Guest Blogger – Joyce Hart, owner and principal agent Hartline Literary

Some tips on getting your book proposal read.

1. One of my stock answers is: “This isn’t a good fit for our agency.” Have you researched our web site? Did you read what we’re looking for? I get several queries and/or proposals a day for Young Adult and children’s novels. We don’t do either of those categories. Under “guidelines” we list what we are looking for and the categories that we are not interested in seeing.

2. Do you know how to prepare a proposal? Again, we have proposal guidelines on our web site. We tell you exactly how we want to see a proposal. We can bend a little, but basically our guidelines reflect what editors are asking from us. When we don’t send them this way we get comments like this, “Joyce, this is not your usual style.” Then they ask us to do them over. Authors tell me that preparing the proposal is harder than writing the book and I know this is true. However, please know that it is a necessary step in getting your book published.

3. Your bio is important. Every day I get queries with only a summary of the book. I can’t make a decision without your bio and your publishing history. It’s all part of the drill.

4. The marketing comparison – we get a lot of “groaning” about this one. However, again it is essential. One editor recently asked us, “Does this author know where this book fits on the bookshelf?” In other words do you know who your audience? Very important in presenting your book to the agent and to the editor.

5. Don’t give us too much information. We need all the elements of the proposal, but we don’t need pages and pages. About the summary: for fiction, I personally prefer one to two pages. Some agents want more. For non-fiction, we need a small summary of each chapter.

6. Are you willing to complete the book? Terry recently did a survey of 175 editors and his conclusion is that the majority of editors want the book finished. We will accept a partial on non-fiction and also from published authors of fiction. However, for new authors, we need the whole book. And the editor might want the whole book finished even if you are a published author. Your agent will work with you on this.

7. Did you remember to put your contact information on the cover page, and yes, a cover page is necessary. Also, don’t forget to put a header on each page, using the “insert” button and please, number the pages. Amazing how many proposals we get without contact information and without the pages numbered. Even if we love the manuscript, we can’t contact the author because we don’t know who to contact. The e-mail or the envelope has gotten separated from the proposal, more than likely.

These are just a few tips, if you have questions please ask us. We are caring agents and it is not easy for us to reject your work. Sometimes, it’s simply not what we are looking for, other times we don’t know of anyone who is looking for your particular project. Let me point out that we get far more rejections than you do, because we have close to 200 clients. Some days we’ll get several rejections. I hate to tell an author their book is rejected. We hurt along with you. It’s one of my least favorite parts of my job.

Right now I’m looking for romance, romance, romance, either contemporary or historical. My personal favorite genre is romantic suspense and almost any kind of a mystery/suspense. However, this genre is a little hard to sell at this time. Amish is hot, whether contemporary or historical. Who knows how long this will last, it’s anybody’s guess. Thomas Nelson told me “we don’t want any dead bodies, we want lighter stories.” Mystery does not do well at Revell. Harvest House and WaterBrook are willing to look at mystery, but the book needs to be completed. Bethany’s specialty is romance, historical and contemporary. We are willing to look at women’s fiction. Bottom line is this, in spite of anything I’ve said we will always look at stellar writing in any category. Send us your very best work in a well done proposal.

I’m wishing you the best. Don’t get discouraged; remember selling anything takes persistence and consistence. If you are called to write, put your trust in God and keep writing.

One last word, publishing kind of dies this time of year. People are taking vacations, getting ready for Christmas. It will pick up in January 2010.

Warmly,

Joyce