A literary agent discusses query letters from writers wanting publishers to give them book publicity guarantees in hopes of creating a bestseller.
“I know for a fact that my book will be a bestseller,” is an all-too-frequent statement in query letters we receive from unpublished authors seeking representation. Truth is, they do not know this for a fact, and they have nothing factual at all to support their claim.
Not even experienced, highly qualified publishing professionals would make such an assertion, particularly in regards to the work of an author with no publishing history. In this business, no one can guarantee a book’s success.
These would-be published writers usually follow their blatant declaration with something like this, excerpted from a letter I received last week:
“I just need an agent to get me a deal with a good publisher who will heavily promote my book with a publicity plan guarantee, and we will all make money.”
Occasionally this writer will go even further, demanding that the book publishing contract include a $30,000 (or $20K, or $50K) promotion budget or publicity guarantee. Sometimes they’ll soften the latter requirement by offering to match the publisher’s promotion money out of their advance.
Ignoring the inappropriateness of this approach, this sample query letter excerpt illustrates a serious misunderstanding of the inner workings of book publishing.
Learn more about how book publicity works in Publisher’s Big Publicity Gamble, the story behind Jed Rubenfeld’s The Interpretation of Murder, published by Henry Holt.
Copyright 2006 by Barbara Doyen. All rights reserved.