) a growing platform, and (4) mad writing skills. While I'd love to say that if they love your fresh idea, or if they think you're a great writer, they will take a chance and contract your book, I can't say that. They may WANT to, but to convince a publishing board to publish a book, they really need to see strength in all four areas. If you need to develop one or more of those areas, it might make sense to do that before pitching again. Does your proposal demonstrate that you are offering all four things a publisher needs to see?

The job of your book proposal is to convince the agent/publisher that your project meets the reader's need in a fresh and compelling way, and that you can sell books. To help writers do that, I've got a few free resources online...
1. An Author Inventory helps you mine and mention every asset you're bringing to the table.
2. An Annotated Book Proposal Template offers tips for each section of the proposal. (Not necessary to use this particular template, but do read the tips.)
3. The Book Proposal Checklist helps you review the first draft of your proposal, to make sure it's as strong as it can be.

Help agents and publishers say YES by offering them the strongest proposal you can!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Q & A: "I'm a writer. How do I build my platform?"

Most writers I know prefer to write over building their platforms But they also understand how critical platform is to securing a book contract and reaching readers. Karen Hardin, President of PriorityPR Group & Literary Agency, offers 4 wonderful tips to start building yours.

Q: Any tips for how a writer can be growing her platform?

It takes approximately one to two years to really get a solid foundation under a platform. Writers often wait until they finish their book to begin, but that is when they already need the platform as they are ready to self-publish it or present to a publisher. Unfortunately, with no platform, they have no audience.

Here are four important steps to begin:

1. Build Your Writing Resume

I usually instruct my authors to spend time while writing the book to build their writing resume. Choose 2-3 strong online magazines (by “strong” I mean has a good strong readership ideally of 100,000 or more) that fits the audience for their book and submit to them monthly. You may or may not receive payment. That is not the goal. The goal is to make that audience your audience. If you are published monthly in a magazine, then the readers become familiar with you and most will eventually gravitate over to your blog, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account to find out more about you.

2. Build a Database and Page Views

Work to build a database and page views for your blog or website. This is important to publishers and to us. If we write and no one reads it, then what’s the point. Building page views is all about posting and reposting in your primary social media forum so that you are found. For example, if you post in any area just once a week or once a month, then your readership isn’t really going to grow like you want. It’s a matter of putting out great content that THEY want and need on a regular basis.

3. Pursue Endorsements

Work on endorsements. These take months usually to obtain. You need at least one recognized name or recognized title to really sway publisher’s in your direction. Who do you know or who do you know that knows someone influential? Sit down and write out a list.

4. Make Friends and Help Each Other

Last, who do you know who has a much larger social media reach than you? I have friends in my corner who have Twitter followings of 100,000+. Sometimes they have reached out to me first to ask a question or help with something and via relationship we can begin to help each other. Other times I have sought out people who reach an audience that fits mine and tried to see if we can help each other.

What does that mean?

We each have gifts and talents and can use them to help each other. Is there a way you can supply something they need now, so that they may be willing to help you with something you need in the future? What do you have in your hand to offer? What is your skill set or gift? Think about who you can help and possibly they can also help you. Those are win/win scenarios.

This can really help when it comes time to launch your book or get a publisher’s attention.

Margot adds: Karen, this wisdom is golden. Thank you so much for sharing it with us!

Connect with Karen:
Karen Hardin
President of PriorityPR Group & Literary Agency
Over 25 year’s experience in the publishing industry

Friday, September 1, 2017

Q & A: "Does a writer need a large platform to get signed with an agency and get a book contract?"

I so appreciated this wisdom, on author platform, from Karen Hardin, President of PriorityPR Group & Literary Agency, that I wanted to make it available to writers, here. You're welcome.

Q: Does a writer have to have a large platform to get signed with an agency and get a book contract?

I really am looking for good writers who are willing to work hard to create a career. I am less and less willing to take on complete newbies who have absolutely no platform and want me to push it all uphill. I’ve done that, and can make it work, but at this stage in my life, I just don’t want or need to go there. I’m looking for good writers who have something interesting to say and are hard workers.

Q: So what about writers who don’t have large platforms?

I tell writers to be working on their platforms every day. Just a little bit daily helps. That’s really the key. 

One author I represent didn’t have much, but she had a couple of key contacts that we worked hard for a year before I would present her proposal. The result was she was a very hard worker and even though she had a small platform we got a contract that has now resulted in another contract. 

Karen says, "Small platforms that are growing work. No platforms don’t."

Margot adds: Love this, Karen. Thank you! Stay tuned for Karen's four steps to begin building platform. (Seriously, she's a smartie. Don't miss it.)

Connect with Karen:

Karen Hardin
President of PriorityPR Group & Literary Agency
Over 25 year’s experience in the publishing industry

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Q & A: "Are Simultaneous Submissions to Agents Acceptable?"

A new writer asked me if it was okay to send her book proposal to two different agents at the same time. I thought I knew the answer, but wanted to double check with agent extraordinaire Karen Hardin, President of PriorityPR Group & Literary Agency

I loved Karen's answer...

Question: Is it acceptable to submit queries to several literary agents at the same time?

Answer: Yes, as long as you let the agents know it is a simultaneous submission. Same courtesy we would give a publisher. I think all you need to do in the cover letter at the end is say, “I am very interested in obtaining a literary agent at this stage and as a result I wanted you to be aware that this is a simultaneous submission to other agents.” And then thank them for their time.

I think we all understand that this is a competitive industry and who wants to wait 6-8 weeks per agent just to start over again?

Q: And why is it problematic to query multiple agents simultaneously?

I get frustrated if it has taken me a few weeks to be able to review the proposal (not uncommon) only to find they have gone a different direction and didn’t communicate that with me. This becomes a mark against the author because I’ve invested my time to analyze on their behalf and it was a complete waste. I do keep names of those people that I won’t consider them in the future if they come back as they have told me what kind of team player they would be.

Karen Hardin
President of PriorityPR Group & Literary Agency
Over 25 year’s experience in the publishing industry

Thank you to Karen for this really helpful info!

*Stay tuned for Karen's savvy advice to writers who are building their platforms! It's golden.

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