Agent Queries and Publisher Proposals – Why You Should Use Links, Not Attachments


By Charles S. Weinblatt

Copyright © 2014

Abstract: Agents and publishers do not accept unsolicited letters, proposals or manuscripts from a novice author. Nor will they open an e-mail attachment from an author unknown to them. A well-connected literary agent is your access to major publishers and major publishers can shower you with a hefty advance and place the efforts of the best editors, graphic artists, printers, marketers and publicists at your doorstep, to make your book a market success. So, how do we, as unknown (or little known) authors, get agents and publishers to deliver contract offers?

This series of articles will help new or unknown authors understand how to create desired proposals and what literary agents and publishers will accept or reject. It offers a structural framework for distributing vast amounts of positive author information (platform) in a safe and protected manner that agents and publishers will feel good about opening without a malevolent result. Using a variety of embedded live Internet links, your author’s platform will be instantly available and with significant depth of data. This includes opportunities to sample different kinds of writing, writing awards, major newspaper, magazine and journal articles, TV, radio and broadcast news about you and reviews for your books from the most compelling and persuasive review organizations. This method will deliver the greatest amount of positive platform data in the most benign and viable manner.

Would you open an e-mail attachment from someone you’ve never heard of, who lacks any connection with you personally or by way of business? When someone you’ve never known sends you a poorly-worded e-mail informing you of their desire to share $20 million that their poor dead father left in some obscure bank account in Ghana just for you, do you give them your personal information? If a stranger via e-mail offers a free roof on your house if you will only open the attachment, do you open it? Well guess what? Neither will agents or publishers open your attachment. They don’t know you and now that you’ve contacted them in this manner, they never want to know you.

First, read the submission rules on each and every agent and publisher web site. Some agencies and publishers are closed to submissions or proposals. Sometimes this is only temporary, or for one or two genres. Those that will accept a proposal typically have solid rules for submission. Sometimes they even embed a strange or unusual rule, just to make sure that applicants are obeying. They own the game. Disobey their submission rules at your own risk. But remember, unless you’re a very well-known celebrity, you need them much more than they need you.

Never send a literary agent or a publisher an e-mail proposal in which the most important information has been added as an ATTACHMENT. This might sound like something everyone should already know, but then you might be surprised with the number of neophyte authors who don’t comprehend or who or won’t obey the rules. A number of small publishers and literary agents have regaled me with stories about how rookie authors ignore both submission rules and common sense.

In the past, we wrote manuscripts upon metal typewriters or by hand, paid to have it professionally edited and then we mailed the entire manuscript on paper to a literary agent or a SMALL independent publisher. Major publishers rarely opened or responded to unsolicited proposals then, let alone now.

Today, agents and publishers do NOT want to read your manuscript. Nor do they want your snail mail. If they desire you to hear from you at all, it must be in an e-mail with a brief description of who you are, why you have contacted them and why they should have any interest in your writing. All platform data should be in links, not attachments. If your platform measures up and if the topic is of any remote interest, then they will want to know more about your talent. And they will not open an attachment, period. If you send one anyway, your wonderfully-crafted e-mail and its attachment will be unceremoniously dumped into the e-trash pile.

Nor does an agent or publisher want to read a ten page electronic document that explains in great detail who you are and why you are making this contact. They desire your platform, but only in an electronic format that allows then to pick and choose which aspects to access in detail, with no attachment to open. Think about how Wikipedia encodes a vast amount of information about a person through a combination of headings, narrative and links. This is what you need to accomplish, but in an even more concise manner, via your e-mail message and embedded links. Your goal in submission should be three or four paragraphs, filled with LINKS and NO attachments.

That’s a lot about what not to do when contacting an agent or a publisher. So, how does a novice author win this contest?

First, and most obviously, you must have talent. No dashing protagonist or wondrous topic can make up for a lack of writing talent. Second, you must have a marketable book. James Michener could not have sold a book about how to drink a glass of water, regardless of how eloquent the prose or how deep the characters. Finally, you must be willing to spend a great deal of time marketing, show that you understand how to effectively promote books and demonstrate that you have already done so with other published books. All of this is part of your author platform. You can and must be able to prove that you have done this with other books. If you simply haven’t had the time to write a number of books and have then trade-published, then consider that your best years are ahead. You won’t be making the same mistakes as others. But there is no substitute for the time it takes to write, read, write some more and gradually use the learned aspects for future platform enhancement. The more you read, the more you’ll incorporate the best aspects of those author’s talents into your new books. I’m sorry if this does not coincide with our society’s value for instant success. The best authors spend decades reading the best authors and incorporating their winning attributes into their own books. If you are unwilling or unable to devote years toward learning how to be a great writer, then SP or vanity publish and best of luck to you.

For the rest of us, the answer lies in creating a relatively short (three to four paragraph) e-mail narrative that contains all of your platform and writing qualifications opened with LINKS, not attachments. While almost no one will open an attachment from a stranger, most of us will open a link. Why? They’re safer. Your computer might be wide open to attack if you expose a dangerous attachment; but chances are your browser will detect a threatening link and stop it before it opens. Add to that the protection derived from your firewall and anti-virus programs. Attachments are DANGEROUS, while links are much more benign. This article is about how to pass along positive aspects and details of your author platform via links that are live and safe, rather than via potentially-dangerous attachments.

