Friday, March 7, 2008

Chapter 7: No platform? Then follow the standard rules for submitting to publishers.

Most don't. The temptation is this. You’ve spent all this time and energy on your manuscript. So you type up this query letter in a day and fling it out there.

An acquisitions editor told me recently, “Most submissions are worthless.” So, to separate yourself from the herd:

1. Know what the publisher is looking for. (See the current edition of Writers Market.)
2. Find how to write a query (refer to one from agent’s site).
3. Polish it and get input and polish it again.

Polish, Polish, Polish

Beware of the Writing Witch, the virus that infects Microsoft Word, who messes up your writing. I know she exists, because when I reopen a document that I self-pronounced “brilliant” the previous day, to my shock and amazement, it often sucks the next morning. I know I don’t write that poorly. The only explanation is that the Writing Witch opened into my document during the night and misspelled words, deleted periods, put ¾ of the sentences in passive tense and threw in prepositions at the end of sentences. Only time and further revision chases her away.

Remember, today that acquisitions editor has taken home 30 query letters to try to go through over the weekend. She’s looking for reasons to narrow them down. A misspelled word might be just the excuse she’s looking for.

Cherie just took a grant-writing seminar. In it, the speaker told of someone who lost a multi-million dollar grant because of misspellings in the proposal. Yes, perfection matters in a query and proposal.

Give Publishers What They Ask for in the Format They Request

Because of not paying attention to what publishers want, textbook publishers get proposals for novels and children’s books.

“How to Write a Query Letter and Proposal” goes beyond the scope of this workshop, so I’ll just refer you to a couple of helpful resources if you want more.

The Thomas Nelson Guide to Writing a Winning Book Proposal, by Michael S. Hyatt. Read it free at:

Book Proposals That Sell, highly recommended book by W. Terry Whalin.

Do you have other ideas or questions concerning book proposals and queries?


  1. Steve,

    Thanks for the mention of Book Proposals That Sell which has over 75 Five Star reviews on

    I'm eager for better proposals for my literary agency and for publishers everywhere--which is why I wrote it in the first place.

    The Writing Life

  2. And thanks to you for writing such a valuable resource! I believe I recommended it when I spoke yesterday at the Georgia Writers Association.

    Your blog offers an abundance of great insight for writers. I hope my readers check it out.