Broadcast 11/3/2016 at 21:09:30
The Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show Podcast
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Jeff Herman is a literary agent and author of the book Jeff Herman's Guide to Book Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents, with over half a million copies sold,
and co-author of Write the Perfect Book Proposal
Rough Interview Notes, provided to inspire you to listen to the audio interview.
Bottom up and top down
Craft of writing hasn't changed in thousands of years. Same is true for reading. Passions to write or to read are really human. Tech affects availability and distribution but these are human things.
Distribution hasn't changed. Economics have changed, tasks and functions are being dsirupted..
Basic template hasn't changed. you are a write and want best opportunity as a published writer and best distribution and you don't want to spend your own money editing and publishing-- design, packaging, distribution, foreign sales, licensing of rights.
2 major advantages
get the credibility. Traditional publishers reject 99% of books that they see
and most books submitted to publishers come through agents.
98% of books submitted to agents are rejected.
20% chance a book will be accepted if it has an agent.
Self published are 100 published.
I'm all for self publishing, depending on what goals are.
Rob: Why should someone submit through an agent?
Because publishers don't have in house resources to assess submissions some will reject without even reading. Or they have digital slush piles. And they have interns right out of college, who will be thrown into the slush--
Rob: interviewee has an academic book published.
Academic publishers are subsidizes by the college. To get published by a university press you probably won't need an agent but probably will need a PhD.
Rob: first step is agents want to see a pitch letter
typical agency getting 100s of unsolicited submissions a month.
There's no revenue in assessing submissions.
So they want to see if it's worth reading the first page of your work.
at least a third of submitters are failing to any research on agents.
Rob: what makes a good submission letter
Have to think of it in terms of a sales pitch.
It's almost like reading an application or grading a paper. It really needs to be a sizzle letter and needs to get it's point across very quickly.
Don't waste your time saying "I am writing to you to solicit your interest" WE know why you are writing.
Give the title, keep the paragraphs short, mission of book, describe book clearly as you can in a way that makes it very compelling. Give us reason why we should take uncompensated time to look at your book. Because we're looking at reason to reject.
Rob: Same for me in assessing the 20-50 articles I get a day with my website.
Some writers in first paragraph tell me how many people have rejected the work. I see it so often.
The other mistake is to tell me how many years it has taken them trying to sell this work
Sabotaging themselves. They do it. They shouldn't. As an agent we're not looking to represent losers.
What do you mean by the mission of the book. Think of it as a mission statement. Nonfiction usually has a purpose, if fiction, an embedded theme. Think about visualizing your letter before you write it.
Think about how TV stations promote upcoming TV series or how film ccompanies promote films.
Elevator pitch. If you only have the person for 30 seconds what do you say?
A pitch letter is good copyrighting makes a clear statement so a person reading it knows what it is and is interested
Rob: Sizzle reel comparison
Good writing creates pictures for me automatically that I can virtually see or feel. So you're not using a sizzle reel in that sense, but something.
You need to make an almost visceral impression through the telling.
Rob: for a non-fiction business, politics, economics book what does it look like
wrote book Write the Perfect Book Proposal
most books that get traditionally published are commercial failures.
The super 5 publishers-- foreign owned, multinationals where book publishing is less than 1% of their revenue-- a company like Random House, is stable because they have a huge backlist that's been accumulated for over 100 years-- evergreen books, that can still reliably sell 5000 copies a year with no promotion.
So they are able to publish these front list books, which may lose a lot of money.
Rob: Difference in submitting to one of the big five or a smaller publisher?
By using my book it is possible to get consideration from one of the big five by thinking like an agent. Have to know the name of the editors who have an interest. Send a letter to that individual editor. Editors WILL read mail, especially old-fashioned mail.
Rob: anything else in the query letter?
IT's the door opener.
Rob: can you open with a story,
you open with a dramatic opening paragraph, especially if it's a biography, history, narrative, memoir.
Another trick is in your first paragraph to tell the agent or editor how great you think they are, and that requires you know something about them.
I believe in multiple submissions to agencies.
Rob: But if you have connections, or you know how to go leverage connections" if I get something that's been referred from someone I know, I will pay more attention to it and "upfront it" to the beginning of the pile.
The reason I encourage people to do a minimum of 5 agents at a time is we are mom and pop organizations, so new submissions can site around from four to eight weeks. So i f you're doing one agency at a time, you may hit that agency at a time when they don't have time"
Some agencies never reply.
Rob: Snail mail or digital?
I tell people to do both. It's very individualistic. Each agency is a different species. 80% of submissions are now coming digitally.
You don't know what the agency prefers
Every agency has email@example.com So they don't know what comes in.
Clients know the personal address.
Rob: What about bio, platform-- should that be in the query letter too?
Yes. Emphasize what about you as a person that reinforces what you are writing about.
This is where people get scared. Publishers are very dependent upon the marketability of the writers and their ability to self market.
People are surprised that even big big five publishers marketing is low priority.
Rob: You write that a submission should have a section of the book proposal on how you'll promote your book.
The term is author platform-- that you're doing seminars, that you have a100,000 name email subscriber list who you have sold something to in the past or are actively communicating with. That you have the ability to sell books without the publisher doing anything.
Make bio about your expertise experience, credential, then a special section, author platform.
Rob: Malcolm Gladwell got a $1.5 million advance because of platform?
Unless the publisher thinks you can sell the book they won't put out a big advance.
With Gladwell they always make their money back.
Rob: How many people get high six or seven figure advances a year. Less than 2% of publishedd authors, maybe less than one percent. In non-fiction, now the average advance is something between $5-10,000 a title.
Rob: Who should go with self publishing?
Have realistic expectation, expect to have to outsource to third parties, for editing, production
Reason to self publish-- if you do have a 50,000 name list of people you love you, you can publish a book for less than a d dollar and keep the money If you don't need a book store and depend on Amazon and back of the room (seminar) sales, why use a publisher?
Even before it became a trend, I knew people 25 years ago who did self publishing.
Rob: I've heard that if you self publish any book it can be harder to be accepted by a traditional publisher.
I don't think so. The publisher will look and see how well your book has done.
If you're ranked on Amazon at 1 million and you've sold 100 books, they'll assume no-one wants y our book or you.
There is something I call Self printing, no ISBN number, don't put it on Amazon.
If you can keep your book off the grid,
Rob: Last words
Lighten, up be posiitive about, it, make it a board game and have fun with it. Don't feel hopeless. It' s like learning
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