In this post, we look at how to be successful in the publishing world.
What if books were published the minute writers had finished writing them? Reality is quite different. Writers need to actively tell publishers that their story exists. But how? This article will help.
How To Be Successful In The Publishing World
Let’s face it: nobody knows that your wonderful story exists. Nobody is waiting for you. The market is brimming with other books and stories. If you want your book to be published, you need to get competitive. We’ll help you to be successful at finding your way in publishing.
Scan The Market
Once you have finished your book, you need a publisher, maybe even an agent. Before you communicate with them, ask yourself this:
- Just how special and unique is your story?
- Is it close to any other story you know?
- How is it different from the stories within your genre?
If you cannot answer any of these questions, then you’re not ready. If you can, please go on reading!
Writing to agents/publishers about your new book is called pitching. All communication is relevant so don’t be too casual about it (but no need to get scared).
Before you start pitching, you need to do your homework. Gather all the relevant information:
1. Get to know to whom you pitch.
Find out as much as you can about the publisher or agent to whom you want to send your pitch. Here’s advice on how to find an agent.
- You can also find a list of links to agents on our FAQs page. (Look at question 5.)
- If you are looking for international publishers, please Google them, or you can purchase a copy of the Writer’s Market 2021 or the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2022.
If agents/publishers only deal in romance, don’t send them your spy thriller. Very often they state their preferences. So please find those who like to read your genre. After all, how would you feel if you asked for a thriller for Christmas, but got a cheesy romance instead?
2. Respect submission guidelines.
Check the publisher’s or agent’s website. Some have guidelines for submissions, some even have a form for pitching. If these exist, use them effectively. It’s a way to show how much you care to work with the publisher/agent. If you can successfully pitch your story within their framework, you show your skill as an author. You can check out a few submission guidelines here.
3. Know what came before.
No one can reinvent the wheel. But you can embellish the wheel, change the size, the color, the style, or give it extra functions. So, check if a story like yours has ever been published before. If the answer is yes, don’t worry. Then your pitch (and your story!) should state a special angle or raise different questions. Give the editors/agents/publishers a reason why they should pay attention to your version of the story.
Here’s an example: The movie Pretty Woman is a modern version of Cinderella. If you mention the fairy-tale to publishers, they will roll their eyes and ask ‘Really? Yet another version?’ That’s when you explain that your version turns the fairy-tale upside down: the prince is a reckless business tycoon, and Cinderella is a prostitute. It’s that fresh new angle that will make the agents/publishers prick their ears.
4. Make it shine.
Your pitch should be ‘clean copy’, without any mistakes. Each mistake would give the publisher or agent a reason to turn it down (why would they want to do that? I’ll explain in the next section).
Use the following checklist:
- Use a spell-checker. Use a second one.
- Check for grammar mistakes.
- Are all the names written correctly?
- Is your style consistent?
- Pay attention to the tone. A pitch is not a text for academia. It should sound persuasive, promising.
5. Understand the editor’s/publisher’s/agent’s job.
Whoever you approach, rest assured you’re not the only one pitching. These decision-makers don’t want extra work. But they do want to be part of a success story. So, present yourself as an ideal contributor. Make it easy for them to understand what your book is about. Give them relevant information as briefly as possible. This is called an elevator pitch. It includes:
- Basic storyline (‘logline’)
- Genre (and the audience it gears to. Is it a teenage romance, or adult sci-fi?)
- Length of your text (novella/a short or long novel/a trilogy even?)
Now you are ready to send the actual pitch. Please make sure that the agents/publishers accept pitches directly. Sometimes, you may have to write a query-letter before you can pitch. You most certainly need such a letter to accompany your synopsis.
I Sent The Pitch – What Next?
After the pitch is before the extended pitch: there is more homework for you to do.
Agents/publishers will not base their decision on a single pitch. Publishing involves big money and they’re looking for a solid investment. If your pitch pleases them, they will want to get to know you and your writing better. Prepare for the following questions:
1. Who are you?
This is how an agent/publisher shows general interest in you as a writer. So, tell them everything about your identity as a writer. Here, you could mention any creative writing classes you took, how long you’ve been writing, if you have a blog, or if you’re a member of a writing organisation. This is where you get to impress them. Don’t be too humble!
2. Where did this story come from?
Tell the agent/publisher what inspired you. Is there a specific reason or personal story that made you write this novel?
3. What else are you working on?
Here, they sound out if you’re a one-hit-wonder, or an investment with potential. They want to know how serious you are about writing and if they can expect more stories to come.
4. How does your book fit into the marketplace?
Again, this is to find out how professional you are as a writer. It’s also the easiest way for the agent/publisher to hear your ideas on marketing. Where you see yourself in the market, especially if that spot is very competitive, gives the agent/publisher an idea of how much marketing your book might need.
5. What authors would you compare yourself/your story to?
Where do you see yourself? Agents/publishers want to find out if you know what’s popular in your genre and if you’re able to use that in your own story.
6. Who are your favourite authors?
Writers must be readers first. This is how you learn your craft! Whoever you mention here will tell the agents/publishers from whom you learn.
7. Do you have any questions for me?
How about asking about the publishing process? Or even better, ask them for feedback on that initial pitch or the query letter you sent them. This feedback is invaluable. If you incorporate it into your next approach, you will get better, possibly even closer to a publishing contract!
If the agents/publishers are interested, they will request more material. Make sure your manuscript is ready and a synopsis is prepared. You can learn how to write a synopsis here.
The Last Word
It can be scary to get in touch with the publishing world. But remember, you already have one thing in common: These are people who love books just like you! With a little bit of preparation, you will gain the confidence to finally approach an agent or a publisher. Good luck!
- Write Your Novel In A Year – Week 45: How To Find A Top Literary Agent
- How To Write A One-Page Synopsis
- How To Write A Query Letter In 12 Easy Steps
By Susanne Bennett. Susanne is a German-American writer who is a journalist by trade and a writer by heart. After years of working at German public radio and an online news portal, she has decided to accept challenges by Deadlines for Writers. Currently she is writing her first novel with them. She is known for overweight purses and carrying a novel everywhere. Follow her on Facebook.
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