You guys have requested I write more posts regarding publishers, what they’re looking for, and the whole publishing process. So, this will be the first post of several posts about publishing.
So, let’s start with the big picture. What is a publisher really looking for? What is going to make the difference between your book showing up on shelves versus them saying no to something you worked incredibly hard on.
Well, fortunately, it’s really not that complicated. To put it in just a few words: publishers wants books that will sell. They want to bring in money, revenue, and publicity just as much as you do, and, therefore, they are only going to put effort into publishing your book if it promises that. So how do publishers determine this? As it turns out, most publishers look for five common things in books when deciding whether or not to publish them. Keep reading to find out what these are.
Obviously, before a publisher even considers publishing your book, they will need to see your manuscript. One of the first things a publisher looks at when deciding whether or not your book will sell is your writing and quality. If you are a poor writer or exhibit poor writing skills throughout your book, you can already bet on not getting published. In addition, if you are a fiction author and your story line sucks and is boring, then you will also won’t get published. Bad writing won’t only deter readers and not sell, but it also will reflect badly on the publishing company as a whole because it just isn’t professional. One of the keys to writing a great book is writing something that readers couldn’t write themselves. You need to wow readers and the publishers with your story, writing skills, and professionalism so that they can say, “hey, this is unique, this is polished, and I could never do this.” Of course the goal isn’t to discourage readers if they are aspiring writers, but to inspire those who read your work. The same goes for a publisher. They are in their industry for a reason, and they are looking for good stories and books to publish. Give it to them.
After looking at the quality of your book, publishers will need to determine if your book will sell or not. One of the first things they look at to determine this is genre. Certain genres of books may be more popular according to trends, current culture, audience, or advertising. Your publisher will most likely do some research on other books within your genre that have recently been published to see how well they sold. Unfortunately, if you have written an excellent book, but it’s genre isn’t popular or hasn’t been selling well, you have less of a chance of getting published. While this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to rewrite your entire book, it does mean you may need to make it more genre-neutral to improve your chances of publishing and sales. If you’ve written a fantasy novel, add in a few romantic elements to capture a different audience, or if you’re a science fiction author, try mixing in elements of fantasy or dystopian society to kind of blend your genre. This can also apply to non fiction writing depending on your topic. For example, every textbook or how-to article needs examples. Incorporate different genres by being creative with your examples, or, if you are writing about one single topic, try to speak a little bit on how it relates to outside events, current events, or history. Genre neutralizing (I will have a post on this soon!) your book will increase your chances of getting published, and perhaps your chance of sales as well.
3. Your Future Writing Plans
Ultimately, publishers want to sell books, and they want to sell as many books as possible. Therefore, if you are a multi-book author or are planning on it, they are more likely to publish your book because it brings with it the promise of future books. Series, multiple volumes, curricular, and sequels are very much encouraged because not only will it give the publisher more of a guarantee that they will sell books, but it also promises a longer time period of revenue, which leads to publicity. Readers that like your first book, will likely be interested in your second book and this leads to advertisements, previews, and pre-orders, all of which leads to publicity for the publishing company. Although being a multi-book author does not guarantee you a publishing approval, if you give a publisher a solid first book and tell them there’s another on the way, they will definitely be more likely to work with you.
4. Platform and Promotion
In order for your book to sell, people need to hear about it. If no one hears about it, it will not sell. While this may seem like common sense, gaining a following is harder than you might expect. When publishers consider your book for publication, they are going to ask you about your promotion methods and your writing platform; if you don’t have anything to say, you can toss your hopes of publication out the window. This all goes back to the main idea that publishers need to be convinced that your book will sell before they will work with you. So how do you go about gaining a following or building a platform for your book? While it might take some time (sometimes quite a lot of time) gaining a following is now easier than it ever has been due to social media and technology. I would recommend starting a blog for your book in order to advertise your writing. A blog is the best way to show off your writing skills, interact with other writers, and, eventually, inform people about your book. Another suggestion is to follow and show an interest in books of your genre or other writers and authors through profiles and groups on facebook, twitter, and instagram. Bottom line, the more you get your name out in the writing world, the better your platform becomes, and the more likely your publisher is to work with you. Just be careful not to advertise yourself too much before gaining a solid following. You don’t want to come across as an inexperienced, unpublished know-it-all that is trying to show off.
While publishers do look at how well other books of the same genre as yours have sold, they also look at how competitive your book will be against those same books. This means having a competitive title, plot, characters, or if your book is non fiction, new ideas, solid evidence, convincing argument, and validation. All in all, you need to make sure that your book will stand out among the many others that have already been published. The worst thing is to hand a publisher a manuscript and then basically have them tell you that it’s just white noise. So how does one make their book standout? Well, for starters I would recommend reading a lot of books from your genre as you write. Know where the bar is set, and go from there. Second, make sure that you aren’t copying said books that you are reading, because your publisher is looking for something unique and new. Third, make sure that you are presenting something you are proud of. Quality always shows up better if you do.
***Thanks so much for reading guys! I’ll post some additional links below to a few articles that might be even more helpful to you in your publishing process. Also feel free to leave advice in the comments about publishing, publishers, or anything else you might have learned in your experience. As always any advice is appreciated!***