authors, book selling, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, writing

The 4 things traditional publishers are looking for in self published titles.

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.

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authors, book marketing, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, writing

What I heard from agents at the Writer’s Digest conference might surprise you.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend and speak at the Writers Digest conference. It was additional evidence that the Indie Publishing revolution is in full swing. Here are some of the highlights of what I heard
  • Agents are changing their tune and their role in publishing
I sat in on a panel called, “Ask the Agent”. It was very well attended and the agents on the panel did an excellent job. Some of their quotes that stood out to me, included
“I don’t believe there is a one size fits all for authors any more.
“I am working extensively with self published authors. I am delighted to work with them.”
“I don’t call myself an agent any more. I call myself an “author advocate”
It wasn’t that long ago that agents would not even give self publishing a mention, but clearly the changes in the past few years have caused them to see they must redefine their role in the publishing ecosystem and embrace what self-publishing brings to the industry and the market. Authors took notice. There was lots of interest at the Abbott Press booth. Abbott is the self publishing imprint of Writers Digest.
  • Marketing is really the authors job

In the same panel discussion mentioned above agents also talked about how marketing is really falling more and more to the author. In fact one agent, said “publishers are looking for authors to be partners in marketing.” That means authors must build their platforms.  I liked the definition one agent gave for a platform. He said, “a platform is a built-in audience for your book.”

  • Social media presence is a must-have for an author

It used to be the first thing an agent did was read the manuscript or query letter. Now, when they receive something from an author, the first thing many agents do is is google the author’s  name and look for a social media presence. That’s because authors have to be part of the marketing process and connect with potential readers. The days of just writing and letting everybody else do everything else are long gone. No matter how good of writer you are, you need to become a good marketer.

  • All the changes and choices are a good thing, but they are also confusing

It truly is the best time to be an author, but all these choices  can create challenges. One agent responded to a question from an author by sayin, “You are in good company. We are all overwhelmed”. I appreciated his honesty, but there is help. One of the best things I think an author can do is subscribe to the Author Learning Center.

Overall, it was a very good conference. Lots of great content. Good collection of authors with a variety of experiences. I look forward to attending again next year


Self published books have to be better than traditional books according to one agent to get noticed.
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authors, book marketing, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, Thomas Nelson

A great idea for self published authors: Use video to promote your book before it is live.

Recently I had a chance to view this video from a first time author who is publishing on Westbow Press. Hunter Smith, who was a punter for the Indianapolis Colts during their championship years,  has written a book titled, The Jersey Effect, which speaks of his faith journey and what he realized about the impact wearing the “jersey” can have on the lives of people. He will be launching the book around the Super Bowl which is taking place in Indianapolis this year and he has released this video prior to the book’s availability.  I think this video has the elements that makes for a good video and it is something any author can replicate. I like this video because”

1. It tells me the inspiration for the book. I think readers want to know what prompted someone to take the time to write. I think it begins to connect reader and author which is a good thing.

2. It is out before the book is available. By releasing the video ahead of the book, it gives it a chance to make the video viral and create demand before the book is available.

3. It “rewards” the viewer for watching. This is a phrase I picked up from a former creative director I worked with. In other words, give the viewer something they will remember. Reward them for spending time watching the video. Too often author videos and book trailers simply convey a stream of facts and don’t leave the viewer with anything that stands out and they will remember. This video includes a memorable story that I think people will want to share.

View it for your self and let me know what you think.

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authors, Editing, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, writing

Ten mistakes a reader never misses: Misuse of Hyphens (Part 4)

Good writing can sometimes be ignored because of bad editing. That’s because a reader may assume if you did not care enough to correct obvious spelling and grammar errors than you must not have cared about your actual writing. In some cases, that might be true, but it most situations,  it is just a failure on behalf of the author to have the appropriate edit done to the manuscript. So I have tried to point out how easy it is to miss errors through this series of blog posts titled, Ten mistakes readers never miss. This installment will focus on the proper use of hyphens.

Hyphens are used—and must be used—in many ways an average writer isn’t aware of, such as in sentences like “He worked full- and part-time jobs” and “It was a well-planned and -executed move.” There are countless examples of the trouble improper or absent hyphenation causes. These errors, if not corrected by an editor, are a consistent cause of confusion for a reader. The  example below is a very basic one; however, it shows that hyphenating incorrectly or neglecting to insert a hyphen not only makes a sentence unclear; it often inadvertently changes the meaning of the sentence itself. In other words, when authors make these errors, they write something entirely different than what they mean.

Which is correct?

He went to the old book club.

He went to the old-book club.

