Written by
Sunny Frazier
August 2012
Written by
Sunny Frazier
August 2012

You've worked hard on your query. You followed all the “rules” you read in writing magazines. You've sweated blood to create a great opening, to get the synopsis down to a page. I'm the acquisitions editor who received this carefully constructed letter.

To be honest, before I read your synopsis, I googled your name. Where is your website? I didn't see a blog. You're on Face Book—I'm not impressed. There was no activity indicating that you read and comment with the writing community. I'm not just evaluating your manuscript, I'm evaluating you. Are your ideas for success realistic? Are you dreaming of a NY Times bestseller listing? Do you hear Hollywood knocking on your door?

I feel marketing and platform building starts the minute a writer decided to write a book. Yes, that early. Anyone aspiring to a career in publishing in the 21st century cannot be blind to all the posts and forums talking about branding. So, where is your voice?

When I write and ask you about this void in your social marketing, you ask, “What am I suppose to market? You haven't published my book yet!” You market what you've got—your name. Name recognition is the first step toward building a platform. You make contacts, commenting on the blogs of others so people can see YOUR NAME. You add a bit about yourself so people can get to know the person behind the name. You blog at websites that give you your own page, like Book Town and Book Blogs. You “friend” others on the site, people who are readers, writers like you, industry people like me. You network and build connections.

I can understand when you tell me you don't know anything about marketing—that can be corrected. It's a learning process. But I tune you out when you tell me it's somebody else's job to market your book. You are the author, the artist, not a person who soils their hands with promotion.

Prima donnas need not apply. In this day of tough competition and stretched budgets, nobody gets to sit on the sidelines and wait for royalty checks. We all get out there and hustle. I would rather contract a good book with a strong marketer than a great book from an author who won't lift a finger to promote.

Don't undercut yourself by adding in your query, “I have macular degeneration, can't drive anymore, get around with a walker, have a phobia about flying and I'm computer illiterate. My dream is to have a book published before I die.” Why anyone would give full disclosure so early in the game is beyond me. What can I do except send a rejection?

And finally, please don't try to sway me with a list of university accomplishments, lofty credits and literary aspirations. You read the guidelines on our website, right? We're looking for genre fiction. You know, the stuff average people want to read: a good mystery with a dead body on the second page; a romance where the boy always gets the girl; a Western where the good guys wear white hats and ultimately win the gunfight. Not highbrow, but immensely entertaining. Something we can sell.

So, all I can do is write, “Thank you for your query letter, but I'm sorry we cannot publish your book at this time.”

Let's be friends

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  • <<I got 3rd place in the Writers' Digest contest out of 19,000 entries>>

    Wow!  Congratulations, Sunny!  

    Thank you for the helpful note about contests -- helps me prioritize my marketing efforts.  And thank you very much for the kind remarks about my blogs!  



  • Sunny Frazier

    Awards MIGHT matter. I got 3rd place in the Writers' Digest contest out of 19,000 entries, a fact I bring up when I teach how to win writing contests. I've also won Best Novel from Public Safety Writers out of 3 entries. So, awards can be deceiving.

    However, I checked you out on the Internet. What I was impressed with was not your awards but the blogs I read. Your voice comes through, the writing is clean and compelling. I would assume anything you wrote would be quality. That fact, and my own instincts, would sway my decision.

    And, remember, I'm not an agent. I'm an acquisitions editor.   

  • Sunny, I'm just reading this post now.  Thanks not only for your terrific post, but also for commenting on the comments.

    I have a question:  Do awards matter?  8 of my book's chapters have won a total of 16 literary awards, and 5 chapters have been included in 8 anthologies.  (One anthology was published by Random House and another by University of Nebraska.)

    That's not all the marketing I'm doing as I complete my journalistic memoir about my work in the Middle East with Iraqi and Palestinian refugees.  But, I wonder how agents view awards and anthologies.

    Thanks again for your candid comments and support.  Good luck with your transplant!

  • Suzanne McKenna Link

    What a frank eye-opener. I've finished my first novel and am currently running through it with a copy-editor. Lately, I have been thinking a lot lately about my next step. I know I will have to be the major force behind getting it out there and promoting it. But I understand you are saying the time to start getting myself out there is now. I don't currently blog or have a website, but I will take your advice to heart. Thanks for the tips!

  • Sunny Frazier

    (Take a deep breath, Amyah)

  • Amyah L

    :))  I was panting just to read your answer to me :)) Must admit that I am pretty disciplined myself... have to if we want to succeed, isn't it?

    My most powerful healing thoughts to you for the transplant... hope everything is/will be perfectly OK for you... Hug!

