do and don't · query problems

The false smile of a bestseller claim

“My book will be a bestseller.”

I know you think that. But the query isn’t the place to say it. Tell your mom, not prospective agents.

Like movie claims, bestseller claims make me suspect the author doesn’t understand the business. They have false expectations about getting rich quick. Of scoring a publisher in a few weeks and receiving a six-figure advance.

They assume every good author sells out and hits the NYT list.

These same writers use Stephen King and James Patterson (or Nora Roberts and Elizabeth Phillips, JRR Tolkien and JK Rowling) as their comps. They haven’t read widely enough to know any other names in their genre.

If all you read are bestsellers, it’s no surprise you think you’ll be one too.

I have the sincerest hope all our clients hit the list. But I know better how the industry works. I also know you can be popular, successful, and making enough to live on without hitting the list.


4 thoughts on “The false smile of a bestseller claim

  1. Agree. A writer buddy of mine told me about a woman who had quit her day job to write mystery novels because “my books will be bestsellers and I’ll make LOTS of money!” Next time he saw her, he asked, “So, how’s that making money thing working out?!” Um, it hadn’t, surprise, surprise.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m all for supporting new authors, but I have shorter and shorter patience with those who don’t do their research and don’t know what they’re getting into. If someone is serious about writing, they’ll learn about both the craft and the industry.


      1. Definitely true. Years ago, I made contact with another local author who said he’d worked on his first novel for 10 years, and he claimed he’d researched the industry, too. In all that time, he hadn’t realized that 300,000 words was too long for a novel until he hired a freelance editor. I remember thinking, wait, you didn’t realize that was too long?! I knew that, and I’d only been seriously writing for 2 years. He’d since gone on to write and publish multiple books, but that tidbit of info blew my mind.


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