In 30 years of book publishing I have heard it all. In the spring of 1987, I received a book proposal from a man who was predicting that the Rapture would happen before November (the 40-year anniversary of the founding of Israel).
He said, “Since I will be gone once this happens, I wish to assign all my royalties to my brother-in-law who is not a Christian.” I kid you not.
I replied, “Being Christians ourselves and being convinced by your proposal, we don’t believe we will be around to publish your book!” I never heard from him again.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the only crazy stuff I’ve heard. In fact, I probably get at least one proposal a month that makes me shake my head in disbelief.
Therefore, let me save your proposal from a one-way trip to the trash can. If you are trying to get a publisher (or an agent) to take your proposal seriously, there are at least ten things you should never say:
- God told me to write this book.
- God told me to contact you.
- My book is destined to be a bestseller.
- My book is perfect for Oprah.
- My book is very similar to (insert the name of the latest mega-bestseller).
- There is nothing like my book in the marketplace.
- This is a multi-million dollar opportunity. I hope you are smart enough to see it.
- I will only share my book idea with you after you sign a confidentiality agreement.
- I don’t care about the money; I just want to help people.
- You probably won’t publish my book, because most of what you publish is fluff.
If you want to write a good query letter, start by reading The Writers Digest Guide To Query Letters. Then just apply a little common sense.