If you’re writing a book and hope to be published one day, figuring out what publishers are looking for is a necessary step in the equation. In fact, this is a very important step towards your success because without knowing what publishers want, you’ll never be able to provide that to them once your book is complete. Here is what to know if you hope to have your book published some day.
A Few of the Basics
Most of the suggestions for getting your book published and knowing what book publishers want is common sense. If there was just one rule involved, it would be this: read! Read everything in that particular genre that you can get your hands on. After all, those authors have obviously provided the publishers with what they wanted. Learn from those who went before you!
While you’re reading, you should concentrate not only on well-known bestsellers but also books that no one has ever heard of. Even bad books should be read because you can compare those to the good ones to determine what the author missed. There is simply no such thing as reading too many books in the genre you’ve chosen.
Besides reading a lot, there are a few other basic suggestions all writers should be following, including:
- Accept the fact that you likely won’t hear from the publisher immediately. Finding a publisher and getting your book published is a slow process so you shouldn’t be surprised by how long it takes.
- Make sure that the book is completed before you start finding a publisher. No publisher wants an incomplete manuscript or just an idea of what you’re planning to write. Before you send that first query letter, make sure that your book is finished.
- Never go into writing for the money. Even if you do get published, the chances of making a ton of money on your book are highly unlikely. Only occasionally does a writer get rich writing novels so it’s best to go into writing because you love it.
- Don’t rewrite what everyone else has written about. If vampire stories are big, this doesn’t mean that they’ll still be big by the time your book hits the shelves, particularly since publishing is such a slow process. Write something unique and write what you love.
Most Publishers Are Looking for Specific Things
Trying to figure out what publishers are looking for isn’t difficult but there are still some things that many writers are not aware of or that they’ve never thought of before. Remember that publishers want all of their books to sell so if they don’t think that your book is going to sell a lot of copies and make them some money, they will not agree to publish it.
A lot of these suggestions involve looking at everything from the publisher’s point of view. Something that you may think will work may not work in the minds of the publishers so the more you learn about what they’re looking for, the better. Even if your book gets published, you will still be responsible for marketing and promoting the book in addition to what they are doing for it.
In essence, you are going to be helping the publisher make sure that your book is a success. One of the first things that you need to do is determine how you are going to reach the market for which your book is intended. This sometimes means narrowing down the topic of your book. For instances, instead of writing about dating tips that could apply to anyone, consider writing about dating tips for women over 40.
Other things to consider when you’re trying to find a publisher include:
- If you’re writing fiction, try to make the potential market as big as possible. The more people who eventually become readers, the more successful you’ll be. Think of a “big piece of the pie” when you’re writing your book and determine how to best reach those people.
- Pay attention to the etiquette involved in finding a publisher. Always write a query letter first; if they want the entire manuscript, they’ll let you know. More importantly, give them what they ask for and nothing more whether it is a proposal, outline, or anything else.
- Try to add a unique spin to your book. After all, you don’t want to write the same book that another person has already written. Publishers don’t respond well to this. If you’re writing a love story, add a spin to it that no one else has. The more unique the details are, the better the chance a publisher will want to publish it.
- Publishers want to know that you already have some sort of following. If you’re sending out newsletters and have a lot of “likes” on your social media pages, this is an indication to the publishers that you’re taking the promotion and marketing idea seriously.
This doesn’t mean that you already need to be making money with your writing. However, social media pages are a great way to start promoting your book even before you get published. Try to use these pages to establish yourself as a writer online and work hard to build up a following as best you can.
Looking at it in a Simple Way
Most of these tips are not difficult to follow. You just have to be aware of what they are and how you can use them to increase the odds that you’ll find the right publisher. Below are some more things that publishers take into consideration when deciding whether to publish a certain book:
- The market. Does your book even have a market? While most of them do, you have to think long and hard about this question before you contact even the first publisher.
- Your own credentials. Are you a professional writer with a good bio and resume? Remember that publishers don’t want someone who can’t write another book for them later on so the more writing experience you have, the better.
- Your plans to keep writing. Most publishers are not looking for “fly-by-night” writers or someone who simply wants to publish one book and stop. They want a real writer who plans to keep writing after the first book is published.
- Your book’s competition. All publishers will consider the competitiveness of your idea. If similar books have had good results, they are more likely to assume that your book will do the same.
- Your marketing plan. Even though the publisher will promote your book for you, you have to be willing to be part of the process. Come up with both a short-term and long-term marketing plan and your publisher will be a lot more impressed.
- The quality of your sample chapters and manuscript. The overall quality of your writing goes a long way in helping publishers in their decision to work with you. Sloppily written chapters will not impress them at all.
As you can tell from this information, publishers want to know that you’re taking your book and its publication seriously. If you’re not taking it seriously, they’ll be able to tell that starting with the query letter. This is why you have to make every part of the process well written and well organized, from the writing itself to the marketing plan and everything in between.
Now Let’s Get to Specifics
Of course, in addition to the basics, book publishers are often looking at specific details as well. The publishers looking for non-fiction aren’t looking for the same things as those that wish to find fiction books; again, it’s best to learn the specifics of what these experts are looking for.
