Non-Fiction Book Review: The Author's Checklist by Elizabeth K. Kracht
Full title: The Author's Checklist by Elizabeth K. Kracht, An Agent's Guide to Developing and Editing Your Manuscript.
Written by a professional authors’ agent, this is an extremely useful guidebook for anyone considering pursuing trad publishing. If you’ve been querying agents and publishers and got nowhere - or worse, got only offers from vanity pubs - and are beginning to despair, you could do a lot worse than sit down with this book and work through Kracht’s recommendations.
I have to admit I’m not entirely sold on the alphabetical arrangement of the book. I think it’s been chosen because Kracht takes a holistic approach - the whole thing has to be right, so it doesn’t really matter what order you do things - but I think it could be arranged in a more linear and logical way. In particular, I think the advice pertaining to fiction and non-fiction needed to be separated out and grouped together better, because the alphabetical arrangement muddled it all up.
There is some superb advice here that’s not all about the actual writing - things like the necessity of therapy while writing difficult memoirs - and many more excellent nuggets of wisdom under the various topics. Kracht is a professional of many years experience who knows what makes a great read and, more importantly here, what will make publishers sit up and reach for their checkbooks. While there is no One True Formula for success, what there are is a bunch of largely unwritten rules you have to follow, or you’ve got no hope of landing an agent or a trad pub deal. Kracht has put in the effort to set out those rules here for you. Follow them and you’ll massively boost your chances.
Of course, if you don't want to follow the rules, you might well decide to pursue self-publishing, and you could do very well at it. In general, though, the principles of ‘write a story people want to read and make sure it’s well-edited’ are always going to stand you in good stead.
I would strongly recommend this to any author with their heart set on pursuing traditional publishing, who hasn’t managed to land an agent or a deal yet. Take the time to work through every section and you should find some steps you can take to improve your work or your pitch, and just maybe land that dream agent or deal.
Four stars, mainly because I don’t think the alphabetical arrangement was the best way to communicate the information, but it’s an extremely useful reference book.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.