Not Another Margaret Mitchell

Many of the fiction proposals I’ve studied make me wonder, Is this writer another Margaret Mitchell? Maybe the next Harper Lee?

Yes, Margaret Mitchell enjoyed brisk sales with Gone With the Wind. And Harper Lee did all right with To Kill a Mockingbird. But those were their only novels.

These days, publishers want writers good for more than one book.

I can’t blame them. I own the full set of Patrick O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey/Stephen Maturin nautical novels (20 books), Tony Hillerman’s Navajo police series (18 books), John D. MacDonald’s colorful Travis McGee series (21 books), and many more by authors of multiple novels.

Any Sequels?

When you read a story by an author with skill, it’s natural to look for more. Imagine if your favorite restaurant had a no-repeat-customers policy. Still, few fiction proposals mention what might come next.

Yes, a proposal’s first job is to sell that project. And publishers won’t commit to additional stories without the sales results for book one. But if gatekeepers see real potential, they’ll appreciate knowing there’s more. Don’t pitch orphans; pitch families.

Andy Scheer, the Guild’s Editor-in-Chief, also works as a freelance book editor and an agent with Hartline Literary.

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