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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » successful query letters never die

   
Author Topic: successful query letters never die
Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Here's a blog post about why it can be crucial to get your query letter just right.

You just never know.

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extrinsic
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I pitched a creative nonfiction book proposal to a publisher in 2006. At the time, I was an unpaid but amply rewarded intern for the publisher; this was an in-house proposal and assignment.

The proposal was thirty pages, including timing, cost, and revenue projections that worked out to be on the mark. In-house proposals are comprehensive packages, including, of course, the ever necessary elevator pitch, and synopsis, expense and revenue projections, as well as design specifications, text and cover material selections, and binding, audience targets, targeted marketplace outlets, overall marketing plans, comparables (other books a book's content resembles and the degree of their popularity), a distribution discount breakdown, project schedule calendar, in-house workflow sheet, project background research, additional content requests to circulate for potential forewords and introductions by contributing celebrities, and foreseen legal hurdles and workthroughs related to researching graphic design and other content copyright ownerships and reassignments and acquiring use permissions.

Fail to plan; plan to fail.

The book was accepted for publication from among hundreds proposed for the year. A twelve-word line from the proposal's pitch was used by the senior editor to pitch the book to the approval committee, in the committee's report to the decision board, in correspondence between all involved parties, in the publisher's advance announcements of acquisition to the trade, in the publisher's release notices, in critical and newspaper lifestyle reviews, in advertising, in the publisher's and distribution partners' catalogs, on online booksellers' blurb copy, and further reviewers' reviews to the trade. It's still out there holding on strong.

Got a lot of mileage out of those twelve words. I did have in the back of my mind that intent, so for the elevator pitch copy itself I used a few persuasive rhetorical figures for those twelve words.

My next assignment was project editor for the book.

[ February 22, 2014, 12:19 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Tank1982
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extrinsic, you never cease to amaze me. Consider my mind blown... and I thought the hard part was writing the book :/
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extrinsic
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Bringing a book into the world is a long and arduous process comparable to writing the book. Project advance stages and background phases are steps. Production is another step. Marketing is another step. Distribution is another step.

The last book I produced I spent six months on preparation, more than it should, due to contributors' complications. Actual production, though, was three months. About average for the type of book. Less time would have been needed if more workers were involved than just one in the areas I worked.

One book I produced required only 160 hours total for my parts, including design and illustration preparation. One month from project initiation to the hand off for the remainder of the project. That's about all the time producing a book should consume. But complications arise proportional to the number of entities involved.

As a writer knowing what it takes to produce a book, my appreciation for a writer's duties is comprehensive. I will not waste anyone's time nor spoil a project circulating a rough and unready manuscript shooting in the dark. Several publishing internships for me was inspirational.

I recommend any writer give production a whirl. Though without knowing design and layout conventions and standards, some prior study is recommended. One book covers a large part of the gamut: Bookmaking: Editing, Design, Production, 494 pages, 3rd edition, by Marshall Lee, and prior editions titled Bookmaking: The Illustrated Guide To Design & Production also by Lee. May be available at regional and college libraries.

Then that elevator pitch's value can be fully appreciated. From probably screening more than a few hundreds, insights for writing them might be absorbed osmotically at least. Lest a writer doesn't care to intern unpaid for a publisher, nor dig into archives and repositories for sampling successful queries and proposals, tens of thousands of wearyingly meaningless pitches can be sampled at authonomy.com. Consider: Don't write pitches like those.

[ February 22, 2014, 12:24 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Tank1982
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Thank you. I love your posts.
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AndrewR
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For those of us who may have missed it, what is the name your book, extrinsic?
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extrinsic
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Sorry. In the interest of protecting my privacy at the expense of promotion benefits and such, I won't share the title. I wasn't the author anyway. I was the project editor, listed as editor on the cover and on the copyright page and in the copyright registration, visible in advertising too.
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