Getting a Book Published is Knowing What Not To Do
There are three easy steps to sink your book’s prospects
And there are many more. But let’s be charitable and assume your book is the bee’s knees. It’s beautifully written; readers are lapping up books covering your chosen theme, and you are bringing something new to the table. Publishers and agents will be delighted to hear from you.
If only. The truth is best faced sooner than later. Publishing is a cut-throat business, and one that is seldom as professional as you might imagine. For every intelligent, benevolent adviser assessing drafts from writers there are hundreds of low-paid, over-worked staff who all imagine they are God’s gift to literature and view submissions from new writers as fodder to be disposed of in record time. Offer these people the slightest opportunity to reject your work and they’ll take it – before they’ve read a word of the book itself.
Getting a book published therefore requires careful consideration of how to avoid the bear traps!
Getting Published – The Rules
1. Horses for Courses.
Don’t enter your horse for a race it can’t win. Mills and Boon are highly successful, but are unlikely to give your non-fiction survey -‘Sparrows of the Kalahari’ a moment’s thought. The better focused and businesslike publishers are, the more likely they are to know precisely what they will consider or reject. Homework, e-mails and phone calls must identify who are in the market for your future book. You must first know which market you are aiming at (not as easy as it appears) then ensure your draft is aimed at the right target.
2. Leap one hurdle at a time.
The majority of works submitted to publishers are not read. Why? Because the e-mails, letters, proposals and synopses that accompany them reveal the shoddiness of what must surely follow – in the book proper. Why should a publisher overlook woolly descriptions and amateurish summaries of an author’s work? If someone is incapable of describing the merits of their own handiwork why should others find it fruitful? One in a thousand writers may be congenitally incapable of succinctly describing their own masterpiece; no publisher or agent worth his salt can spare the time to burrow through a thousand drafts to find it. Have one objective in mind at this submission stage: to get your book or extracts at least read. Nothing more – nothing less.
3. Be economical with the truth.
A short introductory letter, accompanied by a one page synopsis and a paragraph or two describing the readership you seek to reach should be more than enough to entice a publisher to request/read extracts of your work. The letter is purely a courtesy – simply introduce yourself and your work; the synopsis should reveal the bones of your book so that the reader can instantly appreciate its essence – but don’t flesh out these bones: the extracts will do that. The few paragraphs about your intended readership will indicate to publishers that you understand what their readers wish to read.
You will not receive any Brownie points for length or literary ability; quite the reverse. The more concise, brief and businesslike you are, the more likely the reader will thank you and request sight of extracts. Remember, all you want is someone to taste the book itself, not hand out gongs for writing menus.
A book editing service can help you tune these preparatory stages. The synopsis is the most difficult, and the most important. Writing these is a business skill rather than a literary one and, where authors find it a task too far, look for editors who will do the job for you. An independent, outside view of your work usually ensures your work is read. Then it’s up to the merits of your writing to carry the day.