  • Sunny Frazier

    Kathy (and others),

    My publisher has just asked me to look for manuscripts featuring law enforcement or any other type of public service protagonists. Oak Tree Press is very active in the Public Safety Writers Association and we try to launch books of that type at their annual conference in Vegas (in July!). Of course, marketing skills are the tipping point and we have a questionnaire to fill out. If any of you have a manuscript ready to go, contact me at my website, http://www.sunnyfrazier.com

    If anyone wants to take a look at our questionnaire to see what is expected in terms of marketing, contact me.

    Oak Tree Press is also looking to beef up it's Western line, Wild Oaks. Any cowgirls out there?   

  • Sunny Frazier

    Kelly, it's not "wise" to correct the grammar of a person who might potentially publish your book. I'm just saying. . . 

    I've posted several articles on my views of acquisitions over at my page on this site. I don't want to re-post them, but if any of you choose to look them up, here they are:

    Confessions of an Acquisitions Editor--Dec 5, 2010

    So, You Want To Be An Acquisitions Editor--Sept. 15, 2010

    I also have one scheduled for January. Maybe I'll have it come up in Dec.

    As a "queen of the forest" I have gone so far as to rewrite a few paragraphs to explain what I mean by "craft" or demonstrate a tighter beginning. I am open to rewrites and working with authors. My publisher would rather I didn't take that much time but I can't help myself.

    The kidney thing--it is what it is. I was poisoned by cat flea medicine, lost one kidney eight years ago and now am looking forward to a transplant. The VA says I'm a great candidate: young, healthy, upbeat. The transplant list for military vets is different from the civilian transplant list. I may have a better chance than the average patient. And no, I don't want a live donor. I just read that you can lose your life insurance by donating a kidney. I'm hoping for a match from a zombie kidney.   

  • Kelly Kittel

    Sunny, did I really hit "Send"? I am sorry for sounding so (think but don't write adverb) snarky but Sandy and her sister storm have been shrieking at me here on my windy island and stealing my electricity at whim and I've had so many "this is not right for our list" query responses, even tho I've done my research on said list.  Per your retort, however, I have enjoyed pondering the essay, "If I Were an Acquisitions Editor" (sung to the tune, "If I Were the Queen of the Forest or, alternately and perhaps more fittingly, "If I Only Had a Brain") and agree with others here that it would be nice for the real queens of the forest to take a minute to simply say, "your writing, um, stinks," or "your platform is shaky," or, "brush up on your grammar!"  I also posted a blog on the view from my writer's chair, comparing traditional publishing to climbing Mt. Everest at www.kittelposse.blogspot.com and will now attempt to link it to the world. Please accept my sincere best wishes to you on the kidney thing, I'd offer one up but mine aren't too healthy either.

  • Kathy Price

    This blogs KICKS BUTT---Yes--I was a whiner--but zero interest in that. I have had so many close calls and interest --but no soap. My last (only sale to date) was 10 years ago! I have a few FB pages and some blogs--but mainly --they are unfinished and un-marketed--kind of a half-hearted attempt at social media.Your discipline of time is impressive. . My current novel HAS had some interest but needs a revision.  I will be definitely contacting you.

  • Kristen Elise

    BTW trying to post this to Twitter and it's not working ... anyone else have issues with this site?

  • Kristen Elise

    I love this.  For one thing, a nice swift kick in the pants is sometimes the best motivation in the world.  For another, I learned a great deal about what does and doesn't sway the people I'm trying to pitch to.  And the comment about the discipline is humbling.  Um, what were those excuses I was working on again?  I don't remember.  Thanks for the tips about Book Town and Book Blogs.  Signing up now...

  • Sunny Frazier

    Amyah, I'm so disciplined that I use a timer for every part of my day. I spend 45 minutes in the morning with email, 20 minutes for free reading and tea, 45 minutes working on my 3rd novel, 10 minute rest, back to the novel. I keep the schedule up to include reading manuscripts for acquisition, promotion for the publishing house, training the Posse in marketing, breaks to eat. At 5 p.m. it all stops so I can watch the news, play with the cats, eat dinner, watch my favorite TV programs. The night winds up with playing internet slot machines, reading and tea in bed.

    The only thing that slows me up is the hassle of visits to the VA hospital in Fresno where I'm being worked up for a kidney transplant.

    I understand discipline.   

  • Sunny Frazier

    Julie, I am willing to work with you to expand your knowledge. Contact me off-list (just google my name, I have over 500 hits on Google) and we'll get you started.

  • Julie Luek

    Sunny, the more I read your responses to the comments here, the more I realize how little I know about how to do this all well and what exactly "all" entails! 

