How to CRAFT YOUR ASK to Get Your Proposal & Manuscript Read

Note: I've discussed this in the past, but continue to receive requests for this information on how to get a proposal read, obtain an endorsement or find an influencer. Here you go...

     I received an email from a Russian author this week. It was primarily in Russian (which I don't speak.) Curiosity slightly piqued, I opened the email and learned he had written and published a book recently.  The problem was his ask.

     He got my attention and then lost my attention just as quick.

     Crafting our "ask" for a positive response is always our goal. The problem is often times, whether from inexperience, lack of confidence or lack of knowledge, we miss the target. As was the case in this email, there was no specific ask other than, "Do you want to read my book?"
     Unfortunately he hadn't given me a reason to say, "Yes." Why? Because I couldn't figure out what he wanted me to do with his book if I did read it.

     Since the book was already published, then as a literary agent why did he need me? He also didn't seem to need my role as a project development manager where I help authors get their books ready for press at market industry standards. He might have wanted help marketing the book, but to be honest I just couldn't tell.  His book was already completed and printed.  It wasn't clear what he needed or how I could help. So I deleted his email and with it whatever he desired to accomplish simply because I couldn't discern what he wanted from his ask.

     When you consider your ask, you don't want to leave the recipient guessing. Ask. Ask clearly and concisely. Then make it easy to respond.

This is an important tip for obtaining endorsements as well.

Making it easy to respond is important when working to obtain endorsements. I often craft two or three different endorsements, send them as samples and mention that if it would assist the endorser, they are welcome to use them or tweak it and make it their own to help save them time.  They may use it. They may not, but it makes it easy to respond with a "yes" if the issue is because of time constrains alone.

How to Craft An Ask That Gets Results

Have you ever had an unwanted phone solicitation? If you actually pick up the phone and engage with the solicitor in conversation, the reps or sales person is encouraged to try to obtain three quick "yes" responses to secure the call. This is to break down barriers and get us agreeing with the salesperson. The technique can be very effective because it tears down surface objections to get us on the same page.

For example a conversation from your friendly car salesman would go something like this:

1. "Are you looking for a car that is reliable?" Well, yes.
2. "How about one that will save you money with great gas mileage?" Well, yes.

3. "And would you want something that offers both style and protection for your family?" Well, of course, yes.

     Boom. Three "yes"-es and the conversation is well on its way.
      It is the same for us. The key is to have an ask that will get us the end result we desire whether that is in the area of  fundraising, seeking a job, looking for an agent or publisher, etc.

When seeking the assistance of an influencer, these are the questions to ask yourself before you send the letter or hit "send."

Does your "Ask" convey the following:

  • Why are you contacting the individual? This should be clear in the first sentence or at minimum within the first 2-3 sentences.
  • What you are asking them to do for you?
  • Did you convey your platform or some unique piece of information that will grab their attention and make you stand out above the crowd?
  • Have you done your homework to make sure that the person you are making the request of is the right individual to help?

BELOW ARE THREE "ASKS" - But only one is effective.
     #1 - The Non-Ask. I often receive packages in the mail that contain a self-published book and a business card. These are sometimes accompanied by a letter and sometimes not. The ones without a letter means they include no ask whatsoever. This ensures that these packages go into the giveaway pile or file 13 immediately because I am left to try to figure out the ask.

     #2 - The hard to find Ask. It is there but it is located at the very bottom of a long page of explanation. These are a challenge because the assumption is that the reader is going to make it to the bottom of the page to find the ask. 

    #3 - The best asks. These are letters or emails that explain right up front why the writer is making contact and includes some type of "hook."

     Example: Did you know that middle children are most likely to be monogamous in marriage? Although middle child, Donald Trump messes with that statistic, the overlooked middle child has hidden qualities which can lead to success as do all birth positions. My name is Karen Hardin, and I have attached a proposal for your consideration of my new book, "Why Middle Children Can Rule the World: Using Your Birth Order to Create Success." I has been endorsed by the American Counselors Association. The manuscript also received "Honorable Mention" from the Guideposts New Writers Contest.

     Now if you send this to an agent or publisher that doesn't publish this type book, then you've wasted your time and theirs. But if you did your research effectively, you may have gained at least another five seconds of their attention to get them to open the proposal which you would have attached to the email or inserted in the package.

     (Note: Don't miss it at this juncture. Make sure your proposal is written correctly and with the information they need to make a decision. If you don't know what an agent or publisher is looking for in a proposal download the guide from my website here.)

     If you take the time to "knock" on the door of an influencer in whatever their area of expertise, be ready to walk through that door if it opens with a well-crafted ask. You may have that "next big thing" and just what we are looking for. So helps us know that by crafting an ask that lets us know what you want and who you are.

Karen Hardin - Literary Agent and Marketing Guru
PriorityPR Group & Literary Agency