What Is The Book Industry Telling Fiction & Business Authors About Traditional Publishing?
The same things we are!
It was nice to get that validation earlier this month at the 31st annual Cocoa Beach Writers Conference. Our vice president for media operations, Alex Hinojosa, attended as a workshop speaker – and took the opportunity to attend a few workshops himself.
I love these events because not only do you get to meet lots of interesting people, you’re also offered a smorgasbord of sessions whose leaders are experienced professionals in their fields. Alex took advantage and sat in on some led by publishers and agents. He came back excited about what he’d heard.
“They’re saying exactly the same things you’ve been saying for so many years,” he told me.
No, I wasn’t surprised, and neither was Alex. But I always appreciate validation! Particularly when it comes from industries with a financial stake in an author’s success.
I asked Alex to share his biggest takeaways from the writers’ conference with you, and here’s what he had to say:
What it Takes to be a Successful 21stCentury Author
We all know that you can’t simply produce something wonderful – be it a book, product or service – and expect people to find it if you don’t get the word out. That’s marketing, and that hasn’t changed.
But many things have changed. Some authors still believe they can get a great agent simply on the strength of the quality of their books.
And once they have that agent, they’re on their way to a lucrative contract with a big publishing house. Then, all they have to do is kick back and start collecting the royalties – or get going on their next book.
Here’s what you need to know.
- Count on doing your own marketing. Publishers and agents alike emphasized this point. The days of traditional publishing houses rolling out the advertising and publicity campaigns for their authors are pretty much over. Sure, if you’re J.K. Rowling today – but not back in 1997 when her first Harry Potter book had a print run of 1,000 copies. Nowadays, unless you’re getting an advance of $100,000 or more, most publishers do almost zero promoting. They’re counting on the authors to do that themselves. Of course, if you self-publish, it goes without saying that you’ll do your own marketing or pay for someone to do it for you. At least in the latter case, you retain the rights to your book and you’re not sharing the profits.
- If you don’t have a platform, you need to build one.What’s a platform? It’s a nebulous term that refers to how many followers you can attract to your book. If you’re an elected official, a friend of Mick Jagger, or a leading expert in your industry, you have a platform. If you don’t have that kind of draw, you need to build a platform by developing a media presence. For most people the realistic way to do that is to start with online social networks – Twitter, Google+, etc. It’s free, it’s accessible, and it offers quantifiable results. To that end, an agent at the conference told me she won’t even consider taking on an author with fewer than 1,500 social media followers. Even then, they need to build toward a goal of 10,000 followers because publishers won’t consider an author with less.
- Publishers want to see relevant credentials. Whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, publishers know you’ll have a far easier time getting media attention if you have credentials related to your subject matter. For instance, a 25-year firefighting veteran writing a mystery novel about a series of deadly arsons has good credentials. A homemaker writing about Cold War spies does not. While you’re likely to get turned down by publishers if you don’t have those obvious credentials, here at EMSI, we know that it doesn’t mean you can’t get media attention. Sometimes, our clients’ credentials lie in all the research they did for their book. Or they may have expertise relevant to a theme in the book. It just takes thinking a little more creatively.
Publishers and agents are demanding the authors they take on meet certain criteria because they know how crucial those are to successful marketing. So, whether you’re hoping for an agent and a contract, looking for a small independent publisher, or self-publishing, these tips apply to you.
The wonderful thing is, you stand a much better chance today of successfully marketing your book than15 years ago. The digital age has made it both affordable and accessible.
All you add is passion.
Marsha Friedman launched EMS Incorporated in 1990. Her firm represents corporations and experts in a wide array of fields such as business, health, food, lifestyle, politics, finance, law, sports and entertainment. She consults individuals and businesses on a daily basis and is frequently asked to speak at conferences about how to harness the power of publicity. Outside of the office, she is also the founder of a non-profit organization called the Cherish the Children Foundation. In 1996 the White House recognized her charity which sets out to raise awareness of the plight of underprivileged and foster children.