How Agents and Publishers Decide

“When you submit your proposal to an agent or publishing house, you may wonder how they make their decisions as to which books to reject and which to accept. Obviously there are numerous considerations that vary from person to person, from publisher to publisher. But there is a simple three-tiered approach we all use to evaluate the viability of a project:

  1. The Idea
  2. The Execution
  3. The Author Platform

Generally, you’ve got to be strong in all three areas in order to sell your proposal. There are always exceptions: You might be extremely strong in two of the areas and get away with being a little weaker in the third. In fiction, the idea and execution are primary; the author platform is still important but not nearly as important as the writing. In nonfiction, the author platform and the idea are of equal importance, and the execution (the writing itself) becomes the third consideration.

The Idea

Pretty self-explanatory, right? The concept itself must turn heads. For example, you could say your concept is “A book about communication in marriage.” Yawn. Low marks in the idea category. But consider what Gary Chapman said: “What if we could learn our partner’s love language and unlock the secret to love that lasts?” Now that’s a fresh idea. It sparks interest, it compels people to want to hear more.

Take a look at your idea, and how you’re phrasing it. Does it sound fresh and exciting—or like a hundred other books already out there?

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