On Jane Friedman's blog post about the state of publishing for the first half of this year (post: ) she talked about agents moving away from requesting only a query letter and a few pages. One agent she interviewed, Carly Watters (who also tweeted about her submission requirements, said because of the industry changing so are her fiction submission requests:
Aside from a synopsis, any author asked for a full manuscript will have to provide a list of five comparable titles from the past five years, a short marketing plan, a description of the next work in progress, and a list of alternate titles for the work being submitted. She added, “This reflects the seriousness authors need to take when launching their career & it starts with you.” If there was any good news for the debut novelist, it was that this request applies only to writers being asked for a full manuscript, not to writers sending initial queries.I'm curious, is this a trend or an outlier?
I have no idea.
I've never seen it before, so all y'all out there in the querying trenches will have a much better overall view of who's asking for what.
And I was glad I looked at what she said in the Jane Friedman article:
When I reached out to Watters about her Twitter thread, she illuminated more of the thinking behind her request. First, she said this is more of a “test” of mindset and understanding than anything. “I care about how the author responds to my request, that they engage with it, and that they have some idea about how their book fits in the marketplace.” The marketing plan is the most test-oriented part of the equation; Watters wants to see that writers have given the marketing of their work some thought, even if their points are off the mark or things the publisher would do. “I just want to learn what they know at this stage,” she said. “What I don’t want to see is a short list of things that they ‘will do in the future once they get a deal.’” She’s most interested in what they’re doing now to grow their platform and brand.
After I cooled down from my initial read, and took out all the swears in this post, I'm still left wondering:
Why would you write a marketing plan for a book that hasn't sold?
I don't write marketing plans for non-fiction books I send on submission. I talk about where we'll find readers, I talk about platform, I talk about people and places that are likely reviewers but there's simply no way to devise a marketing plan for a book independent of the marketing department and knowledge of the budget.
Even if a writer is going to do all the marketing his or her ownself, you still need to know if it's paperback, hardcover, e-original and what the print run is.
And let's all consider this: I've NEVER had an editor ask me for a marketing plan for a novel. Not ONCE in twenty years.
When a book is SOLD and we have a sense of what's hot now, when the book is going to be published, the format, the print run, the interest from the film folks, the sales in foreign countries, the blurbs we're getting, the early reads from key bookstore folks, etc. then we put our heads together WITH THE MARKETING TEAM and work on ideas, plotting and planning.
To give you an idea of the incredible waste of time this is consider: many of the first novels I sell for authors are NOT the novel they queried me for. Maybe you've heard of some of them: Patrick Lee, Jeff Somers, Loretta Sue Ross, Steve Ulfelder.
And how about the fact that Deb Vlock queried me for a novel which didn't sell, and we worked together over the years to conceptualize and then create a proposal for a non-fiction book which did.
But this is at least better the incredible time suck of a chapter outlines that got mentioned two weeks back; even if you don't use it, writing a marketing plan is good practice for when you will need one.
And I concur that a writer with reasonable expectations of where their book fits in the bookstore, and what readers will resonate with it is a good idea.
But here's the true measure of why this is a terrible idea: it wastes the most precious asset a writer has: time.
And my guess is that writers seeing that in the submission guidelines will prioritize their submissions accordingly.