Bill Connor, publisher for A-Argus Books, answered some questions recently regarding the publishing industry. His advice should be of great value to authors, particularly authors just starting out.
1) As a publisher, what are you looking for in a query letter?
“The first five sentences in a query letter dictates if I read the complete query letter or not. If the letter is well written, relatively short, and the author can capture my attention in the first paragraph, it is likely we will request the completed manuscript. That is, providing the manuscript is of a subject in which we have an interest.”
2) What are query letter mistakes authors often make?
“The major mistakes that a writer makes in his or her query letter is to try to tell what the story is about rather than telling about the story. At Argus Enterprises, we receive over fifty queries a day, so you can imagine how many manuscripts are available. The query letter needs to have a dynamic opening and quickly address the subject. Finally, the author needs to include a limited amount of information about himself or herself, including publishing credits, if any.”
3) What advice would you give 1st time authors?
“My advice to the first time author? Write about something of which you have knowledge. Either that, or research carefully the subject matter. Don't include an elecric coffee pot if the era is the 17th century. Also, keep writing and keep believing. Finally, have patience and realize that a successful author isn't born, it doesn't happen by accident. To generate a reasonably successsful novel, 15,000 copies or so, requires a tremendous amount of work by the first time author. No one, outside of family and friends, even know the author exists, so it is necessary to tell the world.”
4) What has been the most enjoyable part of being a publisher?
“The most enjoyable part of being a publisher is the sharing the thrill of an author's first novel. Whether it's a million seller, or only sells ten copies, there is a certain amount of sheer joy that an author receives when he or she sees their effort in print. There is also a great amount of enjoyment watching an author grow as he or she pens a second or third manuscript. It is easy to see the growth, as professionalism begins to take over and the amateur mistakes become fewer and fewer. The knowledge that you, the publisher, had an input into that growth is not unlike a father watching an off-spring succeed in their efforts.”
* Thanks to Bill Connor for taking the time to answer my questions