A great book is not reason enough, unfortunately, for its publication. Besides, how does a publisher even know your book exists or if it is great? Publishers, and the literary agents that bring prospects to them, want to know not just whether a book is great, but if it is marketable. They want to know how the author will be instrumental, not merely involved, in the book’s promotion.
Before we outline what is needed to get published these days, let’s explore how most publishers really think.
First, most publishers, especially the Big 5, rarely look to the submissions slush pile to pick out a gem. They depend on literary agents to pimp manuscripts and authors they have already told those agents that they want.
Second, most literary agents will only represent an author if they feel the author can deliver what the publisher is demanding. For some, this comes down to some concrete metrics, including but not limited to:
· Past sales record if the author was published.
· Size of the author’s network/platform, such as social media follower numbers.
· The book’s genre.
· Uniqueness level of the book and how it stacks up to competitors.
· Whether the author sounds like he or she can sell a certain number of books though his/her connections, memberships, job, etc.
· Any indication by the author that he/she will buy a certain number of books.
· The quantity and quality of testimonials gathered by the author.
· A record of past media exposure for the author (are you promotable?)
· The author’s stated commitment to promote the book, perhaps even hire a publicist.
· The rights potential of the book: foreign, film, audio, etc.
Get the picture? It is all business.
There are publishers that will take a chance on someone who is not packaged up and ready to sell 10,000 copies, but their number is dwindling. Still, there are small presses, indie publishers, university presses, and niche publishers that will publish books that they believe are well written by qualified authors but who lack a guaranteed bulk-sale purchase or a certainty of media coverage. In other words, they publish on the merits of the content, not necessarily solely on the built-in sales guarantee. Some of these publishers may not rely on the filter of a literary agent, either.
Perhaps one way to get published is to publish it yourself, show some success with sales, media exposure, and social media – and then use that track record to convince a literary agent to represent you on a new book idea.
If you want to win over a literary agent or publisher, you will need to prepare the following:
· Query letter
· Book proposal
The personalized query letter is a one-page letter that cuts to the chase. It has five paragraphs, essentially stating this:
Introductory paragraph – why you sought them out and believe they would be great to collaborate with
What your book is about – keep it short
Why you are qualified to write it – don’t give a resume
Why such a book would sell – highlight how many millions fit the reader demographics
Concluding paragraph – request to share sample chapters, that you welcome to discuss details, or are happy to provide a book proposal
Your book proposal offers details to the key areas that a publisher or agent will need in order to see to be convinced you are worth working with.
Your book proposal is a combination of resume/ track record, vision/promise for the future, and a summary of what your book is, and how it compares to what it is in the marketplace.
Some proposals are dozens of pages long. The good ones include:
· Author bio (highlight accomplishments, not hobbies)
· Chapter-by-chapter summary (one paragraph per chapter)
· Overview of target readership demographics
· List of comparable titles
· Marketing plan details
· Testimonials secured
· Awards won
· Commitment to purchase books – if that is the case
· Three sample chapter and a table of contents
· Evidence of a platform — (speaker) or network (social media or organizational memberships), or voice (media clips)
Bottom line – you must establish that you have a great/unique/new book, that you are ideally positioned to write it, that the time is right for it to debut, that there is a strong marketplace for it, and that you will personally secure sales/media for it. Then they may say yes. Maybe.
To learn more about what it will take to get published, ask a publisher, literary agent, or author. Read Writer’s Digest, Publishers Weekly, Poets & Writers, or The Writer. Check out Writer’s Market: 2021.Attend writer conferences or publishing seminars. Learn and be empowered.
Read, Read, Read!!
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Brian Feinblum, the founder of BookMarketingBuzzBlog, can be reached at email@example.com. His insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are the product of his genius. You can – and should — follow him on Twitter @theprexpert. He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2020. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s The Independent. This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by BookBaby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by WinningWriters.com as a “best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo.