One of the questions I get asked quite often by authors is what do traditional publishers look for when they want to pick up a self published title. It wasn’t that long ago that that question would seem absurd, but the Indie Publishing revolution has dramatically changed the world for authors, agents and publishers. So now agents are watching self published books to see if they might be interested in shopping the titles and publishers are paying attention to see if there is a title they want to add to their catalog. But what are they looking for? Based on my conversations with agents and publishers, there are four key things.
Good writing–This may sound obvious, but it is the place to start. Is the writing style fresh or redundant? If it is fiction, does the story pull the reader along? Is it edited or does the manuscript need lots of work? These are the questions publishers ask themselves when they read a self published title.
Interesting topic–Is the topic of the book something that is relevant for today’s reader or does the author take a topic and make it interesting? This is one of the considerations agents and publishers make when evaluating self published titles.
Platform–Does the author have a platform, or in other words, a built-in audience for the book? Are they connected on social media to potential readers because in the new world, the author and publisher are marketing partners.
Space in their list–Even if the book is well written and is interesting and the author has a platform, the book still may not be picked up because the publisher does not have a place in their list for a book like the one they are evaluating. It may not fit their editorial goals, but more often than not, it is because they already have a similar book or books already cued up for publication. Plus, most publishers have drastically cut the number of new titles they are picking up. One publisher told me not that long ago, they would pick up 30 titles in a year. Then they went down to ten. This year they will pick up three to five new titles. So even if you are in their top ten, it doesn’t mean you will get picked up.
Now for some this may seem disheartening, but don’t despair, this is still the best time in history to be an author. Even if a traditional publisher doesn’t pick up your book, you still have more opportunity than ever to connect with readers and sell your book.