Since your only real shot at an agent or publisher lies in placing all of your critical platform information in links, you will obviously need to put the data on commonly-used formats, such as You Tube, Facebook, Goodreads, book landing pages, major Internet interview sites, publisher sites and retailers, like Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. I love using two major free frameworks. One is BlogSpot. The other is WordPress. Both platforms are easy to use and are globally recognized. An important criteria in this decision is how well you can understand and use analytics. Analytics provide the reason for the season. They show us who is paying attention, where they discovered us and how much of our message is received.

Contacting an agent or a publisher is not simple or free of risk. As your author platform constitutes everything positive about you as an author, the way you deliver that platform is absolutely critical. In essence, you have a few sentences to sell yourself. The paragraph below elicits how I might contact an agent or a publisher.

I was born in Toledo, Ohio in 1952. I am a retired university administrator. I’m also the author of published fiction and non-fiction. My biography appears in Wikipedia,the Marquis Who’s Who in America, and I am a long-time reviewer for The New York Journal of Books. I write novels, short stories and articles. I’ve received many positive reviews for my recently published novel Jacob’s Courage, including by Jewish Book World and The Association of Jewish Libraries, which you can review here.  Additional information is available on LinkedIn, Goodreads and a Facebook fan page for my novel.

This one paragraph opens almost every aspect of my author platform. The Wikipedia page alone reveals most of my recent writing achievements. But it goes one important step further. It reveals my ability and my desire to heavily market and promote my books. Today, virtually all authors must market – self-published, subsidy-published and trade-published. If agents and authors do not see proof that you are willing and able to market, they are going to be less interested in you. But if they see you working very hard to market, they will give your book and talent a closer look.

When I decided to find a publisher for my debut novel, I understood nothing of how unknown authors are published or how to acquire a literary agent. As the years passed, I read a great deal more about the process. More recently, I’ve interviewed dozens of writers, agents and publishers. I gradually made fewer mistakes. While I remain a relatively unknown author, I have a decent author platform, my recent books have been trade-published, I have a well-connected literary agent and a major university will be publishing me for fiction later this year. That’s not a career in writing; nor do I desire one. But I’m happy to share what has worked and what industry leaders accept as the bare necessity of acquiring an agent or publisher.

Technology marches on and the publishing industry continues to adapt. This serves the interest of both sides. Authors can waste far less time on proposal and query generation. Agents and publishers can access multiple layers of information about an unknown or poorly-known writer electronically. The deeper they want to delve, the more links they decide to open.

NEXT: What to put into your literary agent query and your small publisher proposal.

 

89 Book Marketing Ideas That Will Change Your Life by Caitlin Muir


Almost all authors love to write. Some even enjoy editing. A few like graphic design and web page creation. But, let’s face it, almost all of us hate marketing and promotion. Sadly, all authors must contribute to marketing today, including trade-published authors. So, here is a link to a wonderful post by Caitlin Muir, called, “89 Book Marketing Ideas that will Change Your Life.” I’m not sure it will change your life, but it most certainly should make planning your book marketing tasks much easier. Read the entire article here: http://www.authormedia.com/89-book-marketing-ideas-that-will-change-your-life/.

Proposal Power: What Publishers Desire in a Proposal


As resume writing is a path to a successful career, the publishing proposal is a gateway for being published, especially for fiction. Unfortunately, very few neophyte authors are experienced in publishing proposal writing. Novice authors are rarely considered by publishers. Why should a publisher spend several thousand dollars on an unknown, unproven author? Since very few rookie authors have a literary agent, it’s up to the author to design a proposal that not only meets their expectations, but sweeps editors off their feet. Non-fiction authors who are known subject matter experts should still design a proposal. But it is vastly more critical for unfamiliar fiction authors.

Before we go any farther, if you think that this article will enable your book to be published by HarperCollins, Penguin, Random House or any other major publisher – STOP READING. Only trusted, well-connected literary agents deliver author proposals into the hands of major publishers. If you don’t have such a literary agent, or a close friend or relative in the industry, you will NOT have a proposal read by a major publisher – PERIOD.

Many small independent publishers around the world specialize in one or two genres. However, you can have a proposal read by one of the many thousands of small independent publishers around the world; and that’s a good way to start an author platform and propel your nascent writing career.

Publishing proposal writing is a science and an art form. Your proposal must not only explain very succinctly the synopsis of your book, but also how it compares to similar successful books in the same genre. It must contain, at a minimum, one section each on: the author, a concise synopsis, a market analysis, a competitive analysis, promotional and marketing concepts, a chapter outline; and sample chapters. This cannot be thrown together and submitted carte blanche to any and every publisher. It should be re-worked and customized for each publisher. You must explain why you and your manuscript are a good fit with each publisher, based upon the publisher’s past experience, areas of success, author and genre predilections. You accomplish this by analyzing each small publisher and demonstrating why your manuscript will make sense given the publisher’s preferences.