  • Amyah L

    Good morning, Sunny. Thank you for your very valuable input. Very interesting and... very true. But, a writer has to discipline herself and stay in a routine if she want to be productive... I think it has to be the same for the Internet. For me, it is an invaluable searching tool to find unusual and interesting subjects for my articles but... I do it for a limited amount of time before or after my writing session (depending if I need the info to write about). For most writers, it could be a little reward after the writing session... a time to read, research, talk with friends/family/fellow writers on She Writes, a time to PDF articles for our writing.

    I could not live without internet. My children and family are far, far away and it is the only way to affordable communication and I am so curious about the world... I love to see what is out there. I am Belgian (French)... living faraway from Europe in western-English Canada... so I need my daily dose of what is happening on the other side of the globe, I need my daily shot of French :). But I discipline myself.

  • Sunny Frazier

    You do understand, Kate, that you could have saved $200 and created your own blog tour just by asking site owners to host you. This is the kind of expenditure that most authors can't afford. Statistically, the average book sells fewer than 100 copies. Once you start paying others to do generic marketing for you, you operate in the red from that point on. 

    Public readings are harder to get these days as people stay glued to their television sets. Many festivals expect you to pay for a table and work through vendors. Book clubs are more interested in big name authors. I never pay for advertising when there are so many free opportunities. 

    While storytelling may appear to be the primary task of an author, reality is that you can write all the books in the world and never sell one because you are competing with people far ahead of you in marketing. I believe, as do others in the industry, that marketing begins the minute you decide to write a book. People who understand that have a good career.

    Now, as a journalist and editor, you probably have ties in place to promote. But, fiction is a different form altogether and marketing is much different. Having no ties in the world of whatever genre you are writing will keep you on the outside. We each choose our path to publication and success; I just hate to see writers stack the deck against themselves.    

  • Kate Campbell

    Because my creative time is limited by my day job as a journalist and editor, I have to be careful about how much  I invest in promotion. I'm just learning how to be a novelist so I don't have all the balance points worked out. One thing I've done is scrape up the money to work with Pandora Poikilos at Orangeberry, a UK based blog-tour and Twitter-based promotional service. Dora is the greatest -- For about $200 I've gotten about 20 blog stops and a half dozen Twitter blasts in a month. Here's a link to one of the blog stops:  http://disincentive-reviews.blogspot.com/

  • Kate Campbell

    I'm not complaining about social media, far from it. I agree that it is a cost-effective way to extend reach and build audience. My point is to be judicious about its use and realistic about its effect. It's an important tool for building a writing practice, but so are public readings, festivals, book clubs, paid advertising, reviews and the next book. Catching on as a writer takes time and I'm cautioning about being seduced away from the primary task -- storytelling.


  • Sunny Frazier

    Georgeann, I developed something called "The Posse." It was originally designed to help authors learn to market. It has turned into a support group. When one of us has a blog up, the rest go over and weigh in. No charge, just ask to be part of it and get to know everyone. They trade info on good spots for interviews, reviewers, articles that expand awareness in the industry. It's like fast-tracking one's career.    

  • Sunny Frazier

    Kate, you understand exactly what I'm talking about. The only thing is, I wish people would embrace it instead of writing blogs about the negatives. Doesn't anyone remember how difficult it used to be to get published before independent presses and e-books came along? And how impossible it was to market before the Internet and we all started communicating? Complaining about social media being a time-waster is like carping about writer's block--it doesn't really exist unless you acknowledge and make it real.    

  • Sunny Frazier

    Anne, I'm not sure how much you know about electronic self-publishing, but the Amazon program doesn't cost. I put some of my short stories up for free just as an experiment. You could pay for a book cover or design one yourself. If you want your book in trade paperback, yes, it would cost money. If you expect any publisher to "shoulder" the marketing expenses, you are going to be in for a rude awakening. Time to learn more about the economics of this industry and get up to date. 


  • Eileen Obser

    Yeah, Sunny!  Good to see you here.  Great advice here from an insider, as Daphne put it.  You always reach out to help writers and I'm so glad to know you.

  • Kate Campbell

    Thanks for the no-nonsense insights into your book evaluation process. I've been doing the social media, platform building you talk about, but find they aren't magic brand builders. I think it's like most progress -- it takes time, perseverance and a sense of humor. There are days when all three are in short supply so I go for the chocolate. You'll find my blog and a new post on how the Internet and Social Media are time sucks for writers at kate-campbell.blogspot.com.


  • Daphne Q

    Some good "inside" advice here. Thanks for sharing.