Tips and Resources



1. Make sure your table can stand.

When Jody speaks at writer’s conferences, she advises authors to think of their literary works as tables, or stools-anything that needs four legs to stand without wobbling. The four legs of your literary work are:

  1. Your idea;
  2. You (your credentials in your field; your writing experience);
  3. Your platform (which means your already-existing promotional vehicles, such as your speaking engagements, your media contacts, and so forth);
  4. The execution of your idea: your writing.

Each one of these elements is a critical consideration both agents and publishers examine in making the decision to represent or publish your book. Before you write your first query letter, make sure each leg of your table is as strong as it can be.

2. Some ways to get an agent’s positive attention:

Agents are wary humans. You can lower their resistance through: writing a very professional, well-researched cover letter; mentioning other books that agent has represented or similar books that have been published; dropping the name of a mutual friend or acquaintance; keeping your query formal even though it’s an email.

3. Ways to get an agent’s negative attention:

Write a messy letter. Send impersonal submissions with a hundred different agents in the “To” field. Say you’re writing a “fiction novel.” Phone. Send inappropriate submissions. Be coy in your query letter (as in, “my subject is so hot I can’t tell you about it, but I can promise you it will be a bestseller.”) Send food or other gifts. Be dishonest.

4. A note for self-published authors:

JRB has a special expertise in reselling self-published books to major houses, often for substantial advances. Jody has, in fact, given several lectures on the subject, answering questions such as: “How do I know if my book would be of interest to a major house?” and “Should I sell my book to a major publisher, or could I do a better job myseIf?”

5. A few notes on query letters, in general:

Your query letter should be clear and direct. We need to know exactly who you are, what your book idea is, why you are qualified to write this book, and why there is a market for the book. Your query letter does not have to be fancy, titillating or splashy. It has to be extremely professional, thorough, and knowledgeable. It has to be well-written.

Of course, a query letter for a novel is trickier than one for a nonfiction work. Writing style plays a bigger role. Nonetheless, your goal in writing this query is to entice us to ask to see more, and nothing is more enticing than professionalism.



How to Write a Book Proposal, by Jody Rein

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