One of those editors responded, "Chocolate!" (with a smiley face). So, a few months later, when I sent her a proposal, I included a few bars handmade by a local chocolatier.
This got no reaction, so I asked her about it when I saw her next.
"Oh, yeah," she said. "The chocolate. Why did you do that? That was weird."
Of the myriad of reactions one is hoping to get from a proposal, "weird" is not one of them. And here, based on stuff that I have heard about from actual acquisitions editors, is a list of other things that you should leave out of your book proposal:
- Confetti. You should have learned around the time you were five that negative attention is not better than no attention at all.
- A manuscript on anything other than white paper. The cuteness of a romance printed on pastel paper wears off about one sentence in.
- Manuscripts printed in anything other than black (or dark navy) ink. The one thing common to every editor I know is eyestrain; purple ink is not your friend.
- An 8" x 10" color glossy photo of your smiling face. Your object here is to sell a book, not to convince the recipient to cast you in their toothpaste commercial. Occasionally, on proposals that were requested as a result of face-to-face meetings, I have put a thumbnail face shot on my proposal cover page, to help the editor remember who I am. But that's it.
- Your idea for the book cover. You are the writer, not the art director.