The Unusual Request
This week the short email surprised me and it probably shouldn't have done so. Writers ask me all sorts of questions and I've invested a great deal of energy and time to provide resources for them. Part of my motivation for creating sites like Right-Writing.com and these entries about the writing life is to help others succeed with their writing dreams.
From my five years as a book acquisitions editor, I saw many writers floundering and not understanding how to produce what the editor needed to secure a book contract. I poured a great deal of thought and energy into Book Proposals That Sell and I continue to receive feedback about how this book is helping people. In fact, I like to receive feedback about it and find it encouraging.
Earlier this week, I received this email:
"I hope all is well. I have completed reading "Book Proposals that Sell," and I am ready to submit my book proposal to publishers. However,before I submit it, I need your expertise. I have attached a copy of my book proposal to see if you could review it to see if my format is correct. Any advice you can give me will be helpful. Thank you."
The book proposal was attached to this email. For over 20 years, I've read a how-to-write book about once a month but I have never presumed to write the author of one of these many books and ask for their specific input about my project just because I had purchased their book. Notice this person didn't offer any compensation (not that it would have made a difference with my response). Former editors and agents are good at saying no. I did respond to this author and encouraged looking into other resources for input.
If you have created a book proposal or a book manuscript, where do you go to get some professional input? I applaud this writer for wanting to get some professional help before sending it out into the marketplace. Many writers don't get input before they send out their materials and they only get one chance to make a good first impression--and instead make the wrong impression, get rejected and have no understanding of the reason.
In addition to Book Proposals That Sell, I created an audio product with over three hours of my teaching and ideas about book proposal creation called Editor Reveals Book Proposal Secrets. You can order this product which is covered with my 100% Love-It-Or-Leave-It Guarantee. Click the link above and read every word on that page to learn more.
Writing critique groups are another resource to get input from others. This group can be an online group or face-to-face group. For many years, I belonged to a small four-person group that met once a month and we critiqued each other's materials. I learned a great deal as a writer during those years and highly recommend such a simple system. I give a lot of details about critique groups in this article.
Writer's conferences is another place to get specific help about your proposal or project. It is an investment to attend these gatherings and they come in all shapes and sizes. You have to determine what you need at a particular point in your writing life and which conferences to attend. I've got a lot of information about conferences at this link. Make sure you scroll to the bottom of this page where I link to some specific conferences.
Beyond these resources, maybe you need to use a ghostwriter or consultant or a book doctor for your proposal. Be prepared to pay a fee for such a service but it’s something else to explore in this realm. There are numerous people who do this sort of work. One large resource with this information is to pick up Rick Frishman's Million Dollar Rolodex as a free resource when you sign up for his newsletter at Author101.com. Rick’s resource is about 55 pages and packed with solid information.
And before you fire off that email asking if I will review your book proposal. Stop and consider some of your other resources. Then you will not be making a memorable impression with your unusual request.