Twenty-dollar Proposals

I groaned when my wife brought me the Express Mail envelope.

I was certain the sender had wasted his money. He’d gone to a lot of work, a considerable expense, and also made more work for me. Not a win-win.

I found a neatly typed cover letter, a brief proposal, and a fifty-page fiction sample. I was certain I’d soon be sending him a rejection. What a shame.

Any writer contacting an agent for the first time has the odds stacked against him. We receive far more proposals from potential clients than we can possibly represent.

Deciding whether to decline becomes easier if the writer proposes something in a genre outside my expertise. Or if the chapters are laced with language I find offensive.

But this writer had ignored the notice on the agency website that four of the five agents “accept only e-mail submissions.” So it didn’t surprise me to find that the proposal didn’t cover in any depth the required marketing information.

Nor did the fiction impress me. The prose was loaded with telling and double attributions (both a tag and a beat) for every line of dialogue, plus funky punctuation.

I didn’t enjoy explaining the major reasons the piece was not yet ready for publication, but I felt the writer deserved at least some return for his twenty-dollar investment.

I just wish he had invested his postage money in learning from a webinar or a book about writing, then emailed me a proposal — for free.

About CWG:

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