The author is the easiest section to complete. Expand upon all of your accomplishments as a writer or as an author of fiction. This can go back as far as your high school newspaper. Include all writing competition awards, published articles, prior published books, media outlets that have accepted your work, positive reviews from persuasive review organizations, etc. Include all major media interviews via radio, television, cable, Internet and local newspapers, journals and magazines. This section tells the publisher that you have had successful writing responsibilities and that you have been rewarded and recognized for your talent. It explains what makes your writing and literary experience relevant to this topic and to the specific publisher.

The synopsis sounds easier than it is. In about 500 words or less, you must describe your target audience, why your book is exceptional and why it is a worthy expenditure for the publisher. Concisely describe the most compelling and persuasive aspects of your book. Lead with a powerful description. You must grab the editor’s attention immediately. Here is one example that led to a publishing contract for one of my novels about young Jewish lovers during the Holocaust:

“How would you feel if, at age seventeen, the government removed you from school, evicted you from your home, looted your bank account and took all of your family’s possessions, prevented your parents from working and then deported you and your loved ones to a prison camp run by brutal taskmasters? How would you feel if you suddenly lost contact with everyone that you know and love? How would you feel if you were sent to the most frightening place in history and then forced to perform unspeakable acts of horror in order to remain alive?”

If that doesn’t grab your heart, maybe you don’t have a pulse. It makes everything that follows easier from the publisher’s perspective. No, the paragraph above does not constitute the synopsis. It says nothing about the protagonists, the story line, scenery, character development, dialog or the ending. But, it’s a start that may be sufficiently emotional to grab the editor’s attention. Avoid creating a long-winded, detailed synopsis, which is a very common mistake. Your synopsis should be about one page. Keep editing it until it describes everything relevant in your manuscript within a page. You do not need to explain the ending. But you definitely must hook the publisher’s editor.

The market analysis is relevant and essential. It tells the publisher that you comprehend the market for such books and how your manuscript is consistent with market needs. In describing the potential for your book, you must compellingly submit how expansive that market is today and where your book fits into it. Describe which authors are doing well with which similar books within this genre and why. This is where you’ll explain who will purchase and read your book, how many readers enjoy such books, where they are and why they will pay for it. You’ll need to perform enough research to cite specific examples and statistics to back up your claims.

The competitive analysis is perhaps the most critical portion of the publishing proposal. Here you contrast and compare your book with at least three similar books that have achieved prodigious public success. Select these three similar books carefully. They certainly do not need to be contemporary. Feel free to select a book from the Eighteenth Century, if it is relevant. Explain why people by the millions purchased that book, which is very similar to yours. Then explain why your book adds to the success of that genre.

It is not appropriate to suggest that your book is the same or better than the best-selling books in your sample group. Nor is it a place to suggest that your writing is better than that of Edgar Allen Poe (it is not). It’s a place to analyze why those similar books were a best-seller and how your book has the same potential. Heavy use of statistics is appropriate here. When you compare your book with a famous best-seller in the same genre, use research to produce valid positive statistics. For example, what is the best-selling book’s current Amazon sales ranking? How many editions were created? Was it popular globally? How many copies have been sold? How many positive reviews from famous review organizations did it receive? What did some of them say? How many awards did it receive? Was it made into a screenplay? If so, how much did the film gross? What awards did it garner? You’ll need to do this at least three times with the most successful books in your genre.

At the same time, discuss how your book treats similar situations differently and why. NEVER try to convince a publisher that your book is “exactly like…” the famous book. It isn’t and you will be perceived as insincere or not to be trusted. As you compare and contrast your book with the big-time, well-known successful books, cite similarities and differences in plot, location, dialog, protagonists, narrative, descriptive scenery, etc. Your book can belong to the same genre, but it should always be sufficiently different and for good reasons. Compare your book to the best-selling books in its genre by listing the potential for millions of sales, Amazon sales rankings, number of customer reviews, academic credentials, reviews from the most compelling sources, etc. Facts and figures belong here, as well as why that book sold so many millions of copies and how your book has similar potential. Many editors and publishers view this section as the most critical part of the publishing proposal.

Promotional and marketing concepts is an equally critical section. Here you’ll demonstrate two things: 1) that you are willing to carry forward the bulk of responsibility for marketing and promotion, and 2) that you comprehend the various tasks, requirements, efforts and skills required to make promotion successful.

Today, even large well-known publishers require authors with a platform to take on much of the responsibility for marketing. Unless your name is King or Clancy, it will up to you to market your book. The days of an author delivering a manuscript to a publisher and then doing nothing are long gone. No matter who you are as an author, regardless of your platform success, marketing and promotion are YOUR job now. Show that you understand how to do this. If you are not willing to engage in repeated public speaking, bookstore signings and book tours, if you’re not willing to produce media interviews, if you won’t land newspaper, magazine and journal articles about your book, if you will not create and daily add to a Facebook fan page and a web landing page, if you won’t blog, write on others’ blogs and disseminate an excellent book video trailer, then no publisher, other than a subsidy publisher, will have an interest in your manuscript.

