Tuesday, November 17, 2015

More on the inept book promo post

This is an email received by our beloved Victoria Strauss who runs Writer Beware, a watchdog site that keeps track of nefarious bottom-feeders in our industry.

Can you spot all the things wrong here?

Hint: it's more than ten. And there's one VERY big error.

(This is NOT a trick quiz!)


Hello, my name is [agent name redacted]. (1) I am the literary agent for [author name redacted], who has a debut novel set to be published in January. The novel’s working title (2) is [book title redacted], and it is a Fantasy novel geared towards children and young adults.(3) It’s a full-length novel, totaling over 100,000 words.(4) The novel is going through the final stages of editing and will be sent to a publisher soon. (5) Because we understand that blogs may become all booked up by the time of publication, or even pre-publication, we are seeking to schedule a tour early. (6) This tour is not strictly for blogs, we are seeking publicity on all platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms. If you choose to partake in the tour, you would be supplied with a media pack based upon the type of post or feature you would like to do. The media pack would include, but is not limited to: Advanced Reader Copies of the novel, Synopsis, Images of exclusive Illustrations done specifically for the novel (7) , a book trailer, graphics/banners, etc.

All tour participants will receive an entry to win a hard copy of the book after publication (8), a follow up interview the author if so desired, swag items, and $25 dollar gift card to Amazon. (9)

The top five tour participants with the most traffic to the tour post will be entered into a giveaway to receive a SIGNED copy of the novel after publication (10), a follow up interview with the author if so desired, exclusive, custom-made swag, an interview with the illustrator, $50 dollar gift card, and exclusive opportunities for ARCs by [author name redacted]. (11)

All participants, if they so desired, will be featured on the Facebook page for the author and other platforms. (12)

We are seeking to do a 2 month long tour, starting in December of this year until the end of January 2016. There are currently openings for the following:

Guest Post

Or a combination of any of these. If you have any other ideas, please do let us know. We’re open to suggestions. If you do not have a space on your blog, and would still like to participate via social media platforms, let us know!

Thank for you for your time in reading this. If you are interested, send us a date and the type of post you’d like to do!

(13) The biggest error of all.

Here are the major ones I spotted in the first skim:

1. Hello, my name is [agent name redacted].
A proper pitch letter does not evoke shouts of "Prepare to Die"**

2. The novel’s working title
The book is slated for publication in January of 2016 and the title hasn't been finalized? How did you get an ISBN? How did you list it on Amazon? What did you call it when you sent it to PW for review (3-6 months pre-pub of course!)

3. a Fantasy novel geared towards children and young adults.

this demonstrates a very clear absence of understanding of both kids and YA readers. Generally the books that kids ages 10-12 read are not the same books being read by young people 16-18. And YA is frequently read by adults. A book that appeals to middle grade readers isn't generally something an adult will read for pleasure.

4. totaling over 100,000 words.
I'm almost afraid to ask how many more than 100,000 words it is. And middle grade (children) don't read books of this length.

5. will be sent to a publisher soon.
This is the one that left me rolling on the floor howling. A publisher? Like a specific one, or just maybe a Random House? Either you have a contract with a publisher (in which case it's THE publisher) or you are sending the book on submission in which case it's not going to be published in January 2016 unless you man you're being "published" by SmashWords.

6. we are seeking to schedule a tour early.
I didn't get up off the floor for this one. It's 11/17/15. That's TEN weeks from the END of January 2016. In other words, this isn't early. This is already too late!

Blog tours are planned MONTHS ahead of pub date, and solicitations are sent 3-4 months ahead of pub date; even earlier if the blog is a busy one.

7. exclusive Illustrations done specifically for the novel
as opposed to illustrations stolen from google images?

8. All tour participants will receive an entry to win a hard copy of the book after publication.

Clearly no one mentioned to this "literary agent" that when you promote a book, it's common practice to send a finished copy of the book to blog reviewers unless they've asked specifically not to get one. You don't have to "win one." It's not a prize.

9. follow up interview the author if so desired, swag items, and $25 dollar gift card to Amazon.
Again, this poor soul has the idea that you have to "win" a follow up interview. I can tell you that if a blogger wants to interview one of my guyz twice, I'll happily make that happen. We're glad of the eyeballs; we're thrilled with readers and fans helping get the word out.

And don't get me started on "swag items" particularly unspecified ones. Unless the author is really well known, swag isn't quite the compelling thing you wish it were.

and the real problem: this pitch REQUIRES that any blogger talking about the book reveal the possibility of monetary compensation.

Thus: "I reviewed this book and the publisher/author/agent has offered me a chance to win an Amazon Gift Card for doing so."  Right there, you've damaged BEYOND REPAIR any kind of chance for effective publicity.

You don't buy publicity. You buy MARKETING.

10. The top five tour participants with the most traffic to the tour post will be entered into a giveaway to receive a SIGNED copy of the novel after publication
oh wow, the books you send to the guys in #9 won't be signed? That's really really funny. Again, this is just textbook clueless. This isn't even thinking about the process.

11. exclusive opportunities for ARCs by [author name redacted]. 
I'm really hoping this is a second author, not the same one we've been talking about. And again, the idea that you have to "win" a chance to get a book is ludicrous.

12. All participants, if they so desired, will be featured on the Facebook page for the author and other platforms

Because of course, we're not already going to be linking to the posts! This isn't a benefit to the blogger! This is just trying to build buzz for the author. This demonstrates a COMPLETE lack of understanding of how promotions work.

Can you imagine saying to The New York Times: hey, if you interview me, we'll feature you on our Facebook page?

(13) The biggest error of all.

