by Roseanna White, editor for WhiteFire Publishing
5 Ways to Be...
I admit it--I was a teacher's pet. It wasn't that I tried to be--I didn't suck up to the teachers or bring them apples. I just did what I was supposed to do. And then some. I tried hard, I was smart, and I wasn't afraid of my teachers. But I did wanted to please them. So when they asked me for something...well, I did it.
I've found that that's a pretty valuable life lesson when it comes to a job or career too. And as both an author and editor, I've come up with a pretty good list of ways to be sure you're not a pain in your publisher's posterior but are, instead, a favorite.
#1 ~ Give 'em What They Ask For
This sounds pretty simple, I know. But when your agent, editor, marketing team, or publisher asks you for something, get it to them. These are your class assignments. Your homework. The things that build the foundation of your grade. In the publishing world, they can take many forms. A few things you'll be asked for at some point are:
- a manuscript (duh, right? LOL)
- a strong proposal
- a synopsis
- a blurb
- a market analysis
- a cover questionnaire
- a list of endorsers (published authors willing to read your book and offer a few sentences of praise for the cover)
- a list of influencers (people willing to read it, blog about it, review it, talk about it)
- articles/blog posts
- summaries of other books
Some of these you'll already have prepared by the time you query agents or editors. But even when you think all that work is done, don't be surprised if they ask for a new version. For example, sometimes you'll have written your synopsis before you've completed your book. Your editor will write the back cover copy for you book based on your synopsis and a blurb you sent in earlier (probably), so he or she will want the newest possible version of a summary before they start this.
#2 ~ Be Prompt!
Publishing is a big...long....waiting game. You wait on critiques. You wait to hear back on queries. You wait for agents to read your proposal...and then your full manuscript. You wait to get their edits. You wait for them to submit to editors. You wait for the whole process to be repeated with them. You wait on contracts, you wait for more edits...and more edits. You wait for covers, for the release day, for sales number and royalty check.
You wait. And wait. And wait.
But you, as the author, have to hurry up so you can wait. When you get a request, get the agent or editor the material as quickly as you can, so that you're still fresh in their mind. When it's time for edits, take as long as you need, but pace yourself so that you finish up on time. Better yet, turn things in just a little early. Even a week before deadline shows that you're on top of things.
And this doesn't just go for the big things! When they ask for you little things (blurbs, synopses, cover questionnaires) they often give you a week or a month to do it. Work on it right away, get it back within a few days, and you'll make your agent or editor so happy! Because that then is something they can mark off their list and pass on to the next person. And we all love marking things off our lists. =)
#3 ~ Pay Attention
Often times, when you sign on with an agent or publisher, it's for multiple books. Or at the very least, there is some repetition within a single project. Pay attention to house rules and preferences and take notes, if you have to, on how they like things. Every capitalization and heading that you get right is one they don't have to change. And by valuing your editor or agent's time, you show them that you're a professional, and that you respect what they do. Some quick ways to do this:
- ask for and use a template for proposals (mostly for agents) to ensure that you're not leaving out anything vital
- ask for and review a style guide from your publisher
- make note of house rules on capitalization and punctuation and search your MS for these issues
- make note of how they arrange the "bonus" material in books--acknowledgments, dedication, author's note, discussion questions etc.--and include them in your MS in the right order when you turn it in
- ask questions! Whenever you're not sure how they do something, ask. Editors are happy to answer your questions, especially since it means you then hand in a prepared document.
#4 ~ Anticipate What They Need
I know, I know--how can you anticipate what an editor might need before you've ever done this?? It's not always possible. A lot of times, you just have to wait and see and learn the ropes. But sometimes you can surprise them with exactly what they need. =)
This is doable when you have something scheduled. A phone call or appointed time for marketing talks or edits, or a meeting when an editor will be presenting your next project. When you know it's coming, you can be prepared. Even if they don't say you have to have a document prepared with answers to their questions or your ideas for something, get one ready anyway, and send it to them a few days before the scheduled meeting. That will give the team time to look it over and be prepared with other ideas of their own.
#5 ~ Get Creative, Baby!
I cannot over-emphasize how invaluable ideas are. Fresh ones, new ones, funny ones, long-shot ones...they're all priceless! For editors and agents, there's a lot of routine. A lot of in-the-box. A lot of "this is the way we do it."
Shake things up.
Did you get a no on one proposal idea but they said they liked your writing? Toss more ideas at them. Once you have a contract, start coming up with creative, innovative ways to promote your book, and ask them for their take. It's always good to have permission for things, but generally a publisher is happy to grant that for whatever you want to do--more, they're just impressed that you're working outside that boring ol' box! Be active, be out-there, be creative.
Some ideas that I have presented to my team as an author:
- a custom-made, one-of-a-kind doll modeled after my heroine to give away
- a themed, online project purely for fun (scavenger hunt, etc.)
- a freebie promotional novella to release between my books
- non-fiction articles that tie in with my novel's subject to submit to magazines
- guest appearances on high-profile blogs and websites
- live-action trailer
- radio interviews
- sending PDF review copies to journalists, film-makers, etc.
- custom headers for social media
- short-story giveaways
Do you have other ideas for or questions about ways to endear yourself to your agency or publishing team? Or other questions for an editor? I welcome your comments! Or you can email me at roseanna [at] roseannawhite [dot] com.