Authors, Writers, Publishers, and Book Readers

You've worked hard on your query. You followed all the “rules” you read in writing magazines. You've sweated blood to create a great opening, to get the synopsis down to a page. I'm the acquisitions editor who received this carefully constructed letter.

To be honest, before I read your synopsis, I googled your name. Where is your website? I didn't see a blog. You're on Face Book—I'm not impressed. There was no activity indicating that you read and comment with the writing community. I'm not just evaluating your manuscript, I'm evaluating you. Are your ideas for success realistic? Are you dreaming of a NY Times bestseller listing? Do you hear Hollywood knocking on your door?

I feel marketing and platform building starts the minute a writer decided to write a book. Yes, that early. Anyone aspiring to a career in publishing in the 21st century cannot be blind to all the posts and forums talking about branding. So, where is your voice?

When I write and ask you about this void in your social marketing, you ask, “What am I suppose to market? You haven't published my book yet!” You market what you've got—your name. Name recognition is the first step toward building a platform. You make contacts, commenting on the blogs of others so people can see YOUR NAME. You add a bit about yourself so people can get to know the person behind the name. You blog at websites that give you your own page, like Book Town and Book Blogs. You “friend” others on the site, people who are readers, writers like you, industry people like me. You network and build connections.

I can understand when you tell me you don't know anything about marketing—that can be corrected. It's a learning process. But I tune you out when you tell me it's somebody else's job to market your book. You are the author, the artist, not a person who soils their hands with promotion.

Prima donnas need not apply. In this day of tough competition and stretched budgets, nobody gets to sit on the sidelines and wait for royalty checks. We all get out there and hustle. I would rather contract a good book with a strong marketer than a great book from an author who won't lift a finger to promote.

Don't undercut yourself by adding in your query, “I have macular degeneration, can't drive anymore, get around with a walker, have a phobia about flying and I'm computer illiterate. My dream is to have a book published before I die.” Why anyone would give full disclosure so early in the game is beyond me. What can I do except send a rejection?

And finally, please don't try to sway me with a list of university accomplishments, lofty credits and literary aspirations. You read the guidelines on our website, right? We're looking for genre fiction. You know, the stuff average people want to read: a good mystery with a dead body on the second page; a romance where the boy always gets the girl; a Western where the good guys wear white hats and ultimately win the gunfight. Not highbrow, but immensely entertaining. Something we can sell.

So, all I can do is write, “Thank you for your query letter, but I'm sorry we cannot publish your book at this time.”

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