This was sent to Victoria Strauss. As in PITCHED to Victoria, as if she might want to participate. Writer Beware doesn't buzz books. It's very clear this was just a mass email sent to every name some poor witless inexperienced fool could find. (I get these sometimes too, but at least I didn't get this one!)

I have go lie down with a cool cloth over my fevered brow.

*ok, recovered*

If this is YOUR agent, you need a new one.

If someone tells you that they're going to help you do a blog tour, ask to see their pitch email.

Clearly this person has invested NO time at all in research or reading books on promotion. There are some good ones.

Even reading the guidelines for submissions on review blogs will help you avoid some of these boneheaded errors.

A good pitch letter is like a good query.
It tells you what the book is about VERY concisely. It mentions category. It includes publication date. It includes blurbs if you've got them.

A good pitch package will also include: trade reviews; sample questions for an interview; author bio.

And it includes the book. ALWAYS!

A very good pitch is personalized.

I spend time every month sending out ARCs of client books. All the letters often have the same bone structure but each has some element of personalization.

Effective PR is just like effective querying.

All that time and effort y'all are investing on writing good queries is time well-spent for the next phase of your publishing career: talking about your book well.



Jed Cullan said...

No way I've just got the first comment on the blog today.

Steve Forti said...

I'm curious why you didn't also mention that there was no description of the story at all.

DLM said...

My word.

Jed Cullan said...

This really was all kinds of wrong.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

My head doesn't hurt anymore because you did all the work.

Adib Khorram said...

Whoa! I didn't realize this was PITCHED to Victoria Strauss. I had assumed someone forwarded it to her for inclusion on Writers Beware.

This makes the whole sordid tale even more...uh, sordid.

Michael Seese said...

Shows how much I know. I thought the biggest problem was it didn't say, "... who has a debut FICTION novel..."

Unknown said...

I'm picturing fumes coming from the ocean floor.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Thank you detailing the reasons why this is a terrible pitch letter. Clearly I need to study book promotion. I understood it was bad but didn't know the best parts.

Pitched it to Victoria Strauss. LOL!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I still don't believe that this was an actual agent. This was just sad. Even as a parody, it wouldn't be funny. Well, maybe a little.

Mister Furkles said...

But wasn't avoiding plumbing school still a bigger mistake? Plumbers are good because they fix problems others can't. Plumbers are useful tradesmen. How useful is this agent-pretender? Well, unless her daddy owns the publishing house or s/he has blackmailed the publisher or both?

"Daddy, I've got pictures of you with Missy. And my boyfriend, Gurt, so wants his Fantasy novel published."

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

14. We still don't know what the book is about

(when I was a "middle grade" reader, I read quite long books. But I'm a curvebreaker with regards to some demographics. Not everybody has a "Dickens Phase" at 11-13)

Ardenwolfe said...

Hah! I got the 'biggest mistake of all' right. :)

Elissa M said...

While I did point out in the original post that sending this letter to Victoria Strauss was a special level of clueless, I believe the biggest mistake of all was the author entrusting things to this "agent".

AJ Blythe said...

You had me rolling at the Indigo Montoya reference. Love it!

Still cringing at this. Feel very sorry for the author who is obviously paying money to this person as both editor and agent (as Victoria said, that's a whole other bag of red flags).

Amy Schaefer said...

Any chance to mention Inigo Montoya is a good one. (Darn it, now I'll have his words stuck in my head all day.)

What is the consensus - do you think this person is an actual (wannabe) literary agent, or just somebody's friend who is trying to help them out? Or, come to think of it, a sock puppet. It reads to me like the author is trying to make herself sound better to bloggers by having representation, rather than approaching them on her own. Whatever the truth of it, it clearly wasn't a good strategy, and I wish the writer better luck next time.

John Frain said...

I have decided to query Inigo Montoya.

I'm a publisher and he asks for something? I'm giving it to him.

I hope he has room on his list.

Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya.
You read this manuscript.
Prepare to publish.

Unknown said...

I learn so much from this blog.

John - Awesome responce.

Panda in Chief said...

Thanks for a good laugh this morning. While I might still be agentless, at least I am not as inept as the sender of this "fabulous opportunity." Snort.

Kate Higgins said...

In graphic design (my real life) we call this 'nephew art'; something done for nothing that is worth exactly that. Do you think they woke in the middle of the night thinking really this was a good idea?

The "Inigo Montoya" syndrome stries again...

DeadSpiderEye said...

I'm a bit confused about this, is it bona fide? It reads like a bit like a scam but I can't see the pay off. The English is weird, tautology and off kilter structure make it seem a second language effort. Then there's that 10,000 words targeted at the juvenile market--uh? On a slightly different note, there's a well tried publicity strategy that can be summarised as look at this idiot, it's related to what's termed, sleeper tactics, a theoretical concept pertaining to propaganda. It works by the way, Freddie Starr Ate My Hampster, probably being the most notable example.

Anonymous said...

Victoria Strauss identified the type of "agency" this was, but it reminded me so much of being at a NaNo event when two gals walk by and ask us what we're doing. When we say we're writing, the one starts talking about how her friend is a writer, and how she became her agent because an author *needs* an agent to get to the publishers. When I asked if she had any publisher contacts, she seemed to think I was trying to make contacts. It didn't even occur to her that I was verifying that she had no qualifications to be an actual agent. She passed out cards and after they left, another NaNoer and I made sure everyone knew that this was not someone they want representing them, good intentions aside.

As I read this e-mail, I pictured that gal writing it.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Yay, I got most of them.

Except for #13. Oh... My... Gosh...

That didn't even occur to me. I interpreted "an email received by our beloved Victoria" that someone had reported this ineptitude to her, not that she'd been solicited directly.