So I’m competing for a new client. He has just published an article in the NYT and a number of agents and editors have contacted him — me among them. I write a friendly email introducing myself and why I’ve responded to his article. I acknowledge that his in-box is probably flooded but I’d love to throw my hat in the ring if he’s interested in writing a book. I receive a cordial email back. Yes, there’s lots of interest. Yes, he’d love to meet. We set a date to have coffee. The date goes well. We talk for over an hour. Small talk (we’re both Yankee fans, we both went to Harvard, we both love Pinkberry’s salted caramel flavor) followed by nuts and bolts. The only point of contention between us is how much of a proposal he needs to write to sell the book. I’m old-fashioned in this regard and feel that a prospective author improves his chances for the best advance possible if he goes the extra mile with the proposal. Having worked at four publishing houses, I remember well how the publishers disdained the agents who turned in shabby or half-baked proposals. Though there were always exceptions when less was more. There is certainly no one right way to sell a book. I can tell the writer wants to write a brief proposal. I don’t know how hard to push for a more fleshed out proposal; doing so might compromise the chance to sign him.
Do I stick to my guns or tell him what he wants to hear?
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