You spend hundreds and hundreds of hours writing and re-writing your book. You work meticulously to craft a proposal for an agent or publisher. You talk to your friends about the big step you are about to take, the step of sending your proposal out.
The power of email will carry your message to the world.
Then you copy 135 names into the email address field, use a generic greeting and send it out to everyone within a few seconds.
Many will land in a recipient’s spam folder and will never be read.
The remaining recipients see the message was not really intended for them personally so it doesn’t matter if they reply or not.
Days and weeks go by and your anger builds against the unresponsive people who don’t care about your work. But they might not be as bad as you think.
It could have been the way you sent it.
The weakest link of many rejected proposals is “the send.”
Here are some things, which will almost always get your proposal deleted before it is read:
- If my name is in the “bcc” field, the message was not to me and you don’t really care if I read it or not.
- If I see any other agents in the address fields, the message was not to me and you don’t really care if I read it or not.
- If you don’t type anything in the email text field, I am not sure what I am supposed to do. Yes, we get blank emails with an attachment.
- If it is obvious the sender hasn’t read anything about our agency or me as an agent and are pitching an “erotic thriller just like 50 Shades of Grey,” then I won’t read further.
- If you send me a cover note and it is unclear what you want, I will probably delete it. One person simply wrote, “Please review attached.” This is the same message I get from a scam looking to place a virus on my computer after clicking on the attachment.
- Sending a proposal over and over just to be sure it got through. Like eight times in a week. Congratulations, you are now a professional spammer.
There are probably others, but I don’t want to appear to be overly sensitive!
Other than Christmas letters to family, in what world is a “one-size fits all” approach to sending group communication considered a good practice?
Even the most uncaring spammers make an attempt to personalize somehow to snare a potential customer.
Trying to inject some logic here, it is truly baffling why an aspiring writer would spend so much time crafting their book and proposal, and then do such a poor job simply sending it out.
Often, I’ll receive a proposal from an author and the feeling I get is as if they had dropped a thousand copies of a letter on a town from an airplane. The one I happened to pick up because it was stuck in my backyard bird feeder won’t be responded to. The sender could not have cared less. At least that’s the impression given.
“The send” can either launch your ship with flying colors or torpedo your ship before it sails.
This is not about crafting a better proposal. Good proposal writing is an entirely different issue. This is about sending the proposal effectively.
The goal is to get your proposal read, not to send it out to as many people as possible as quickly as possible.
Here is the best way to send your proposal:
- Do your research – identify recipients and learn something about them. Don’t send to people who specifically tell what they want and you ignore it.
- Always send it to someone specific – no multiple email addresses.
- Don’t be in a hurry – Copy some basic cover-note text and send one proposal at a time with customized content for each recipient which will let them know you are familiar with them and how they work. Better to send five carefully crafted proposals per day over ten days than fifty in a day with no regard for the reader.
- Track the proposal response and be patient. Agents are swamped with proposals and need time to work through them. Most will take 30-90 days to get to your message. (I receive about 1,500 proposals from authors per year and many agents get far more than that)
Anyone involved in sales or marketing for any business or endeavor knows all about the research, targeting and patience. This is target marketing, not door-to-door sales.
Still, sending well won’t guarantee success, but refusing to send well will certainly guarantee failure.