First of all you need to keep in mind that the publishing business is and always will be a business. It is not a charity. Even THINKING about taking on a book puts the publisher out of money.
See taking on a book as a big company like Facebook investing in another, small business. Before you put your money into the business ( in this case a book ) of someone else, you have to be pretty damn sure about a few things.
- Will the author be easy to work with
This is way more important than you might think at first. Before I started blogging on my own, I wrote for numerous online music magazines. In broad lines, the way the music labels work is more or less the same as the way publishers work. And let me tell you : if you showed promise but you were a pain in the ass to work with, labels would much rather sign someone else.
There is nothing as tiring as Diva’s, especially in a stage where the promises still have to be fulfilled. A few weeks ago I talked with an author that described his work as the freakin’ best thing since Hemingway and that all the publishers not signing him were stupid. That he was the best out there and that, if I want to get famous, should work with him. How. Hold your horses. Is this guy for real? I’m afraid so. You should be confident in your work but when you are starting to get cocky, that is often the moment publishers stop being interested in you and your work. They are looking for talented people, for sure, but they also have to be humble enough to accept that an editor and a copy editor might want to delete or alter their work.
- Is the author’s profile “sexy” enough
In a digital world, where information sits at everyone’s finger tips, marketing is one of the most important things out there for every business. Yes, even for publishers. ( Seriously guys, we need to stop thinking of publishers as anything else but a business)
And when a book gets published, the biggest publishers will take over the marketing and do everything in their power to make the book a bestseller. But how brandable are you as an author? Are you bookshop tour material? Are you easy to talk to people or in front of people? Are you reliable as a person ( very big one! ). And for the smaller publishers it goes even further : how big is your OWN social network? How well are you known as an author and what is your ability to get your own book sold? Will you be able to source your own book tours or interviews and do you have a network of people to support you in doing so ? Some authors that the publisher does not deem brandable enough might be asked to publish their work as a ghost writer.
- The current market
Again : the publisher is a business. And just like any other business, the publisher should have a broad overview of the market, what lives, what dies and what is going to be the absolute bee’s knees. Obviously, the book market is not quite as predictable as we would like it to be ( what market is, huh) and since the decline of sales, the margin of error has the be minimalised. Mistakes can cost a lot of money and this is why publishers would rather not invest in books they are not sure on. Is your genre hot right now? Great, more chance to get published. Is your story very niche? Might want to try with a niche publisher. Are you still writing The Da Vinci Code rip-offs? Chance is that you might have to opt for self-publishing. If your book fits the current hype and if the story is good enough, chances are that you will get a positive answer from some publishers.
- The story itself
The story itself has to be good and I think we all agree that this plays a role when sending out your manuscript to a publisher. But how well is it written? Are there a lot of mistakes? How much time and money will the publisher have to invest into your book to be sellable and how does this weigh up to the amount of money the publisher is looking to make from your book? This is why I always tell authors to actually make the story as good as they can. Write and edit the book – maybe even let a professional editor go over your story, so that the document you send out to the publisher is 100% the best version you are able to put out there. Trust me, there will still be a LOT of edits needed before the finished product sees daylight.
- Your book might actually not be that good
The truth often hurts, especially when it’s an ugly truth about something you have spent hours , days and years working on. But sometimes books and stories just aren’t that good and publishers have every right in the world to disagree and not take you on.
You by now probably know that I review books. I review physical copies for free and I ask a small fee whenever I review an ebook. Some authors go absolutely mental when I explain this and I have a strong feeling some writers think book reviewers and blogs should fall on the ground and kiss their feet because they are willing to bestow their work upon them. But I feel that the article on influencers and the power of book blogs should be written another time. However : the thing is, it could just be that your book Is not good enough.
- Misjudgements happen – but not as often as you think they do
Whenever we think of the great misjudgements of modern literature and fiction, Harry Potter is one of the first that comes to mind. Yes, Rowling had to write to many, many publishers and no they did not see the potential of the Harry Potter books ( and they probably are very, very sorry ), but these things happen once in a blue moon. If it would happen on a very regular basis, more people would read self-published books and more self-pub authors would be receiving god-status in author land right now. But they don’t.