I had forgotten until this month that I am a horribly, horribly mean editor. Seriously. You do not want to send a proposal with high hopes to any company where I work and have it land in my in-basket. Nor do you want to be inside my head when I am reading through such unsolicited material. Want some proof? Here's a dip into some of the thoughts I've had while reading some the the proposals my predecessor was wise enough not to tackle before leaving the company.
"Your 'modest opinion' seems a little light on the modesty and quite heavy on the ego."
"Four pages of acknowledgments? Really? If you want me to be awake enough to get to the heart of your manuscript, you just might, you know, want to leave those out for now."
"I'm no expert, and this is definitely a new subject area for me, but, trust me, sometimes there's a very good reason that 'There is nothing else like this out on the market.'"
"If you begin your email with a sentence like this one, "I am sending to you a book proposal that I and two other..." chances are, unless you happen to be a bestselling Trade author, no editor in the business (we being somewhat picky when it comes to grammar) is going to get much past that."
"Please, please, please don't waste my time if you are someone who likes to blather on for 3 pages without getting to some sort of point -- without even hinting at some sort of point. This is not an exercise in free association. This is not a journal entry. It's not a blog post. You are proposing a book that you would like a reputable publisher to publish. Act like it."
"I wonder if this guy is schizophrenic or something."
There. See? The problem is, though, that no matter how bad the proposals are, I still feel horrible telling our editorial assistant to reject them (because, you know, if I were to do it, some of those thoughts might end up somewhere other than my head or this blog post). Does that make up at all for all my mean-spirited thoughts?