July 16, 2019

Literary Agent and Book Editor Turn Offs

Christina Parisi has an excellent blog on her top 10 turn-offs for book editors reading your proposal. She is an Executive Editor at AMACOM Books and the Director of AMA Self-Studies and acquires books in management, leadership, training, HR, and general business so she probably has in mind nonfiction books. Yet, I am adding literary agents and fiction because many of her principles apply.

1. Not being qualified to write the book you are proposing. One of the first things I do in evaluating a proposal is look at the author’s credentials. Does he have enough experience to be a credible source of information?

Often younger authors ask me how they can get sufficient experience when this is their first book proposal. The answer is that you are building a case for you as the best author of the book you are proposing.

Oftentimes, this means that you need to supply any relevant information in your proposal. Let’s say your book is on summer internships:

  • How many have you experienced?
  • What sort of research have you done, for example, through the Department of Labor or the Internal Revenue Service on the seven evidences of an internship?
  • How many peers have you contacted about their summer internships?
  • Have you followed up with their internship supervisors?
  • What trends have you seen?
  • How do these compare with official sources?

“But, I’m writing a novel,” you say. Well, let’s imagine that its about a young adult who seeks and lands a first internship. Hmm. How would you convince a reviewer that your character’s bizzare escapades will resonate with your prime readership? How about doing the sort of research that would be needed to write a nonfiction book on the subject?

Surely, credentials can be a graduate degree in the subject-area or ten years of experince doing the job or supervising a fleet of others doing the job. If you don’t have these, then what do you have? Sell that.

Your friends may tell you that you are a genius because they know you. Your proposal reviewer doesn’t know you, so you will need to supply the information that makes your case.

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