Recently I read a blog post by agent Janet Reid about a would-be client who wanted to know if she sould include a historic, handwritten resume and a photograph as part of her manuscript. Wouldn’t these awesome items help the manuscript sell?
Reid’s answer was short and simple. No.
Her advice to authors was this — create a manuscript that will dazzle your potential editor or agent. Sell your manuscript. Artifacts can become a part of your web site. And she’s right. These are the kinds of things that I love finding on an author’s web site. Want to hook me fast — include a photo of a relevent grave stone. INclude pictures of a recreated village or histori re-enactors.
Maps, timelines and author’s notes can be created after the manuscript does the hard work of hooking the agent. The only time that I include things like this (backmatter) with the original manuscript is when I finish a project for ABDO and they are discussed in the contract.
I have to admit that I really wanted to argue with Reid’s response. I wanted to . . . but I just can’t quite bring myself to do it. Why? Because I’ve seen way too many manuscripts and talked to way too many authors who want to create the flash before they create the manuscript. What do I mean by creating flash? Paper engineering that will be part of the book. A website. A blog with posts by the main character. The list could go on and on.
Yes, editors and agents want to know that you are willing to help market your work, but a lot of people can come up with marketing ideas and gimmicks. Writers are, after all, idea people. The reality is that all of the marketing ideas in the world aren’t going to do you any good if you cannot finish a manuscript.
Finish your manuscript. Hook an editor or agent. Then worry about adding flash to the finished project. They will want your help but only after you show them a top- notch manuscript.