The chapter outline is extremely important. Here, the publisher anticipates that you will deliver a description of each chapter in several sentences (not paragraphs). The publisher wants to digest the content of each chapter within a few seconds. If your chapter descriptions are several paragraphs each, the proposal will go into the e-junk pile. I have worked very hard to reduce my chapter outlines and my agent continues to demand even more brevity. This is an exercise in being extremely concise.

The publisher will want to read a few sample chapters. This is often the first three chapters, because that’s where character development is born. But it need not be. If you believe that three later chapters will better sell the book, use them. However, be advised that if you use later chapters, and the publisher has no way to relate to your protagonist, the quality of your manuscript will be lost. If you decide that the first three chapters are too boring to use, consider that those first three chapters may need rewriting to incorporate more anticipation, expectation, character development and conflict.

Finally, when all is written, edited and re-written, create a table of contents and use page numbers to identify each section’s location. All publishers expect this.

You’ll never attract a publisher by suggesting that you’re a talented author. If you are a novice and have yet to win writing awards or obtain positive reviews from compelling review organizations, don’t worry. We all start in the same place. Instead, show that you understand the publishing industry and your marketing and promotion responsibilities. Explain how you are creating an author platform that will be increasingly valuable to that particular small publisher. If the publisher has some interest in your book, they will be more willing to finance its publication. And if the publisher believes that more of those high quality books in the same genre are on the way, they will be more likely to donate several thousand dollars to print your first book.

Charles S. Weinblatt is the author of published fiction and non-fiction, including the popular Holocaust novel, Jacob’s Courage. His recent published books can be observed at http://charlesweinblatt.wix.com/charles-s-weinblatt.

Book Marketing 101


Book Marketing 101. Everything you need to know about author marketing!

Book Marketing 101


Learn how to promote your book with public speaking, media appearances, bookstore signings and interviews. Use compelling and persuasive reviews to generate sales. Cerate published articles that will deliver readers to your landing page. Generate interest and manage your fan base with blogs, social networking and e-mail marketing.

Use newspaper and magazine articles to generate interest, along with e-mail and fax blasts. Take advantage of important
book fairs, conferences and conventions. Generate a Facebook fan page and use targeted Facebook ads. Connect with readers via LinkedIn and discuss your book in the many varied LinkedIn groups and discussion threads.

Learn how to create a winning web site landing page, with successful tags and key words. Select a web site landing page that offers excellent analytics. Connect it to the world with links to global retailers and instant connection to your video
trailer.

Create an impressive synopsis web site that will generate interest. Use click-through technology for Internet retailers and brick & mortar bookstores.

This book has everything you’ll need to generate interest with effective marketing techniques. Create and manage your fan base and deliver continual sales increases. Promote your author platform with viral marketing.

Click on your choice of retailer: Book Marketing 101 is available for $1.99 at Amazon and at Smashwords.

What I Learned about Book Publishing and Marketing


In 2004, I was forced into retirement due to disability. At age 51, I had to step away from a rewarding university career. Being of somewhat sound mind and having the ability to type on a laptop, I decided to start writing again.  I had been published in 1986 for a non-fiction book called Job Seeking Skills for Students.  And, I have no other talent.  My math skills are deplorable and I’m dangerous with tools.  Therefore, in my barely-sane mind, this created the possibility of being published again. But, could I be published for fiction, which was my desire?

After three years of prodigious research and effort, I produced an epic work of historical fiction, called Jacob’s Courage: A Holocaust Love Story (2007, Mazo Publishers).  During this time, I discovered that almost two entire generations of my maternal extended family had perished in the Holocaust.  Of seven siblings, only my grandfather survived.  His brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews disappeared under Nazi rule.  This intensified my efforts and I decided to produce the book in their memory. 

The next stage of my life was devoted to learning everything that I could about publishers, book publishing proposals; locating and contacting publishers and then marketing my book.  I also discovered that I required something called an “author platform” and a “video book trailer.”  This was news to me and an eye-opening experience.  I thought that I could address only a few of the publisher’s submission guidelines and swiftly obtain a contract.  I thought that I could throw together a bio and some sections of my book and then publishers would rush to accept it.  Boy was I wrong! 

What follows is a brief description of the finished product, followed by step-by-step instructions for being published.  I follow no publishing guru. I adhere to no system.  If I can impress any single feature upon you, it is the need to give the publisher exactly what they demand in a proposal (or give an agent everything that they demand in a query letter) and then to be very patient and committed.  I had to contact dozens of publishers in order to generate four solid contract offers.  The last offer turned out to be the best one.  Had I selected an earlier contract offer, I would have missed out on the best match for my novel. 

There are some very good reasons to self-publish, especially for non-fiction.  But, if you want a traditional publisher, never accept your first offer; wait for the best offer.  And, feel free to negotiate terms of the contract.  You have every right to make it meet your needs, as well as the publisher’s needs.  

