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9-7 What an Agent Expects to See

(c) 2010, Mona Leeson Vanek

What an Agent Expects to See

This information came from an excellent writer's conference I attended. At the time, Gary Brozek was Senior Editor at Plume, a Penquin and Putnam imprint. Before that he was an editor with Ballantine.

He'd worked with New York Times best-selling authors Jeff Shaara (God and Generals) and Arnold Palmer (A Golfers Life). His acquisitions included Philip Gerard's Secret Soldiers, and David Payne's Adventures Upon Return. Brozek was also the paperback editor for Roy Jenkins' Churchill, Thomas Kelly's The Rackets, and Chuck Kinder's Honeymooners, among many others.

Brozek explained that at some point in a publisher's acquisition process authors are expected to provide what's in the Title Information Sheet so getting a jump-start on it should be an author's first step before sending proposals out.

He gave the following tips to maximize your chances and control your destiny in publishing, because keeping abreast of what's being published will help you understand who and what the competition is.

  • Read the book releases at
  • Read the best seller lists in major newspapers
  • Read Publisher's Weekly, especially noting which titles and authors are being handled by various agents, editors and publishing houses.
Other strategies:
  • Be very strategic in how you select your agent, editor and publishing house!
  • Recognize the trailblazers now by keeping abreast of current events.
Bozek's exercise for authors, called the Title Information Sheet. Use it for your model sales pitch to agents. Work all nine into your cover letter:
  1. Author and Title
  2. Brief author bio. Include your clips and information about your speaking engagements, readings, etc. (Start now. Speak at every opportunity you can rustle up and read your work to the public every time you get a chance.)
  3. Also, always state that you are at work on a novel.
  4. Have you been previously published? (Start now to publish anything you can, from letters-to-the-editor, newsletters, articles, promotional, etc. Write pro bono, if you have to. Publishing credits are a tremendous plus. If possible, have them include a byline or bio that says you are at work on a novel.)
  5. Write a 1-2 paragraph description of your book.
  6. Write a 'keynote' (i.e. a one line sentence that helps people understand what your book is. Examples: "In the tradition of [comparison author example -- Mitchner] this is a book about [subject.]" or "For people who love [comparison author] this book is about [subject].
  7. Selling points (listed in 2-4 bullets. (Example, what appeals are going to make this book sell?)
  8. If you have connections that will help sell this book. (Example, your flying associations, pet lovers associations, etc.)
  9. Competitive titles [similar to yours] and where they did [xxx] my book will do [xxx] that they didn't do.
  10. Link your web page to Amazon, if possible, and put up excerpts from your book manuscript, then mention the URL in your cover letter to agent.

Chapter 18 - Book Publishing:

Next: 9-8, Promoting Your Book:

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