All Questions

Click on a question to view the answer . . .

For a writer submitting a first book proposal or first fiction manuscript to a publishing house, how much does it help for the writer to have many articles previously published in a variety of magazines (from local to regional to national publications)?

It always helps to be able to show one’s writing experience. If you don’t have a book under your name, then at least show the prospective publisher what writing you have done.

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How long do you pursue publication before you give up? Should I have given up earlier? Who knows who-or-what I would have been had I pursued something else all those years.

No one can answer that question for you. Was it worth it to you? Some of this relates to a core principle I preach: Publishing your book does not validate your life. Seeing your name in print doesn’t automatically mean you are a good person, or that your life has been worthwhile. Who were you writing for? Why were you writing? What did you hope to accomplish? Answering your personal questions should reveal if your result was worth your investment. (However, I have the gift of prophecy, and can reveal to you that, had you not pursued your book, you’d have become a used car salesman in Arizona.)

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Why don’t publishers share their in-house schedule for the book with the author?

At most major houses, they create a publishing schedule so you know when your book is going to release about a year in advance. A book requires marketing efforts and a sales plan that will be created months before the actual book is printed.

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Do you find that authors truly want to be challenged? When they submit a manuscript, are they eventually happy when it comes back to them with a 20-page letter of changes?

No. But that’s human nature. Most of us hate rewriting, just as most of us hate diet and exercise and eating carrots instead of carrot cake. I would say most novelists are not happy to receive a 20-page change letter. On the other hand, the professionals swallow their pride and go back to work, making the changes. That is one of the significant differences I see between professional and amateur novelists.

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What attracts you most to an unknown writer’s book proposal other than great writing?

A great, commercial idea. Sometimes a publisher will buy a book because they simply love the idea. That said, great writing is still the best sales tool an unknown writer can deploy.

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What are you seeing when you say, “Aha! I just found the next great book/author!”?

Each agent would probably have different answers. For me, it is the fact that I can’t stop reading the proposal. I find myself having to continue turning the pages. For another, it may be the use of dynamic images and words. For another, it is the unique voice employed by the writer. And for another, it is seeing an incredible vision for a book put down onto paper.

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How do you evaluate the amount of advance you are offered?

Every major publisher produces a profit-and-loss form (called a P&L) when they acquire the project. The P&L includes ballpark sales projections, generally with a high and a low number. It also includes an educated guess at what the hard costs of the book will be (paper, ink, art) and may include overhead and/or a preliminary marketing budget. Most importantly, it will tell the publisher what the author can expect to earn from the project. The advance is based upon the P&L and is heavily weighted toward author earnings.

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