Thursday, September 1, 2016

Selling the Complete Package in a Query

I have mentioned this before, but hey, when the comment is a good one, it is always good to remind people. Deb Werksman at Sourcebooks once made a comment during a panel discussion. She stated that they don't just sign a book. They are signing the author to go with that book. Their rationale is to build that career and work together. It's career building!

When we consider authors (and this includes agents and editors) we are looking at the complete package. Sure, we are looking at that single story and that is the one that will be heading up the contract, but we are always looking beyond that. We are looking at the complete package in that query. That includes: the manuscript, the author, the professionalism, the connection we have with the author, and certainly the career. We are looking for everything.

Writers need to understand, that with the exception of those anomalies out there who write one book and their career is made, the normal writer will build his or her career over time. You build your readership. You build your voice. You build your brand. And all of this takes time. For that reason, as we read queries, we are looking at the whole thing.

So, how do you do that in a query letter and a submission?

The query letter itself has a lot to do with this. This shows us, not only the story, but it also shows us your level of professionalism. How it looks and what you say shows your dedication to being a professional in the business. But there is more. That query letter also shows us how much you know and how much we are going to have to teach you. Your knowledge level of the business is going to come out in that query letter through the words you use, the structure of your writing and so forth.

Does this mean you can't be a first time author? Absolutely not. But you have to be able to show that you are not being an elementary level writer. Think of all those times when I remind you to learn your business before you start submitting. This is what we are talking about here.

That query letter also shows us your vision of the future. In that query, we want to see that you are more than a one hit wonder. Do you have a clear direction you are heading? If this is your first book, what else do you have planned? Do you have a clear vision of how many books you are going to write? Have you at least started thinking about building a web presence? Those small things tell us a lot.

And yes, your manuscript and synopsis tell us the level of writing you are at. Is your writing demonstrating that you understand the whys and hows of story craft, or are you just going through the motions. If you remember my comments about Bloom's Taxonomy here, we want to see you at least half-way up that pyramid. We don't want someone who doesn't understand how to write. When we send revisions out to you, we want to know that the story is in good hands and the changes will be made correctly.

So, as you are looking at your query letters this weekend. take the time to review what that query letter says about you. Are you selling just a complete package? Or, are you doing what some authors do when they send me snail mail queries. The shove their manuscript in an envelope and say read it (or like one guy did recently - he tossed two business cards in a envelope). That, my friends, is not marketing the complete package!

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