Before we continue, here is some information about my novel:

Jacob’s Courage is a tender coming of age love story of two young adults living in Salzburg at the time when the Nazi war machine enters Austria. This historical novel presents scenes and situations of Jews in ghettos and concentration camps, with particular attention to Theresienstadt and Auschwitz. It explores the dazzling beauty of passionate love, powerful faith and enduring bravery in a lurid world where the innocent are brutally murdered. From desperate despair, to unforgettable moments of chaste beauty, Jacob’s Courage examines a constellation of emotions during a time of incomprehensible brutality.

Video Trailer for Jacob’s Courage:

 

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Being Published


Being Published

By Charles S. Weinblatt, Copyright © 2010

To Publish, or to Self-Publish?

The publishing industry is changing rapidly, morphing from clear, delineated lines into a morass of options.  Self-publishing was once considered somewhat nefarious and referred to as “vanity” publishing.  Vanity publishers will appect anyone’s manuscripts, print it and place it inside of a jacket.  They will mail it to you.  You pay them, typically several hundred to several thousand dollars.  Sometimes they offer a menu of other services, including editing and graphic design.  You will pay for each of them.  The ligitimate vanity publishers stop there.  They will not arrange for distribution contracts.  They will not market your book.  They will obtain no reviews.  They wil not represent your book at key international book fairs, conventions and conferences.

The vanity publisher scam artists move surreptitiously from state to state, moments ahead of state prosecution.  These organizations may call themselves “self-publishing,” but in reality, vanity publishers are only interested in taking your money.  They could care less if no one purchases the book.  The “editing and graphic design” services are typically poorly performed.  Many of them will tell a novice author to “bone up on their writing skills” and they send the author to another fraud who will steal some more of your money on “courses or services to improve writing skills.”  Beware of these services.  Use Predators & Editors and Writer Beware to identify scam artists in publishing and literary agents.

Today, there are wide varieties of excellent self-publishing services and distribution organizations delivered by very ethical companies, including names like Lightning Source and CreateSpace.  But, understand that this form of self-publishing is a misnomer.  They will not be the publisher.  You are the publisher.  You purchase the ISBN, the editing service, the graphic designer; and you are responsible for distribution and marketing.  Self-publishing has transformed from questionable to outstanding.  For many authors, for several reasons, self-publishing is a better choice than waiting for a traditional (trade) publlisher.

The traditional publisher is at risk of obsolescence, unless they find a way to successfully market their authors in various print and electronic formats.  Your book must not just be in print, it must also be sold as an e-book.  It must not just be an e-book; it must be electronically formatted for tomorrow’s e-readers, tablets and smart phones.  Plus, the publisher must continue to stock and restock brick and mortar retailers (where almost half of all books are stil sold) and contract with global distributors. As the public changes the way they read, with electronic devices and telephones, publishers must swiftly react, or risk failure.

Underneath all of this change, the author still must decide whether it is best to self-publish, or to wait for a traditional publisher.  Non-fiction tends to adapt well to self-publishing, especially if the author can sell large numbers of books on his or her own (as a seminar leader, public speaker, teacher, consultant, trainer, curriculum designer, professor, etc.).  Fiction is often better sold via a traditional publisher, where the best editors, graphic designers and marketers reside.  Trade publishers also have important global distribution contacts, necessary for large numbers of books to be sold in retail (brick and mortar) stores, where, for the time being, more books are still sold. And trade publishers have deep connections with the best review sources in specific genres.  They can also connect the author for translation and movie rights.  There are many reasons why an author would want to share profits with a publisher.  When the publisher can open large doorways for reviews, at key book fairs and conferences, with translation and movie rights, then the profit spit is a good deal.

Before you begin too seek a publisher, develop an author platform.  An author platform is the collection of published books, career accomplishments, events, venues, reviews, interviews, speaking engagements, signings, web sites, pictures, video trailers, media appearances, tours, newspaper and magazine interviews and articles that pertain to you and your book.  Intelligent marketers develop brand strategy before the product or service is ready for sale.  One you have a book cover, plaster the picture and link all over the Internet.  Work with a designer to develop a video book trailer.  All of this, and more, constitutes an author platform.  Having a significant author platform is more important than you might think.  When someone like an agent or publisher decides to Google your name, you want seveal pages of positive data to emerge.

Locating and Contacting Publishers:

There is some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that you may need to send your manuscript to hundreds of publishers before the best offer arrives. The good news is that there are literally thousands of small, specialty publishers willing to take on novice authors. Many of them specialize in one or two genres.  You can submit your proposal electronically, saving time and money. Use the Internet to search for publishers in your genre.  On-line services such as Writer Beware and Predators & Editors are worthwhile for leads and for warnings.  Writers Net, Publishers Marketplace and Writers Market are also useful sites.

Most publishers prefer that you send a proposal by electronic mail. This makes it much easier and less costly to contact them. However, your proposal must be perfect and that takes time and effort. Also be advised that each publisher prefers their own specific information. That means you must research each publisher carefully on the Internet. Look for “Submission Guidelines.” This will tell you precisely what to send, and how to send it. If they are seeking a genre that is very different from yours, forget them and move along. If your book seems to be a good fit with the publisher’s interests, then create a proposal that will fit their guidelines.