If you’re writing a non-fiction book, these are things to consider when you are trying to find out what publishers are looking for:
- The main message. In other words, what is the main purpose of your book? For this, publishers generally look at statistics, case studies, insights, tips, and quotes from authentic sources.
- How the book is organized and structured. Even non-fiction books need to flow well. You can present your message from broad or general to more specific or the other way around.
- The voice used. You have to draw the readers in and you have to do this quickly or you risk losing them.
- Whether the material is fresh. Don’t keep presenting the same statistics or information over and over but in a different way. Say something different in every chapter.
Remember that non-fiction is often educational but this doesn’t mean that it has to be presented in a boring way. Keep it fresh and interesting throughout the book and convey your messages clearly.
For fiction, the rules are a bit different but here are some things considered important when you’re trying to publish a work of fiction:
- Strong characters. Sure, you can have some less-than-strong characters within the pages but as a general rule, your characters have to be strong or the readers won’t like them.
- Strong and interesting plot. There should be a buildup, a climax, and a resolution in the end. This is the best way to keep readers interested, especially if you throw in some subplots as well.
- The voice you choose. Just as in non-fiction, the voice you use has to lure the readers in and keep them there. Don’t lose them with a weak or inconsistent voice.
- Your setting. The setting affects both the plot and the character and it has to be just as strong and interesting as the rest of the book. The setting is essentially the time and place of the story.
- Market identification. Again, knowing who your market is will impress the publishers and you should have a clear idea of who that is for your query letter.
A few other things to consider for both fiction and non-fiction are the titles and subtitles of similar books, how many copies of books your competitors have sold, the price of your competitors’ books, how your competitors connect with their readers, the packaging and design of the competitors’ books, and how well organized their content is. In other words, study everything you can about your competition so that you can learn what will work for you.
Different Needs for Different Publishers
Of course, the type of publisher you’re contacting will be influenced by the type of book you’re writing so each publisher is going to be looking at something different. Although things such as the length of the article or book may not seem significant to you, most publishers of any type are rather strict when it comes to how long the article or book should be.
While book publishers may want a novel to be at least 80,000 or 100,000 words, publishers of magazine articles want something much shorter. Regardless of the publication, it is best to check out these requirements before contacting the publisher, which is easier than ever to do with the Internet. Essentially, publishers want the following things:
- A competent writer who intends to write other books after the first one is published
- Articles that are interesting for all magazine readers, not just a section of the market
- A writer who has a unique or exceptionally good talent
- A thorough knowledge of the subject area for non-fiction
Publishers want great talent, a strong subject matter or character, articles of the right length, writers who are easy to work with and not divas, and writers who obey instructions and deliver everything in a professional manner and on time. They want competence, a commitment to the project, and professionalism. Everything else you can learn later on.
More Important Tips to Remember
Keep in mind that publishing is a business but the business doesn’t just start when the book is published. It starts way before that. It starts as soon as you complete your manuscript and decide to look for a publisher. Furthermore, in addition to learning what publishers are looking for, there are some things publishers wish that most writers knew about the art of writing. These include:
- Don’t accept rejection. Most famous writers were rejected hundreds of times before they finally got published so never give up when you’re looking for a publisher.
- Establish an online presence if you don’t already have one. This tells publishers that you’re serious about your writing and it helps them learn how effective your social media pages are.
- The publishing process is stressful. Many times, you may feel resistance to ideas and already-written words. This is normal but it doesn’t mean that the project is going to be cancelled any time soon.
- It is easy to learn what you need to know about the publishing business. Don’t get overwhelmed and run off in the opposite direction. Instead, do your due diligence and learn everything that you possibly can about publishing.
- Consider your alternatives. Self-publishing is very popular and with good reason. Nowadays, self-publishing companies even help market and sell your book so this option is definitely worth considering.
- Be prepared to spend both money and time on your book. Consider it as important as your job is and treat it with commitment and care. Sending query letters and polishing up your manuscript is time-consuming and potentially expensive but it’s all worth it in the end.
If you know someone who has been published already, you can ask that person to write a review of your book and share that at the beginning or end of it. It doesn’t matter if he or she is famous or not; as long as he or she is published, publishing companies will be impressed by the review.
Essentially, publishers want excellent writing, an interesting topic, and a built-in list of potential readers. Book publishers also consider their editorial goals when deciding which book to publish. Again, this information can be found online. If they’re looking for women’s fiction and your book is a mystery novel, they will not even consider publishing your book. It always pays to know what they want before sending them your query letter.
Some Final Thoughts
Most mistakes that writers make can be avoided with a little research. Publishers want articles or books of specific lengths and specific genres so if you don’t find out what these things are beforehand, your query letter will end up in the slush pile.
Fiction publishers want a great story and strong characters; technical or scientific publishers want a thorough knowledge of the subject matter and writers who can explain technical terms in a simple way; publishers of biographies want stories about people that most readers will find interesting; and non-fiction publishers want writers who have a very thorough knowledge of the facts and figures used in the book.
Regardless of your genre, you simply have to research publishers to make sure that your book or article is something they’re actively looking for. Learn the specifics of what they want and make sure that you are prepared to give it to them. If you don’t, they will reject you immediately and you’ll have to start over again.