Would You Invest In You?

I spent the last hour or so writing a potential query letter for an agent.

For the uninitiated a query letter is essentially a sales pitch you send to someone (an agent) who has the contacts with publishers to get you a contract to publish your book. So in the non-publishing world this would be like your cover letter and resume.

Here’s who I am. Here’s what I bring to the table. Are you interested enough to see more or talk?

(And, yes, you don’t always need an agent to get a publishing contract nor do you always need a cover letter and resume to get a job. But for this discussion…)

It was an interesting experience.

Because on my side of the table I can see my own potential. I was writing this query because I have an existing series which I think could sell well through a trade publisher based on how and where it currently sells. There’s definitely unexploited value there that I can’t tap into myself.

(I’ll note here for any writers that querying without an unpublished book is generally not done, but I was willing to take that chance because if you never ask the answer is always no, right?)

So I wrote the query.

But then I switched perspectives and looked at it from the viewpoint of an agent.

And, well…

Hm.

I had to ask myself, would I want to represent this client? Would this query excite me? Are those numbers worth sitting up and taking notice?

And would I be comfortable selling an author as a fantasy author who I know also writes mysteries, romance, and any non-fiction that seems to pop into their head? How do I market that author? Can the publisher rely on them to stick with this genre? Will they play well with what’s expected of them?

And are those sales numbers really strong enough to be interesting? I mean, sure, great, good for you for selling your ebooks at $7.99.

But…How loyal are those readers who made it through that entire series? Are they excited enough about this author that the author would be worth taking on? Will this project have any buzz? Any excitement? Or do people just read and move on?

And I have to say…Sitting on the other side of the table, I wasn’t all that impressed.

On the non-fiction side, sure. Great. I was already approached by a publisher this year and for good reason with those titles. And I could spin a pretty story there. But this one…

Hm.

It was an interesting exercise to go through. To sit down and try to think through how I’d sell myself to my target audience.

And I think it’s worth doing for anyone, whether it’s for a book contract, a job, or a date.

Ask yourself, does what you have to offer make you appealing to your target?

If not, what needs to change? What are you missing and how can you fix it?

Or do you need to shift focus? Because you will never meet their requirements so why waste that time and energy pursuing something you will never get, because you know that if you were them you wouldn’t say yes to you. So why expect them to say yes when you wouldn’t?

Like I said, an interesting experiment.

(Then again, if you don’t ask, the answer is always no. And it’s easy to talk yourself out of an opportunity through fear. So maybe think about it to strengthen your position as much as possible, but then try anyway.)

 

 

Author: M.L. Humphrey

M.L. Humphrey is a former securities regulator, registered stockbroker (although only briefly), and consultant on regulatory and risk-related matters for large financial institutions with expertise in the areas of anti-money laundering regulation, mutual funds, and credit rating agencies. Since 2013 M.L. has also been a published author under a variety of pen names and across a variety of subjects and genres.

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