Is My Book Good Enough to be Published?

There are two keys to being published. First is the quality of your writing. Few reputable publishing companies will be interested in a book that is poorly written. If you are concerned about the quality of your writing, it might be useful to pay a professional editor to look it over. Good editors will tell you the truth about your writing without being condescending or insensitive.

The second key requirement for being published is having a book that is marketable. No trade publisher will be interested in a book about how to drink a glass of water, even if it were it written by James Michener. You must be able to convince a publisher that thousands of people will covet your book. And, it’s not enough to say that they will love it. You must provide a demographic analysis of your readers, along with a competitive analysis and marketing strategies that will work (and explain why they will work). In other words, you must show the publisher exactly who will purchase your book, where and why. More on this later.

Trade publishers are often the best choice, particularly for fiction. Check the Internet for organizations that uncover scam-artists in the self-publishing world.  You can also Google the name of any publishing company. If you see several complaints from ripped-off writers, flee from that publisher. Caveat Emptor!

If you write non-fiction and you can sell many of your own books, then self-publishing might be a better choice. For example, a public speaker or instructor can often include the cost of his or her book in the price of an event. Seminar leaders, teachers, professors, consultants and others who can include their book as required reading might do better financially with a reputable self-publishing company.  If you are capable of selling hundreds or thousands of books on your own, why share the profit? Of course, you’ll need to obtain your own compelling reviews, pay for editorial and graphic art services, printing and distribution.  You will need to stock and restock retailers.  And, you’ll need to perform the marketing services that a publisher would handle.  But, with a steady clientele, self-publishing is perfect.

Traditional (“Trade”) publishers will place your book on the web sites of all of the major retailers (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, Target, etc.) and they will contract to have your book distributed globally, which is the only way for it to be sold on store shelves.  Trade publishers will create a web site for your book, arrange for book tours, signings and catalog distribution.  Your publisher will attend key international book fairs on your behalf and market your book electronically to a global audience. They will stock and restock your book as necessary and on time. And, most trade publishers perform these tasks without charging a fee. They ask no money from the author and the author receives a royalty for each book sold, although some small publishers are now asking the novice author to share in the cost.  Some better-known authors still can expect an advance to “complete” the work.  This might not happen to you unless your name is well-recognized.

The author should establish specific goals for the book.  For example, some memoirs are meant only for grandchildren.  Some novels are meant to become best-sellers.  If you only want a nice book with your name on it for your coffee table, then a small self-publisher or POD might be appropriate.  For a fee, your progeny will consider you famous.  You won’t worry about marketing because you don’t desire sales.  It won’t be on the shelf of your local bookstore.  But, that’s OK for a family heirloom or a coffee table shrine.

If you want people to read your book and you don’t know how to sell them on your own, you might wish to wait for a trade publisher.  If your book is well written and marketable, you will have a good chance to be published by a traditional publisher.  Yes, it takes longer.  Yes, you’ll need to develop a platform and yes you’ll need to market.  You will have to develop a winning book publishing proposal and most likely, you will need to search for small publishers in your genre.  It takes effort, dedication and perseverance.  But, it most definitely can happen for you.  It worked for me.

Where are the Best Chances for a Novice Author?

If you are an unknown author, forget the major publishing houses. Harper-Collins is not likely to glance sideways at your proposal. Instead, focus on smaller publishers that specialize in your genre. I began with historical fiction and then narrowed my search to trade publishers who specialize in Jewish or Holocaust-related books. If it’s a children’s book, search for those publishers. If it’s science fiction, search using that term. You can use the Internet to plan and execute effective publisher searches. Plan to contact hundreds of trade publishers, if necessary.  Being published is much like getting a job.  The more employers you contact, the sooner you will be successful.  You might need to contact twenty publishers to get one good response.  And, you might require five good responses before you receive a desired contract offer.  Even my deplorable math skills place the total number of publisher contacts at 100.  Wait for the BEST offer; don’t lock yourself into a poor contract just because it is your first offer.  Be persistent. Try to send at least 20 proposals per week.

The most critical piece of the publishing puzzle is the proposal. We’ll talk about that next. But, more than any other time, obtaining critical reviews is essential.  Ask friends and family to read the book and review it.  You only need a few honest paragraphs.  Having others speak positively about your book is the way to begin marketing.  Get as many reviews as you can from the best and most appropriate sources as possible.

Use Your Author Platform

An author platform is a nebulous virtual avatar, representing you as an author and your books (and sometimes the individual characters).  Create web sites and blogs at places such as WordPress and BlogSpot about your book.  Write articles related to your book and publish them at places such as TRCB and Ezine.  Arrange bookstore signings and tours.  Submit your book for awards.  Seek book reviews from the most influential sources.  Obtain television and radio interviews about your book.  Save them as digital files and send them as embedded hyperlinks to publishers and agents.  Get interviewed by magazines, newspapers and e-magazines.  Mention your book and its awards and reviews. Add a link to your Wikipedia page (ex. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Weinblatt).

