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.

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.
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.