It depends on what you mean. In the first sentence, he went to a book club that had been around a long time. In the second one, he went to a club for people who collect old books. (Remember this is a very simplified example of the kinds of hyphenation issues that  frequently come up)

The point is you definitely want to make sure a qualified editor reviews your manuscript before you publish. You will not regret it.

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authors, Editing, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, writing

Ten mistakes a reader never misses: Misspelled words spell check misses (Part 3)

Spell Check. It can be a blessing and a curse. It is a useful tool, but it can also mislead.  Many writers trust it like it is infallible, but you’d be surprised how many spelling errors an  editor will catch  in spite of  the Spell Check function. Real-word misspellings are by far the most common misspellings, so even when you run Spell Check carefully, there’s a chance you can make a mistake. For example if you typed “pane” when you meant “pain” spell check would not catch it, and there are hundreds of words like pain and pane.  That means if you typed a proper word, you can’t depend on Spell Check to catch a misspelling for you. For example, type the word “loins” instead of ” lions” and spell check would pass over it, but it would a reader would not.  Depending on the context, it might confuse readers or even make them laugh so having a competent editor read the manuscript is worth the investment.

The following example sentences help illustrate my point even more clearly.

“Starring through the cage bars, the bares were angry,” he rote.

It should read:   “Staring through the cage bars, the bears were angry,” he wrote.

Here’s another example:

Writing has lead me to affectively take changes, which compliments my life.

It should read: Writing has led me to effectively take changes, which complements  my life.

I think you get the point. It is easy to trust spell check and be let down, which means your manuscript may be less than it could be.

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authors, Editing, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, writing

Ten mistakes a reader never misses: Slippery words (Part 2)

In an earlier post, I discussed how easy it is for writers to make mistakes readers will never miss and how that can negatively impact a potential reader’s view of the book. So here are some common errors you can look for in your manuscript. I still highly recommend you invest in professional editing, but the following list will help you clean up your work and make it even better.

  1. Slippery words

Maybe you’ve feverishly typed out your book till the early-morning hours and are ready to publish now, or maybe you’re on your thirtieth draft and know most every sentence by heart. Th e Catch-22 of proofreading your own material is that you can’t be sure you’ve done it well no matter how much time you spend doing it. You can go over it again and again, but the more time you spend revising your book, the better you know your own words. Your eyes see what you’ve written in your head, not what’s on the page. You simply can’t self-edit. No one can. You need a second pair of experienced eyes. This is especially true when it comes to slippery words.

Keep in mind there are many more slippery words than these common ones:

your, you’re

there, their, they’re

where, were, we’re

too, two, to

its, it’s

Below are two examples of typical errors.

Your the author of a book that well help you polish

Your the author of a book that well help you polish.

You’re the author of a book that we’ll help you polish.

We two wanted to write are novel in there months.

We two wanted to write our novel in three months.

Easy mistakes to make. Hard to convince a reader this is a good book if they see those types of errors.  So look for more blog posts on this topic and make your book as good as it can be.

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authors, Editing, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, Publishing, self publishing, writing

Ten mistakes a reader never misses. (Part 1)

Editing your own writing is difficult, if not impossible, which is why having your manuscript professionally edited is so critical. Mistakes are easy to make and even easier to overlook.  No matter what your education background or experience, errors  are easy to miss, but it is important you don’t let them slip through.  Take these next two paragraphs for example. How many mistakes can you find? (Hint: There are 65)

Today, Shelley decides to stop by her all too familiar local book

seller. You see Shelly is a avid reader that enjoys a lot of different

books. Not to mention reading quiet a bit, accept on week

days. Walking down the isles, many books peek her interest. She

spots very unique covers which get her attention, irregardless

of their subject. After awhile, she gets to the point where she

must chose between three books. One looks best. Reading the

back cover, she fl ips to the about the author. Every thing looks

great. But, before she brings it to the counter, she starts to read

the forward.

Mark is not at all adverse to shopping on-line. In fact he fi nds

theres no where he likes to shop more then from one website.

Everyday after work he has proven so astute with his favorite

internet book store. Its an all together good experience especially

when he can browse in his PJ’s or work-out cloths on. Graphics

and snap shots eff ect his choice. Th ey wet his appetite and

help him hone the right book. While Mark is some one whose

usually confi dant in his instinct, the last thing he does when he

bys a book is click on the preview and red a few pages of it.

Did you find all 65? Chances are you did not, but don’t be discouraged. That is why professional editors are so valuable to authors. They look for the mistakes readers will never miss. In the next few posts,  I am going to give you ten things that can trip up readers and make your manuscript less than it could be.  Stay tuned.

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