Your platform is the combined newspaper articles, author interviews, critical reviews, virtual book tours, video trailers, web sites, blogs, book signings, author interviews, speaking engagements and the digital recording of every piece of information related to you as an author.  When a prospective publisher or agent decides to Google your name, it would help immensely to have several pages of positive references. This is also the most important time to find opportunities to be interviewed.  Contact local newspapers, TV stations, educational institutions, churches, etc.  Radio is a good opportunity.  Become a local “media expert.”  If you’ve mastered something, tell the world as an expert.  It will enhance your platform.  There is also no substitute for compelling reviews from the most persuasive sources.

The Book Publishing Proposal:

Proposals must include very specific information in a very precise format. Fail to do this and you will likely be rejected immediately. At a minimum, your proposal must include: a table of contents, sales attributes, author biography, synopsis, chapter titles, market analysis, competitive analysis, and marketing strategies. Some publishers require additional information. Read their submission guidelines very carefully. Each portion of this proposal is critical. Take your time and try to use at least one page for each content topic. Use the multitude of referenced articles available on an Internet search.

Each time you edit your proposal, it will become more concise and persuasive.  The synopsis might require several pages. Sometimes the publisher will request several chapters, or the first three chapters. Read their submission requirements very carefully. Publishers receive hundreds of proposals daily and they will gladly delete yours if you fail to follow directions carefully, or fail to provide all of the information required in their guidelines.

Acquire lists of prospective publishers with Internet searches; then contact them via e-mail submission. You can also purchase mailing lists for publishers.  I discovered them easily on my own.  Your book must be a good fit with the publisher’s genre and you must be assured that your publisher is viable and appropriate.  Use Internet searches (Writer Beware and Predators & Editors, etc.) to check them for fraudulent activities.  Try to connect with existing authors of that publisher.  Sometimes you can reach them by e-mail or telephone and conduct an interview.  Ask them about the quality of their publisher.  Research book publishing contracts, so that you’ll know what to expect in a contract.

Have an attorney experienced in publishing review your contract.  Be willing to negotiate with the publisher.  It’s a give and take experience.  My publisher wanted some graphic portions of my novel removed.  I wanted to add some specific marketing requirements for my novel inserted in the contract.  We easily reached an agreement that deleted graphic content, which actually made the book easier to sell; and they added my desired publisher marketing responsibilities into the contract.  Many publishers will be willing to negotiate with you.  Be clear about what you are willing to accept (in editing and cover design) and request any necessary additions.  Then make the best decision based upon your guess for sales and royalties.   You and your publisher must be a good match, with common goals and values.

The Cover Page:

Once you have created a terrific book-publishing proposal, it’s time to create a cover page for your e-mail submissions. The “Subject” line of your e-mail page should typically say, “Submission,” followed by the title of your book. Begin with a generic salutation. Instead of, “Dear Sir or Madam,” you can use something like “Greetings.” If research produces the name of the publishing agent, even better.

The balance of your e-mail cover page must get the reader (publisher) hooked on your book. This cannot be a lengthy narrative. Publishers receive dozens or even hundreds of submissions constantly. If your cover letter will take five minutes to read, it will be discarded. Focus on three to four paragraphs at most. Explain why the publisher is a good fit with your book (yes, you will have to research the publisher in order to do this). This is a great place to include embedded links your most positive reviews.

The e-mail cover letter is also a good place to list (via hyperlink) interviews about your book and all relevant media files. For example, I embedded a hyperlink to an interview that I gave with Jewish Literary Review. Embed your video book trailer, pictures, your Wikipedia page, recorded speaking, radio or television exposure.  Simply create a hyperlink to whatever platform content you have placed on the Internet.  Just highlight any particular word, such as “review,” and then follow instructions for “hyperlink.”  Whatever positive information you can push into a few paragraphs the better. Don’t forget to include your contact information. If requested, attach your proposal. If the publisher will not accept attachments, then you’ll need to use the e-mail cover page for all of it.

Many publishers accept e-mail proposals, but not always with attachments. Let’s face it, all of us will open a hyperlink or e-mail address sent to us by a stranger. But, no one wants to risk a virus or worse by open a stranger’s attachment. You can create web pages and blogs for your book for free (G-Mail, Yahoo, Hotmail, Blogspot, WordPress, etc.). Create a one-page synopsis of your book, packed with features and reasons why people will purchase it. Then, embed the link for that web site into your e-mail cover letter. Here are some examples:

Amazon: http://tiny.cc/ej0rv , Reviews: http://jacobscourage.wordpress.com/, Video Trailer: http://tiny.cc/ivdgk, Synopsis: http://tiny.cc/yyf7t, Read Instantly on BookBuzzr: http://tiny.cc/3v6f7.

Recent Articles & Interviews: Jewish Literary Review Interview: http://tiny.cc/mnxga, Toledo Blade: http://toledoblade.com/article/20101113/NEWS10/11120358/-1/NEWS, Toledo Free Press: http://www.toledofreepress.com/2010/10/22/local-author-to-discuss-holocaust/, Mike Angley: http://childfinder.us/?p=2567, Joey Pinkney: http://h1t.it/boB8Bk,

Published Essays: The Meaning of Passover: http://tiny.cc/ypnj9, Why We Must Speak about the Holocausthttp://tiny.cc/j2zen, Judaism’s Saddest Day:  http://tiny.cc/hjnq3

Remember, you only need to customize the e-mail cover letter. The publishing proposal can remain the essentially same, boilerplated with typical publisher submission requirements.

