Like any industry, publishing gets its share of buzz words. The problem with buzz words is that they quickly become overused and you go from what started as a great key word, search, and PR term for a publicity campaign to something that makes you sound like a desperate idiot.
Sorry, it’s harsh but I’m just being honest.
At some point if you even bother to utter an industry’s overused buzz word, god forbid you don’t just utter it but shout it from the rooftops proudly like you’ve got the lead on the hottest ticket in town, you’ll not only be classified as passé but people will also start to hear this:
So take the time to do your research, stay on top of what’s really “hot” and what’s really not (irony intended with the use of “hot”). For authors, make a point to spend more time on your pitch, don’t just stuff it with buzz words, hell, buy a thesaurus – you have options. For agents and publishers, do your part to make this industry better, not dumb it down. Here’s a sampling:
Timeless: What’s really “timeless” these days? And more importantly, do we care? We’ve reached an age where sound bites rule, whether you like it or not, so “timeless story” tends to scream HEARD IT BEFORE, NOTHING NEW HERE. Think about it, you might be tempted to use the phrase because it sounds nostalgic, classic, warm and fuzzy, but would it actually make you go out and buy a book? Probably not. Save “timeless” for describing that Chanel bag you bought 20 years ago that you still get compliments on.
The market: Like the one up the street where I buy my risotto? Not likely. But this one is tricky because it’s so broad. Agents, publishers and editors all throw it around as a scapegoat for giving an author bad news. “The market has spoken,” makes me laugh because most authors don’t know enough about their own market to call bullshit on sweeping statements like that. Know who your market is, who is actually likely to buy and read your book – they’re out there, I promise, do your research.
Prescriptive: The cooler cousin of self-help. But cool people get on our nerves after awhile too so this is a great time to pull out the thesaurus.
Pass: Another sweeping term to deliver bad news. “We regret to inform you that…” It’s possibly the most unhelpful, frustrating word in publishing.
Upmarket: Pretentious. Don’t use this word unless you’re pimping yourself to an firm that also uses this term to describe itself.
Commercial: Or in other words, popular, but needing no other explanation. Send out your pitch letter claiming your book has “commercial appeal” and you’re basically saying you think it will sell. Well I hope so. I hope you didn’t write a book and bother to ask for editors’, agents’ and publishers’ time for something you didn’t want to sell. Again, who is your market? Do your research, get specific, sound intelligent.
Award winning: Honestly unless you could walk up and get at least 3 out of 5 people on the street to acknowledge the existence of said award, don’t start every sentence with it. Sure, put it on your back cover, display it proudly on your website, but be realistic, not every award is created equal, even if they don’t keep score in recreational sports anymore.
Heart-wrenching: Come on, this is really subjective, is it not? I admit, the ASPCA commercials are heart-wrenching, I think we can all agree on that, but unless you’ve written a book chronicling some well-known national or global tragedy, you’re setting the bar pretty high for some outstanding drama and incredible writing. You sure you’re up for that?
Platform: Okay, I admit, I use this word. A lot of us in the industry still use this word, but at least I’m willing to admit how obnoxiously frustrating it must be as a writer to have it constantly thrown in your face. What’s a platform? Well, it’s a simple term used to describe an incredibly complicated process that’s unique to each individual author and title. And definitely worthy of a blog post all its own.
Fresh: I really don’t think I need to go into this word but I can’t even say it without giggling so I had to include it. Basically if you think what you have is “fresh” it’s actually the exact opposite. In fact, throw it away, toss it out, start over. Keep trying until you’re no longer “fresh” and then you may have a decent start.