fbpx

How Books Are Chosen for Publication 

Challenges for New Writers: Getting Noticed

Yesterday I spoke to the fact that it is hard for a new writer to get noticed.  I mentioned that a friend of mine had four New York Times Bestselling authors who had given his manuscript a cover quote and yet not one of the twenty agents that we contacted would even take a look at the manuscript.  A couple of you expressed a bit of disbelief. 
  
Part of the problem, I’m sure, is that we went to the top 20 agents for thrillers in the field.  In all likelihood, these top agents had very little room on their lists for new clients.  
  
But we had the same roadblock when we sent the book out to publishers.  We did get a couple of publishers who were willing to take a look, but the response wasn’t even . . . whelming. 
  
I think that this underscores a problem in how books are being selected for publication. 
  
Part of the problem might be with the editors themselves.  I was at a convention the other day, and I believe that it was Tracy Hickman who put it this way.  Let me paraphrase, ‘The problem in publishing is that there aren’t a lot of good editors.  An average editor, and sometimes even a poor editor, can look at a manuscript and tell you if it is timely, if it is the kind of thing that will sell based on current trends. But it takes a good editor to look at something that is different from other stories, something truly original, and say, ‘this will sell.” 
  
I think that he is right.  A lot of editors can say, “Wow, here’s a vampire story that is so good that it’s almost on par with Stephenie Meyer!”  On the basis of that, they can select the novel for publication and their marketing department will agree to purchase the rights from a new author. 
  
Similarly, if you write anything that easily fits within an established genre–a romance, a western, a mainstream thriller, you’re an easy sell. 
  
But what if you’re different?  What if you’ve written a story that has no vampires, and yet would appeal to the very same massive audience that Meyer does simply because you hit the same emotional tags? 
  
Well, a good editor would figure it out, whereas a poor one would be lost.   
  
But the quality of the editors isn’t the only problem.  Even if a great editor recognizes the value in your story, he or she still has to sell it to his or her superiors and of course he has to sell it to the marketing department.  Very often, it is the marketing department that will make the final judgment.  So your brilliant editor often hits a roadblock. 
  
Of course, as editors mature and gain more power, they get the freedom to make some tougher calls.  A senior editor at a publishing house might have the authority to make a six-figure purchase based upon his reputation.  Meanwhile, a brilliant editor who is new to the field might not have the authority to make any offers at all–without first consulting his or her bosses. 
  
The question that every marketing department has to ask of any acquisition is, “Will this sell, and if so, how are we going to sell it?”   
  
If your book fits easily into a genre–military science fiction, let’s say, or vampire YA–then the publisher knows that they can sell that type of book.  The fact that the genre niche is having healthy sales is proof enough that the title can find an audience. 
  
So if the publisher is interested, then they might look at the book and say, “Okay, so how is this different from other books in the genre?  How are we going to differentiate this title from others on the shelf?”  The answer might be, it has a female protagonist, or that the book is written brilliantly, or that it has the coolest aliens ever imagined.  These differences might sell the novel. 
  
But not every book needs to be different from others in its niche.  You can’t, for example, approach a romance publisher and say, “This one is different because it is told from the man’s point of view.”  Harlequin doesn’t want that.  Indeed, in some well established lines, you’re not allowed to have a male love interest who has red hair, or who is shorter than five feet, ten inches.  If the love interest is poor, that’s another reason to reject the book. 
  
So the marketers always then ask, “So what’s special about the author?”  The answer might be, “This military SF author is a woman who works in Military Intelligence in Afghanistan and holds the rank of Colonel.”  That’s good.  It gives the writer credibility.   
  
It also helps if she also looks great on television and has a sense of humor.  She’ll be great for interviews. 
  
Better yet, it’s helpful is she is an active blogger who gets 100,000 visitors to her website per month. 
  
It also helps when the writer is young and in good health, so that the publisher knows that they can count on a long relationship. 
  
In any case, I can’t stress enough that when an editor looks at your book, he or she won’t just select it based upon how beautifully written or remarkably imaginative it is.  Ultimately, editors are hired to buy books that will sell.  Therefore it is up to you to make your book and yourself into marketable commodities. 

best websites 2018 the writers life david farland mystorydoctor
best websites 2017 badge