Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Nail Biting Time

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I’m feeling somewhat like a wallflower, sitting around anxiously waiting to see if someone’s going to ask me to dance. Why? I currently have not one, but two book proposals out, one to each of my publishers. One proposal is for my third thriller, a book I’ve called The Babylonian Codex. The other is for the sixth Sebastian book. It’s an idea I love and starts with Sebastian’s friend, Gibson, buying the “resurrected” body of a young man and discovering that his illicit corpse was murdered. (I’d give you the title but, um, it doesn’t have one yet.)

What exactly is a book proposal? It’s the first three chapters/30-35 pages and a synopsis of the book, intended to give publishers a good feel for what the finished product will be like. Book proposals can be scary things to prepare, since so much rests on them (like whether the publisher will buy the book, and how much they’ll pay). Squishing the plot line and characters of a 400 page book down into a five page synopsis in a way that not only makes sense but sounds enticing is an art. And polishing those first three chapters into something sparkling and alluring when you haven’t written the rest of the book can be a challenge.

During the course of my writing career, I’ve only had one book proposal knocked back, but that experience was enough to scar me for life. I spent months researching and plotting out a second thriller I called The Bermuda Effect, and had written about a hundred pages when my editor said, “We don’t like this idea. Come up with something different.”

I learned a valuable lesson: don’t invest too much time and effort and heart into researching, plotting, and writing an idea that may not sell. And I learned another, slightly more cynical lesson: the less you give them, the less they can criticize. Dazzle them with smoke and mirrors, but don’t give them too much to think about.

But I still have a lot of time and heart invested in these two ideas. And the publishing environment right now is not good, so this is a bad time to be going out with one proposal, let alone two. So, yeah, I’m nervous. Stay tuned….

11 comments:

Project Cat said...

Eek. I'll keep my fingers (metaphorically, at least) crossed for you. I adore the Sebastian books, and your (admittedly brief) synopsis of the potential one's start sounds like another fantabulous one.

Steve Malley said...

YOu've just made me rather glad I started plotting in advance...

Good luck with the proposals!!

orannia said...

*crossing fingers and thinking good thoughts*

Good luck! I can't imagine how nerve-wracking the wait must be. It sounds a bit like a job interview and an assignment all rolled into one!

laughingwolf said...

pulling for you on both books, candy :)

cs harris said...

Project cat, thank you.

Steve, yes, once you start selling on proposal, you need to plot in advance in order to write the #@%$ synopsis.

Orannia, thanks, keep those fingers crossed!

laughingwolf, thank you.

Charles Gramlich said...

Good luck. I guess I better start doing more preplotting.

Anonymous said...

Whenever I recall back the first time Paul Gibson was introduced to us readers in WHAT ANGELS FEAR -- in which he was also telling Sebastian about Jumpin' Jack -- I still smile in fond memory. I reread my favourite parts from that book often.

Good luck and all the best to you. :)

--Zinnuraain

cs harris said...

Thanks, Charles. You only have to preplot if you want to sell on proposal.

Zinnuraain, thank you. And Jumpin' Jack returns in this book!

liz fenwick said...

fingers crossed!
lx

cs harris said...

Thanks, Liz!

Barbara Martin said...

I'm sure you'll do fine. And thanks for the tip about the synopsis.