Archive for May, 2008

Things Newbies Say

Monday, May 12th, 2008

What are your favorites? You know, the ones you hear over and over from people who aren’t professionals in the book business?

Some of mine:

This book will appeal to everyone. No, it won’t.

There are no comparable titles. There are almost 400,000 books published each year in the US alone. Every book has competition.

I’m an author, marketing is your problem. Only if you don’t care about money or your career. Yes, publishers do market the book, but they can’t market it nearly as well without the assistance of the author.

I don’t need any editing. Every word is perfect. Ahem.

This is public domain. I found it on the Internet. Things on the Net are still under copyright.

My book would have been a bestseller if only the publisher had printed enough copies. Very few publishers have difficulty feeding demand for a book. If there’s any demand to feed, that is.

You need to know someone or be a celebrity to get published. No one cares how good your book is. Acquiring editors are scouring every source they can find for the next unknown with a brilliant manuscript. The lucky few who find one have a huge career boost. Those who find more than one are made for life. (See my last post for ways to get published.)

Publishing with a well-known POD company is a good way to get “real publishers” to notice your book. There are no shortcuts in this industry.

Okay, your turn!

Getting Published

Saturday, May 10th, 2008

I keep hearing writers say that they can’t get their manuscript published. On closer examination, most of them haven’t tried the right way or they haven’t tried enough. What’s the right way? How much is enough? Here’s my take on it:

1. Start with a manuscript that’s good enough. How do you know if yours is ready? Get a critique of it from an editor, bookstore buyer, or someone else in the business who has worked with that kind of book. Don’t ask an English professor or someone who has worked on self-help books, when yours is science fiction. Don’t rely on the opinion of anyone who is fond of you, and never trust the opinion of anyone who’s related to you!

2. Know the market. Writing a book is only part of the author’s responsibility. The rest of it involves promoting that book. Know who your ideal reader is, with great specificity. Understand why that reader wants a book of this type, and what needs that book should fill. Know a lot about the other books available to meet those needs. How is yours better for that reader? (Yes, this applies even to fiction, and no, writing with the reader in mind doesn’t have to mean becoming a hack. Literature reaches deep into our psyches and fills our most important needs.)

3. Know the market even more. Figure out where these narrowly defined ideal readers hang out, and what else they may be doing (besides reading books). Think about how you might help those who will most want it to find it. This may entail blogging, participating in listservs, or writing for magazines that are read by your target reader.

4. Write a pithy sentence or two that captures the essence of what makes your book distinctive and appealing and to whom. (It’s called an elevator speech.)

5. Using all of the above, write a proposal that tells an agent or editor about your book, its market, and why it will appeal to that market. Include enough information that it’s clear you will be an asset in the marketing of this book.

6.Assemble a list of 50 or so agents **who handle your type of book**, and write half or a quarter of them a personalized query that encapsulates the proposal in 2 or 3 short paragraphs, all within the expressed requirements of that agent, and the conventions applicable to your type of book.

If you don’t get a request for a proposal and/or a manuscript from a good number of them, your query needs work. If after sending proposals, you don’t get a request for a full ms from most of those, your proposal needs work.

When you’ve ironed both of them out, send more queries to the rest of your list. Don’t use up the full list until you’ve got a solid query and proposal.

7. If you haven’t got 50 rejections from agents and editors, try again and again . . .

8. Work on the next book while you’re trying to sell this one. Even if this one doesn’t sell initially, you’ll probably be able to place it after you have another book that sells successfully.

9. Once your book is published, work hard, in concert with the publicist assigned by your publisher, to make your book a success. Every agent and acquisitions editor can now easily see what your past sales were like. So can the buyers who order stock for bookstores. It’s no longer enough to leave your career in the hands of your publisher’s over-worked and under-paid marketing department.

10. The book business is a very, very small one. Treat everyone well, or you’ll get a reputation that you don’t want. Treat them very well, and word of that will spread, too.

Now for the stinger: I’ve never written or published a book. I’ve never been an agent or an acquiring editor. All of the above is based upon what I’ve heard from those who are agents and editors over the 17 years I’ve been doing this.

So, all you who read this — what did I get wrong?