As Editor-in-Chief of a small publishing house, I receive queries each week from aspiring authors. That initial contact is the first impression the writer makes on me or any editor, small publisher, or literary agent, and it’s absolutely crucial. Look at it this way: it’s a job interview of sorts, with the goal being to get in front of that publisher or acquisitions editor with a fighting chance at being offered a publishing contract.
With that in mind, I tell folks at book talks and panels I’m on at conferences the obvious: words count (a lot), and to write that initial query and proposal the way you’d handle a job interview — be totally prepared, totally professional, and proofread your query not just for typos, but read it aloud to make sure it sounds like something you’d want to say in person to a prospective boss. Lastly, follow directions. Yes, you know that already, but it’s remarkable how few people actually do.
Here are a few things I’ve heard over the years that I recommend staying away from:
“I’ve written a manuscript that’s gonna make you and me a ton of money.” (Word for word.)
“I hate email. Why can’t we talk about my manuscript face to face?” (From an unsolicited call.)
“No need to edit my manuscript. It’s done. Just need you to publish it.” (More than once.)
“For a back cover blurb, we’ll use John Grisham. My wife’s Sunday School teacher knows a man that used to live near someone whose cousin knows a friend of his.” (I’m not exaggerating very much.)
I could tell you stories about some of the hideous mistakes I made as a teenager (approximately a hundred years ago) when I was trying to get hired in radio, which I did professionally for over a decade. My heart was in the right place, and nobody ever accused me of not being enthusiastic. But I wasn’t always prepared, so my first impressions weren’t always what they should have been. As the dandruff shampoo commercial said, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. So make sure your queries are Head and Shoulders above the rest!
I’ve been talking about the new John M. Floyd short story collection, Dreamland, for months, and we’re only four months, give or take, from release! Okay, I’m a little biased, but it’s a truly outstanding batch of what John does so well — a mix of suspense, nostalgia, humor, romance, fantasy and more, all with those great Hitchcock-type reversals and surprise endings! Can’t wait!
|John selling copies of Fifty Mysteries in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, at Books A Million|
|Randy at the same Books A Million selling The Peter Bay|
Randy Pierce continues to make tracks all over Mississippi to promote The Peter Bay and the re-released Pain Unforgiven and is getting very good response to the books. He sold several dozen copies at a benefit in late May for the George County Sheriff’s Department in Lucedale, Mississippi, and he looks forward to visiting Evans Memorial Library in Aberdeen on June 15 at noon, where he’ll speak to the Aberdeen Friends of the Library. That weekend, on Saturday, July 18, Randy will stop in at Books A Million in Biloxi. That’s also a noon start.
Book clubs, Friends groups, and writing groups are absolutely essential to the success or failure of a book. Find me an author who packs ballrooms for every speaking engagement and I’ll find you hundreds — if not thousands — of published authors who routinely speak to groups of anywhere from 10-20 people, and sometimes as few as half a dozen. I’ve said this many times, and it’s something I stress to anyone I’m considering for publication: if you aren’t happy to make a 300-mile round trip now and then to speak to a group of ten people and sell 3-4 books, you’re putting yourself at a real disadvantage.
|Valerie Winn spoke recently to a book club in Ocean Springs, Mississippi|
|I had a really nice time speaking to the Romance Writers in Flowood, Mississippi|
That’s my friend Jacinda Roach and me, and she has been kind enough to buy all seven of my suspense novels for her mother, who lives in southeast Louisiana, and said that her mom has loaned them to several friends and that there’s a little group of ladies in that area who look forward to my next novel. Music to my years — any author’s ears — as was her telling me exactly where she was in my novel The Long Road Home and the different things she liked about the characters and the series. Comments like that are tremendously flattering and absolutely made my day. I truly love what I do.
I’ll speak to the Rankin County Kiwanians in Brandon, Mississippi, next Wednesday, June 8, and John will visit the same group on June 15. John, Randy, Valerie, and I can’t wait for the Mississippi Book Festival, which takes place at the Mississippi State Capitol on August 20. If you didn’t get out there last year, bring the family, or a couple of friends. It was truly a historic occasion — one of the best things about Mississippi is all the great writing talent we have — and this year, I’m sure, will be even bigger and better (we’re very excited about Randy Pierce being on the mystery author panel).
If downloads are your thing these days, most of the Dogwood Press catalog is available for purchase through Amazon Kindle. For more information about book signings, how to submit a manuscript for consideration, or to order a signed book or two from one of our authors, please visit www.dogwoodpress.com. Thanks for your time, and have a wonderful day!