Last week’s tip focused on the fine line between originality and following a successful formula and how to blend the two. You have to show them a good idea that’s both proven and all your own. It doesn’t get any easier from there! Along with THE IDEA, you also have to show them THE KNOWLEDGE.
As one publisher told me, really anybody can come up with a good idea. It’s what you do with that idea that will make or break you as an author. And many of these writers, sadly, don’t know where to go once they develop their idea. Unfortunately, in an ultra-competitive field like book publishing, there is little to no sympathy for these lost writers. The impetus is on them to not only create, but also sell and to be aware of all the tools that are out there to help them do just that. It starts with knowing where to bring your book.
When I first started putting together information for my seminar and consultations, I had multiple publishers tell me that their biggest pet peeve was the number of submissions they receive that aren’t even remotely close to the genre(s) they publish. This is beyond a waste of a submission; it’s a red flag for any future work an author might pitch to that publisher. If an author doesn’t even know where they’re submitting, it doesn’t exactly build confidence for the title itself or how the author will be able to work as a business partner (something I’ll get into in a later tip).
You need to have the knowledge. You have to research the agents and publishers that are out there and looking for new work in your genre. Books like Writer’s Market provide you with all the info you need, from contact info to previously published titles to submission guidelines and so on and so on. The bottom line is there’s no excuse. Know who you’re submitting to and why. Know what they do. Know what they want. Know what will make you and your work look more attractive to them.
Beyond that, have your finger on the pulse of what else is happening in your genre. Try to find the trends. It can help shape the likelihood of your work seeing some more time on the shelves. Know what’s working and what isn’t. The publishing industry is ever-shifting so try to keep up!
Finally, know what YOU want. What are you trying to get from publishing this book? Is it setting the stage for something else? Is it to help establish you in a particular field? Is it the first of a trilogy? Why does this need to be published? Having a clear, researched plan of attack will help separate you from all those writers who “just” have a good idea.