Dear Miss Snark,
Recently, I got a rather bizarre rejection from a New York agent, and I'd like to hear your take on it. Here's some background: I'm a professor at a Midwestern university with a solid record of scholarly publishing in my field. As a former journalist, I've decided to try to write a trade nonfiction book in my area. I queried a few agents, several of whom asked for the proposal, which I promptly sent. A few days ago, I got a rejection letter that read, "The major New York publishers that we deal with only acquire books that have national sales potential, and in this crowded market they want books and authors who have wide media access. Unfortunately, I just don't think any of the publishers we work with would be able to take on your project." Incidentally, my book is not focused on the Midwest--it deals with a global issue on which I am a fairly well-recognized expert.
I read the letter to mean that because I am not connected to national media outlets, they are passing on the book. Is this an accurate interpretation of the letter? What of the merit of the book itself? Or was this just a nice way of saying, "Your book stinks?"
Do we who live in "flyover country" stand a chance? Or should I read between the lines and understand that my project is to blame, not the lack of "wide media access" cited in the letter?
Thanks for any pearls of wisdom about this!
This isn't a bizarre rejection letter at all.
I write one form or another of this every day of the week.
It has nothing to do with the midwest, and everything to do with platform.
I'm sure you've heard of platform since you're not a novice, but for those who haven't, it refers to the other-than-the-usual ways you'll be able to get visibility for the book. A syndicated newspaper column like Maureen Dowd or Dave Barry is platform plus. A radio show like Dr. Laura is platform plus plus.
A nationally recognized expert is step one to getting platform. You need to have an established speaking career, a blog or a website with hundreds of thousands of hits a day and a devoted readership (ie NOT a porn site) or some other way to be visible to people on a regular basis.
Lots of people in the Midwest have platform. Lots of people in New York don't.
This isn't personal. I can't sell non fiction unless the author has platform plus.