f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Day 3 of Agents – The Marketing/Sales Hat

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Day 3 of Agents – The Marketing/Sales Hat

Yesterday we talked about how your agent needed a nose for story. Today we’ll talk about how your agent needs an eye for the shelves.

In part this is because she will want to choose books that will make money—of which she’ll get a percentage. The bigger reason though is that this is going to be one of the primary ways (perhaps THE primary way in today’s business) she’s going to be able to pitch your book to a publisher.

See the role of acquisitions editor (to whom she will talk) is one walked on the knife’s blade between the world of the book and the world of the bookseller. There is a constant yin-yang pull between the search for great stories and the search for stories that sell…acknowledging from the get-go that those things aren’t mutually inclusive.

A book with sales potential is a key that opens many, many doors.

Knowing what will sell is part research, part experience, and part flat-out instinct. Your agent’s knowledge of the industry is huge here. This should include an understanding of customers and retail, PLUS an understanding of which publishers do what best. There’s always an interesting question of whether BHP could have turned Left Behind into what it became? Or whether Multnomah could’ve pulled off Purpose Drive Life? Or Harvest House turned Janette Oke into who she is today?

Many writers talk about feeling called by God to specific publishers and that’s fantastic. I believe and have seen how God works that way. But having your agent know what’s going on never hurts.

In the actual marketing and publicity of your book, your agent may or may not have much of hand. But another trusted and informed voice is never a bad thing. And someone to fight for you when you see a cover that’s going to kill your book can be far more helpful that you might imagine.

This understanding of market and sales potential should really shine through in the proposals that they send out. That’s their pitch. The proposal needs to be thorough and optimistic but not absurd in its projections for your book. It’s great to pitch everything as the next Lori Wick, but we know that’s not going to happen. Your agent’s pitch should compose a “best case scenario”—the publisher can then examine the worst-case scenario and judge the risk/reward of taking on a project.

Focusing only on sales/marketing sometimes means an agent gets enamored by a good story idea but hasn’t read enough to tell that the writer is a hack. As well, someone so deeply into the pitch may come off sounding like a used-car salesman who has no real appreciation for your book or your writing. But are you really going to care if they hand you a $25,000 check?
Continue to Day 4 of Agents.