Vicki Crumpton is the award winning Executive Editor for Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Vicki has over 20 years of publishing experience.
Welcome, Vicki. Thank you for taking the time to share with us.
At Write Canada 2014 you are teaching a workshop called “Book Proposals that Catch an Editor’s Eye.” Can you share a snippet from a proposal that especially impressed you and another from one that caught your eye for all the wrong reasons?
The best proposals keep catching my eye. It’s not that there’s one thing that I like, it’s that almost every part of the proposal keeps pulling me to read more. The author answers the questions I have in my mind when I review proposals and does it with an engaging writing style.
As for things that catch my eye for the wrong reasons…we don’t take unsolicited proposals these days, so I rarely see those kinds of proposals—the ones typed in ALL CAPS or with poor spelling, bad grammar, and even profanity. Here are two of my favourite phrases writers should avoid: “God and I have written…” and “there’s no other book like this one.”
You are teaching another workshop in which you share what an agent can do for authors. What are a couple of drawbacks to not having an agent?
A good agent should, in my opinion, give you direction for revising and refining your proposal so that you’ve done everything possible to get it in the best form and present you and your platform (or your plans to grow one) well. Second, an agent has relationships with editors at all the key publishing houses and knows what the houses are looking for and why your project might be the right fit. In other words, without an agent you might not be sending out your best work and you might be sending it to all the wrong places.
What are some of the things an author should do before approaching an agent?
Well, this may sound crazy, but I think writers in the early stages of their careers should meet the agents and editors who are at a conference. It’s as easy as saying, “Hi, my name is…. I’m not ready to pitch anything yet, but I just wanted to meet you.” You never know what those brief conversations could lead to later. (And you’ll be able to say, “Hi, we met at Write Canada.”) Editors and agents are all looking for the same things—great writing, fresh ideas, and an author who understands the importance of being involved on the marketing aspects of a book. Those are things every author should be developing. If you want to pitch to an editor or agent at a conference think about a sentence or two you’ll always be ready to share about your project: “I’m writing a historical romance series set in (wherever) in which (your heroine can never fall in love with your hero because)….” Or “I’m writing a book on praying for your children…” I’ve listened to pitches where five minutes in, I think the author is pitching a novel and then, he tells me it’s non-fiction (or vice versa). Practice and refine that quick pitch.
Vicki, can you give us a taste of what attendees can expect in the workshop you are teaching with Steve Laube: “Be Careful What You Sign”? (Please note that this workshop is only available to those who qualify for the Career Track at this year’s conference.)
We’re going to walk through the key clauses of a publishing contract and what’s important about them from a publisher’s and an author’s perspective. For example, the “non-compete” clause. For publishers, it’s important that an author finishes the manuscript the author has promised, and after that, doesn’t write and publish something that competes with that book. On the other hand, novelists, for instance, may want to be able to write novellas or to write in other genres, and if the contract they’re signing includes a non-compete clause, they need to understand what they’ve agreed not to do.
What is your #1 piece of advice for writers?
This is for newer writers particularly: You never know until you try. And you never know until you try again. Don’t say “no” to yourself. That’s what you do if you never submit your proposal. I’m pretty sure that at every conference I’ve attended, there’s been a proposal that impressed me and that I asked to see, but the author never followed through.
Interview by Steph Beth Nickel