I started this series with some softball advice: Don't mention in a query letter that God told you to write this book. Most of you were probably patting yourselves on the back when you read that, because you're not psychotic. (Well done, you!) So today's advice is a little less intuitive to sane people: Don't tell your publisher that you're happy to do interviews.
Let me explain. Of course you are thrilled to do interviews. That's a given. But telling a publisher that you're "happy to" do them actually sends the wrong message.
What you're communicating is: "I know it's the publisher's job to set up interviews, media appearances, speaking engagements, and all that other exciting stuff that I associate with being a bestselling author. I will deign to show up when and where you tell me to."
What you need to be communicating is: "I understand that book promotion is a partnership between an author and a publisher, and that authors are expected to take the lead in bringing a built-in audience, establishing themselves as experts in the media, and creating their own appearances and speaking engagements."
In other words, dear newbie author, at least 75% of book promotion is going to fall on your shoulders. (It's probably 90% if you're publishing with a really small house, as many new authors do.)
The question your query needs to answer is: What do you bring to the table?
A dream query letter demonstrates that the author knows she's in the lead here. For example, I once received a query letter that listed the cities the author had spoken in during recent months about that topic, the cities where the author would be speaking in months to come, and a sampling of the media interviews the author had already conducted on the topic. This author was proving not only that he was an expert in the content of his book, but that he was already on the road to promote the book, building an audience every day.
Authors who have supersized expectations of what their publishers can do to make them stars are anathema to those publishers. We've just had too many experiences with divas who don't understand how publishing works. We can't make you a star, period. You have to do that yourself, building your platform over years with very hard work. (How many of that author's speaking engagements were paid or glamorous, for example? Probably only a handful. But he got on the road anyway because he knew it was the #1 way to meet readers.)
But authors who are self-starters, who demonstrate enthusiasm for promoting their work, are in great demand. Publishers want to represent these authors' work again and again.
If you'd like to learn more about writing a great query letter and book proposal, the gold standard is still Michael Larsen's How to Write a Book Proposal, a classic how-to which was just updated and expanded last year. And for great advice on building your platform before you begin contacting publishers, so as to give yourself the best chance of success, check out Christina Katz's Get Known Before the Book Deal, also from Writer's Digest Books.
For other posts in this series:
The "Do not" image is used with permission of Shutterstock.com.