WRITING: To attract a publisher
Updated: Jan 15
In the past three decades, having worked in the book world, publishing and printing, marketing and media, I figured it should be about time I put together my knowledge and experience. This is to help you, as an author, wade your way through the maze that it can sometimes be.
In the next few postings you will have the benefit of my experience and from it, you will get:
insights into how a publisher choses a book
what they look for that makes it stand out
how you, as the author, should present it
what you should say to grab attention
and much more besides
This series of topics will be aimed at helping you once you have finished your book - when you have in you that burning desire to see it in print.
To figure out how to write your book, simply check out How to be an author and gain some insights into creating your masterpiece.
For me, it was wonderful to be blessed with being able to grow up with my head forever in books (seriously) and then having the most fantastic adventure of actually working in the book industry. That thrill has never left me.
When it came to writing my own books, all I had to do was put all that I had learned into practice.
When you write a book, it's a cathartic experience. Putting the words down on the page lets loose the demons in your head. The multitude of views and characters that scream to be heard are forever at your finger tips - and they won't let you go until you write those final two words: THE END.
Once you have written those words, it's not the end for you as the author. Far from it.
It's the beginning of a new part of your book you now have to navigate
Of course, initially, you wrote the book for you. But now, to get your work into print (either by yourself or through a publisher) you really must connect with the reader you want to capture.
Knowing how the publishing wheels turn, is a distinct advantage, however, you won't have to spend thirty years doing what I have done in order to get that. You only have to take from my experience, knowledge and insight which I'm freely giving to you.
Back in the 'old days', people used to write a book, then print it off (a huge 300+ page manuscript) and pop it into the post - to one of the big five publishers, based in London or New York.
At the beginning of my career, I often found myself sitting in the darkest slush pile room where I was ordered to shred the rejections.
I heard the story (and it might not be true, but just go with it), of JK Rowling's great good fortune when a woman like me decided to have a tea-break in one of these slush-pile rooms. Of course, that's when she sat down and started to read Harry's adventures. Once she saw the story unfold, she scurried off to her editor with it hot in her hands.
The rest, my friends, is history.
There are other writers, though, who don't get such luck. So, all we can say is:
"Thank God the publishing business has changed!"
Well, yes, and no.
You see, publishing hasn't changed all that much. Publishing is still controlled (in the main) by the big five publishing houses:
Penguin Random House
Simon & Schuster
However, you still have to get the attention of a member of the editorial staff in either of those companies, who would be willing to spend time assessing your manuscript.
If you chose to do it alone (i.e. self-publish) you still have to be able to put your story into print, get it online and learn the formatting process before you even get to hit that 'publish' button.
After all this, you then sit and wait for the sales to start racking up. But they don't and you wonder why.
You see, the publishing of your book is the relatively easy part. The publisher can assess and accept your book, begin to print and then promote it on a grand scale but, if people don't want to read it, they're not going to buy it.
Then you give up, sit alone with your pc/laptop/iPad, depressed and wonder where you went wrong.
What has changed, my dears, is the marketing
to know your work
to like you as a person
to get to know your characters and the tale you want to tell
They are the key ingredients.
In comparison, publishing is relatively easy. It's just making sure you get the right set of algorithms, being persistent with getting those words sorted and taking the time to understand the formats you have to save your document in to get it onto whichever platform it needs to be uploaded to - are some of the hardest parts.
But there is more to it than that and, before we go into any depth on how to publish (and promote) your book, I would like you to figure out the following of and for your book:
Title of work: Main title and subtitle
Author: Your name or pseudonym/alias
Genre/Premise: for a list of BewleyBooks' genres, look at the fiction/non-fiction sections here
Structure/Style: Is it slow or fast paced? Is it a wordy or quick read? Is it high or low-brow entertainment? How many chapters are there? What is the plot and theme? Is it written in the first or third-person, or something else entirely? Is it fiction or non-fiction? A memoir, biography or autobiography (and do you know the difference)?
Characters: How many are there, who is your protagonist/antagonist? What are their parts in the story? How do you set them up and let them fall? What challenges do they face?
Dialogue: Does it read like a film script or a 19th Century tome? How much dialogue is there in comparison to descriptive text? Does it show or tell? Does it show and tell?
Practical Implications: What market would your book appeal to? What type of reader are you aiming for? What age group? What formats would it suit? What age group? Have you got a following of any kind, whether in the physical or online world? What is your social media following like - platforms, followers, groups? Are you prepared to do the marketing leg-work (i.e. blogs, pods, vlogs)? Have you been to any book fairs? How many publishers/agents have you already approached with this book and what was their reason for rejection?
Overall comments: What sort of book do you think it is similar to? How did you come up with the idea for it? Is it personal or practical? How long have you been writing it? How much time have you invested in it?
Word Count: is it an 80k-100k word novel? Or a 25k novella? Or is it a bible-thumping 300k educational document?
This is a very short list that will help the publisher you approach to figure out if this is the kind of book they are interested in publishing.
Oh, and don't be 'secretive' about your book! That really doesn't help a publisher decide on whether to invest in your work. A publisher cannot be classed as an 'average' reader. A reader or potential book buyer will spend, at the most, £24.99 for your book. A publisher, n the other hand, well they're looking at over £6,000.00 to plough into your work.
Therefore, they need to know from the get-go if your work is going to be a viable investment. So, don't hide your manuscript ending or title from them in the hope that they'll get excited. They won't. You'll only pee them off.
If you don't know the answers to any of the questions I've posed above, then not to worry, as we'll be covering all of them over the following months.
Until then, all my best,
Kaye is a freelance publisher, author and certified psychotherapist with over three decades of experience. She is also a writer for various blogs about writing, publishing, travelling and health care.
Feel free to visit her BewleyBooks.com site, where you can sign-up to follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and YouTube.