So, you’ve finished your novel and have had it critiqued by a professional, tweaked and road-tested, inspected and corrected, line-edited and copy-edited and proofread. You’re satisfied that it’s as good as it’s going to get, and you think it’s pretty great. (Yay, you!)
I would imagine your thoughts are running something like this:
- Am I likely to find a publisher?
- Do I need an agent first?
- How likely am I to even get an agent to read my book?
- If I can’t find a publisher or an agent, should I give up or dare I self-publish?
- If I self-publish, do I have any chance of selling the book to anyone besides friends and family?
These are THE questions!
Every situation is unique, but I’ll offer some guidelines to help you get your thoughts together. In a series of posts, I’ll tackle each of these questions one by one. For this post, let’s think about the first question.
Am I likely to find a publisher?
It depends on your genre, how professionally written and edited your novel is, how saleable it is, and whether you have marketing savvy that you can demonstrate.
First, sit down and write out an elevator speech that quickly describes what’s amazing about your book. In two sentences or less, say why someone will want to read it. If you come up with a very compelling statement, you may have a shot at finding a publisher. Selling books is like speed-dating. You and whoever will be involved in selling your book need to make it sound amazing very quickly. This spiel has to make people say, “Oh, wow, I can’t wait to read about that!” It helps if your main topic is somewhat trendy (but not if that particular trend has already been done to death).
Second, ask yourself who is the audience for your book and how you will locate that audience. It’s best if you have a niche audience (i.e., the kinds of people who go to specific websites for information and advice (and book recommendations!).
Third, write down what sort of marketing savvy and/or author platform you can bring to the process. If you have something real to offer on this score, publishers will take your book seriously.
Truthfully, it is not easy for a novice writer without a marketing platform or an established fan base to find a publisher. On the other hand, certain genres (like romance and mystery) attract fans who are insatiable readers. Publishers are always looking for something new and good to offer in those categories.
The combination of a well-edited, taut, engaging novel and an author with proven media-savvy will impress publishers who need content. So take stock of what you have to offer. Remember, it’s not just about whether your book is good or not. It’s about whether it will sell. Publishers (except for the small nonprofits) are businesses, and their goal is to make money. You might ultimately find a publisher if your book is both good and saleable.
CARLY CANTOR is a publishing industry veteran who has worked in-house at a New York publisher as an acquisitions editor and is a two-time published author.