acquisitions editor WhiteFire Publishing
Last time I was on here we talked about the things that will get your query deleted faster than a con man can say, “It’ll make you millions!” This time, I figure we’ll look at the other side of the coin and focus on things that make editors and agents say, “Okay, let’s take a look!”
Now, in this world of social media, I have noticed something, so we’ll begin with that.
Doable # 1 - The Personal Touch
When you’re interested in a particular publisher or agent, a good first step is to get to know them. Frequent their blog. Stop by their pages on Facebook and Twitter. Leave comments now and then—not pointed toward your book, but just friendly. Relevant to their post.
I always felt a little weird doing this, like I was cyber-stalking or something. But now that I’m on the other side of the desk, let me assure you that it makes a difference. Name recognition counts, even when it’s something as small as this. But when I’ve gotten a couple funny comments from folks on Facebook on my blog, it makes me think twice about whatever query they might send me, and makes me far more likely to want to look at their proposal, even if the query doesn’t make it sound right up my alley.
Now, the most recent contract WhiteFire sent out was to an author who had indeed been commenting regularly on my Facebook page, but I didn’t realize it, LOL. See, another editor had acquired this one, I was just handling the technical side of the contract. So when I went to type in her name and realized it was Susie, there was a lightbulb moment—and suddenly I went from, “Yeah, okay, a contract” to “Yay! Susie! I can’t wait to work with her on this!!”
If you've met an editor or agent in person, remind them of that! Say where it was, what you talked about, or that you sat in on their class or have taken one of their online courses. Let them know you're familiar with what they're looking for.
Doable # 2 - Be the Authority
Young writers don't often have a platform. Editors understand that. But there's always a reason a writer is drawn to a particular subject, right? Play that up. If you're writing about a skateboarder, tell me up front that you won some skateboard exhibition that I've never heard of. It'll interest me. Are you writing about a foster child? Then please share that your family has taken them in, or that you have experience with the system. Is your heroine running a battered women's shelter? Then let me know you've volunteered at one for the last two years. Is it set in India, where you went on a mission trip last year? Let me know!
Even if you don't have firsthand experience, your research counts. I, for instance, have never been to Ancient Persia. (Shocker!! LOL) But I studied ancient cultures for two years, and I can say so. I can talk about it as if I have been.
See, most editors know a little bit about a lot of things but aren't expert in them. We know just enough to detect genuine knowledge in someone else. And that authority that comes with your knowledge comes through. So talk about a subject like you know it, like you mean it. Be the expert.
Doable # 3 - Be Excited
Even in a three-paragraph query, excitement comes through. And let me just tell you that if you aren't enthused about a project, no editor is going to be either. I've had a few discussions with folks who say, "Well, I guess I have this other project over here. I could send you that, if you think it might be more what you're looking for . . ." Um, gee. Thanks, but . . .
If, on the other hand, you use bold, punchy words to describe your story, words that prove you've put thought and energy into it, that goes far.
Doable # 4 - Professionalism and Confidence
It's really important when sending a query to follow all the "don't" rules and come off as a professional. While it came be a hard balance to strike, aim for confidence without pretension. Believe in what you're saying, but don't try to sound like the best thing since slathering peanut butter on an Oreo. And above all, make your query letter clean! I'm talking grammar. If a query letter is fluid and polished, clean and precise, you're more likely to get a request than if the editor can't read the first sentence without going, "Is a word missing here or something??"
That may sound like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised at how often I get query letters that are grammatically a mess. And so what am I to assume the book will be like? So have your friends read over it, a parent, critique partners if you have them, perhaps a teacher. Make that baby shine--it's the first impression, after all.
Doable # 5 - Be Ready!
Stephanie has touched on this before--don't send out queries until you're READY! If an editor comes back five minutes after you press "send" and says, "Sounds great, send me the first three chapters!" you'd better have those chapters ready to send! And if they come back a day later and say, "The chapters were awesome--you said the manuscript was finished, right? Let me at it!" Well, you'd better have that ready too, right?
Because editors have good memories but a lot filling them. Editors and agents at big houses or agencies often get hundreds of queries a day. So you have to be ready to pounce while their memories of you and your work are fresh. Because while it may take them three months to even open up your proposal, they may open it then and there and fall in love. (Trust me, I've had it happen, from both sides of the desk!)
So to sum it all up . . .
Doable # 6 - Stand Out as Yourself!
Be professional, know your stuff, but most of all, be you. If your personality comes through, you're more likely to be remembered. If you're meeting someone in person, let them see the real you. If it's all via email, inject your voice into your correspondence. That will set you apart. That will have editors friending you on Facebook or Twitter because they remember you fondly. That will make them sit up and take note when a proposal comes in.
And that, after all, is what we're going for. =)
Have a publishing question you think I could answer? Email me at Roseanna(at)Whitefireprinting.com