Be Persistent!

Do not be discouraged. Being published is a numbers game. You might need to send out 100 proposals to get one terrific contract offer. I had four publishing offers for Jacob’s Courage before I was satisfied that I had the best offer. You will want a publishing company well suited to your book and with the right financial arrangements.

Within a month, Jacob’s Courage was up on Amazon. It also rapidly appeared at other global retailers, as distant as Africa, France and Japan. My publisher also swiftly arranged for global distribution with Ingram in the US and Gardners and Bertrams to distribute Jacob’s Courage in the United Kingdom. If you have no distributor, your book will not appear on the shelves of bookstores (where about 50% of books are still sold) and it will not appear on the Internet web sites of popular stores unless you can arrange for it.

Do I Need an Agent?

Some authors prefer to use a literary agent to find their publisher.  A good literary agent may connect you with publishers that were out of your reach.  Agents can vastly increase sales, via enhanced marketing opportunities; and they can offer connections for foreign and translation rights, improved distribution, screenplay, film and documentary leads and much more.  However, literary agents don’t often take a chance on an unknown author, even if your book is already in print.  Beware of spending too much time trying to find an agent, instead of a publisher. You could end up waiting years in an unsuccessful search for an agent.  During that time you might have become successful with your own publishing contract, or with self-publishing.  Many of us search for publishers and agents simultaneously.  Once published, you can always search for an agent.

What are the Author’s Marketing Responsibilities?

After you have obtained a publishing contract, be prepared to help market the book. That means contacting local bookstores and other retail outlets where your book can be sold. Request book signings at local retailers. Organize a book tour.  Obtain local and regional newspaper and magazine articles about your book. Conduct public speaking events. Blog and write on others’ blogs.  Write articles and publish them on the Internet.  Publish your interviews, video trailers and book reviews everywhere on the Internet.  Write opinion or editorial letters to newspapers and magazines.  Each time, sign off with your name, the book’s title and your desired Internet landing page.  This can be any specific retailer, such as Amazon.  However, my landing page is a blog page on WordPress.  That is because I can offer my own specific review samples, the trailer, dozens of useful links, comments and a variety of retailers for the book that are just one click away from purchase.  My landing page is here.

Develop and distribute a video book trailer.  Market it through appropriate groups in places such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.  You can reach tens of thousands of people with this effort.  Put up a Wikipedia page.  Create web pages for your book at sites such as Goodreads, MySpace, Zing, Author’s Den, Bookbuzzr, WeRead, Scribid, Ning and many others.  Tweet about your book daily on Twitter. Post about it at Facebook. Create your book’s own page at Facebook.

Marketing is time consuming and often frustrating. But do not count on your publisher to do everything, particularly if you are a new author. Expect your publisher to contract with distributors, obtain reviews and place your book on Internet retailers, such as Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, Powells and Buy.com.  But, unless your name is Stephen King, you’ll be expected to do a lot of your own marketing and sales work. Be willing to conduct viral, electronic and web page marketing on your own. Use social networking groups.  The harder your effort, the larger your author platform will be (and higher royalty checks will likely follow).

E-Sales:

If you self-publish, consider selling your book via Internet retailers and distributors, such as Smashwords and Lebrary.  These entrepreneurs will take your formatted manuscript, cover and your marketing words out to the e-reading public. Smashwords recently revealed an agreement allowing their Premium members to have their books sold on the new iPad, iPhone, Nook, Kobo, Diesel, Sony Reader and much more (via ePub, mobi, LRF, PDB, PDF, RTF and plain text) for leading edge reading devices.  Thousands of downloads of your book can result in unexpected royalties.

Trade publishers also today are beginning to sell many of their print books as e-books.  My Holocaust novel, Jacob’s Courage, was one of the first e-books offered by my publisher and it was one of the first Holocaust Kindle books.  As the reading public swiftly changes their mode of reading, you will want your publisher to have electronic sales opportunities available, in addition to the print version.  If you self-publish, you will need to create these new formats on your own.  Remember that each new version of your book (such as an e-book, an e-Pub, mobi, LRF, PDF, plain text, etc.) requires its own unique ISBN number.  Your publisher will likely purchase it.  If you self-publish, you’ll need to buy your own ISBN numbers for the new formats.

No matter which publishing format you select, I wish you the very best of luck.  Being published is not simple or easy.  But, if you have talent and your book is marketable, you can be published and sell many books.  Developing the best proposal and then contacting dozens or hundreds of publishers is not enjoyable.  But, it is necessary.  I hope that this blog helps you with the intricacies of being published.  Feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns.

All my best,

Charles S. Weinblatt
Author, Jacob’s Courage
http://jacobscourage.wordpress.com/

http://cweinblatt.blogspot.com/

csw2@bex.net