5 Things Publishers Care about More than Good Writing
by Brooke Warner
Many aspiring authors are naïve about what it takes to get published in today’s publishing climate. I know, this is a harsh way to start a post, but over the course of my 13 years in book publishing, I’ve found this to be true.
Recently, a reader told me my new book, What’s Your Book?, was sobering when it came to the part about getting published. And that’s because I want writers to be armed with the right information so that they have a shot at getting traditionally published if that’s what they want.
Being savvy about getting published, for better or for worse, means becoming a bit dispassionate. The relationship you’ll eventually have with your publisher is not one in which they do (or want to do) a whole lot of hand-holding. Publishers (understandably) want to work with authors who bring to the table not just a good manuscript, but marketing and publicity ideas and initiative. You don’t have to be a marketing expert, by any means, but you do need to understand how much it matters.
So, in the spirit of dispassion, here are 5 things publishers care about more than good writing.
- Your platform. I have an entire chapter of my book dedicated to platform because it’s central to getting a publishing deal. It means having a great website complete with a blog and being active on social media—with a decent number of followers (at least 500 for Facebook and 1,000 for Twitter to make an impact). Your platform is about increasing your visibility, and because, as an author, you’re up against a lot of competition in the marketplace, you must grow your visibility, and you must do it before you start shopping your book to agents or publishers.
- Your connections. If you don’t have a database, start one now. The number of people you’re connected to or have the capacity to reach should be a highlight of your book proposal if you’re writing nonfiction, or your pitch letter if you’re writing fiction. Your connections are more than your social media following. These are people you can sell to, who will be the shoo-in buyers of your book when the time comes. If you know the only shoo-ins you have are you’re friends and family, you need to start tending to your database.
- Your can-do attitude. You can showcase this in your pitch, in your proposal, and in the simple existence of a strong online presence. You need to come to the table with enthusiasm, but be realistic. Hype-y language will not get you very far with agents and editors who know the world of books. A can-do attitude is expressed on the page by writing about your willingness to try new things, to reach out to everyone you know, and to think outside the box. For a good example of this, see the sample marketing ideas proposed in the Marketing/Publicity section of “Create a Winning Nonfiction Book Proposal.”
- Your professionalism. Do a lot of heavy-lifting before you start shopping your book. Get an assessment. Work with a professional. Spend money to be edited, multiple times. Many authors will work with a developmental editor, a copyeditor, and a proofreader before they shop their work to an agent. Does this cost money? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes.
- Your ability to be collaborative. Again, you can showcase this in writing by talking about how collaborative you are in your proposal or your pitch, and the energy behind what you say will go a long way. Think of it this way: no one wants to work with someone who’s going to be a hassle. Prepare yourself to be a good partner on the journey that is getting your book published. You need to look out for your interests, of course, but the notion that some writers still harbor, that the publisher is somehow getting an asset when they sign a new author, is off-base. A book is a liability until it sells well (at least until it earns out its advance)—and all parties, but most especially the author, have to work their butts off to make it an asset.
Brooke Warner is founder of Warner Coaching Inc. and publisher of She Writes Press. Brooke’s expertise is in traditional and new publishing, and she is an equal advocate for publishing with a traditional house and self-publishing. What’s Your Book? is her first book, and she’s honored to be publishing on She Writes Press.
Find Brooke online:
www.warnercoaching.com • www.shewritespress.com • Facebook • Twitter • Pinterest