by Jeff Gerke
Last week I listed what to include in your proposal. Today let’s look at what is not included.
First, there's no lengthy marketing analysis or list of comparative titles. Other editors may disagree here, but I always found such things to be useless. Besides, it's my job to know what else is out there that would be similar to or might compete with any given book.
Individual authors don't usually have access to the industry sales figures like I have, so I can find that information quickly. And authors often don't have the same breadth of knowledge I have. Seeing, "As far as I know there's been no other book written about dinosaurs being brought back to life" does not encourage me about the author. Better to just leave all that off, imo.
There's also no life history of the author. "Born in Tuskogee, Michigan, to a rice farmer and a brain surgeon, Joe Author had a hard but starch-rich childhood..." Yawn.
Dude, unless you're a former mountain climber writing a novel about climbing K2, we pretty much don't care about your life story. Unless something in your life pertains to something in your novel, leave it out. If something in your life does pertain to your novel, then by all means mention it. But I don't need to know where you went to high school.
Finally, there's no mention of your awesome marketing plan. I don't know why writing teachers tell novelists to put in this kind of information. It's silly and, most likely, what you can do as an individual is kind of pathetic compared to what the publisher could do. It's like "Display Your Anonymity Day."
I'm poking fun at myself, too, when I say that, so don't hear me wrong. Most individuals, and especially most of us mousy novelist types, haven't erected massive media empires we can bring to bear to market our novels. And if we have, we'll probably self-publish and keep all the dough for ourselves!
Putting on a sheet of paper that you can guarantee the sale of fifty copies of your book or that you intend to create a Web page or you've been invited to speak to a group of two hundred people may be impressive to the lady in the cubicle next door, but it's all but laughable to a publisher.
Another source of chuckles for editors is when novelists write that they are ready and eager to devote themselves to multi-city book tours and interviews with Oprah. Um...okay. But unless you're funding and arranging those things yourself, they're probably not going to happen. It's not like publishers are sitting around waiting to publish the first person they can find who would be willing to go on the talk show circuit.
Now, if you really do have some impressive "platform" abilities, like you're a speaker for Women of Faith or PromiseKeepers or you're the head of Salem Communications and can put content on 300 radio stations, then be sure to mention that in the proposal.
If you're like most of us, though, and you're just a regular Joe, keep it out of your proposal. The publisher will be able to do much more than you can, and you'll save yourself the pointing and laughing (not that such immaturity ever happens in the hallowed halls of Christian publishing; ahem).
Next week, we'll analyze some of the components that do belong in a good fiction proposal.
Jeff Gerke is a mild-mannered author and book editor living in Colorado Springs. He and his wife have a daughter and a son and in 2009, they adopted a little girl from China. See this site for more. Jeff's first novels appeared in the mid-1990s, followed in the early part of the 21st century by his Operation: Firebrand novels. His nonfiction books were published in 2003 and 2005. In 1999 Jeff came on staff with Multnomah Publishers in Sisters, Oregon, as an editor. Over his career he has been on staff with Multnomah, Strang/Realms, and NavPress. In October 2008 Jeff became the founder of Marcher Lord Press, a small indie publishing company dedicated to producing the finest in Christian science fiction, fantasy, and other wonderfully weird genres.
* This series of articles was taken from Jeff Gerke's Where The Map Ends Web site. Used by permission.