Are you a crime fiction writer looking for an agent or publisher? In this interview, Sunny Frazier, the Acquisitions Editor for Oak Tree Press (oaktreebooks.com), discusses what writers can do to help make their queries stand out.
“The smart thing to do is check the guidelines of the house to find out if they publish the type of book you have written. Check the word count to see if your book is in range,” said Frazier. That advice is really nothing new for authors, but she also added a step that most querying authors skip. “Ask who the acquisitions editor is, then google me. If you have any military or law enforcement experience, if you are from California and familiar with my area, if you have a cat--toss that in your query. I'm a person, I respond to people who make the effort to treat me like a person. I like to see that an author has done his/her homework. Trust me, I'm researching you!”
In addition to the age-old questions of how to stand out, authors also need to know about the quirky things they do that sometimes cause the acquisitions editor to pass on what might otherwise be a good manuscript. The bottom line is that it all comes down to attitude. Frazier said, “I'm not impressed by lots of literary credits or high-minded attitude. You aren't doing me a favor by submitting your book. You may have bragging rights, but don't lay it on too thick. Don't tell me you're the next Hemingway or Dan Brown.”
In some cases, authors think they need to show how much they know about the publishing business to the editor they’re querying. That tactic doesn’t impress Frazier one bit. “Don't start asking questions about contracts before I've had a chance to read your work. This let's me know you're going to be difficult to work with down the line. Keep your ego in check.”
Everyone knows that it’s much easier to sell something to another person when you know them. Frazier added that the same applies to getting an editor interested in a manuscript. “We have a rabbi in the house now. I'd actually heard of Ilene Schneider from a book she published called ‘Talk Dirty Yiddish.’ The title still makes me laugh. She read one of my posts and took the initiative to strike up a conversation online. It wasn't exactly a query, but I felt we were online friends before we got to that stage. She offered one of her Rabbi Aviva Cohen mysteries and ‘Unleavened Dead’ opened up a world I knew nothing about. We are now getting back the rights to ‘Chanakah Guilt.’
Authors should also be aware that sometimes a good manuscript and query aren’t enough. “Unfortunately,” said Frazier, “I have to put many queries on hold because it's apparent the author has put platform building as last on the list of things to do. I firmly believe an author has to come into publishing with a viable game plan. There's no such thing as starting too early. Getting involved with social media, building a website, blogging, responding to others to build a fan base—this is going to be important to a publisher.”
Frazier, a Navy veteran and former newspaper reporter, is also the author of her own mystery series featuring an astrologer who also works for the Sheriff. In “A Snitch in Time,” Sheriff’s secretary Christy Bristol uses astrology and the stars to solve four murders. According to Frazier, her series was inspired by real cases and 40 years of casting horoscopes. You can find out more about Sunny Frazier on her website at www.sunnyfrazier.com.
Terry Ambrose (terryambrose.com) is a mystery author who also writes about real-life scams and cons. Find him on Facebook at facebook.com/suspense.writer or follow him on Twitter and learn about his latest suspense novel, License to Lie.