1) WHAT SPECIFIC CRITERIA DO YOU LOOK FOR WHEN CONSIDERING A MANUSCRIPT FOR PUBLICATION?
Not only a book that I would be interested in personally, but also one that would appeal to a significant niche or have broad-based appeal. For nonfiction, the dreaded “platform requirement” is always an issue, but for fiction, the great thing is that the book just has to be good…the author can be a complete unknown and still get a book deal. I also look for an author who is well spoken, personable, and who would do well in media interviews.
I prefer a letter pasted into an email that provides a brief synopsis of the book and author, and details the target market. Then, if I’m interested, I’ll request the manuscript. And if I’m still interested, I’ll request the proposal.
If it’s a manuscript that is only, say, 30% done, I can still get a book deal as long as what’s there is polished. If the manuscript is complete and is in relatively good shape, the publisher’s editor will take care of working with the author to refine it. However, an author who has a lot of great ideas but isn’t really a writer should definitely work with a ghostwriter or co-author.
Typos, and a sloppy presentation overall, especially in the initial cover letter. Also, I roll my eyes when someone says something like, “I know this will be a blockbuster bestseller.” And…I do not like it when I decide to pass on a manuscript and the author comes back and asks for advice, notes, or a critique on why I passed on it. I rarely respond to those requests.
Check out PublishersMarketplace.com (yes, buy a subscription), and see who the “dealmakers” are in particular genres. Then contact those agents.
Yes, especially with respect to a good book that simply can’t find a publisher due to the aforementioned lack of platform. Self-publishing is a great way to start building a following.