By Mike Larson of Larsen Pomada
If you’ve thought about writing a book and getting it published you may have wondered how difficult it would be. The bad news is it is quite difficult. Some of the great books of the past twenty years were rejected numerous times before they broke through. Chicken Soup for the Soul was rejected by 140 publishers over a three year period before it found a believer. By last count the Chicken Soup series has sold over 500,000,000 copies. J.K. Rowling was rejected dozens of times before Harry Potter caught on. It’s sold over 450,000,000 copies. The latest success story, Fifty Shades of Grey has passed 100,000,000 some time back and, as you know, is a motion picture.
There are countless stories like those above all of which confirm that publishers make mistakes and we writers can’t get mad at them or discouraged about our writing. It only takes one agent to turn your manuscript into a best seller.
Another route is self-publishing. You might think that is only for egotists, but it’s not. Currently, for every 10 books published 7 are self-published. The self publishing route is very simple and not as expensive as it used to be. Companies like Smashword, Bookbaby Amazon and Ingram can produce your book for a few dollars a copy. Once you have that you can then show publishers and book stores something concrete. The best seller lists have many self-published books.
Many people, perhaps including you, feel that they have a book within themselves. If your book is nonfiction, that is self-help, historical story, expertise in science or technology or how-to-do-it you have a better chance of getting published than does a novelist.
The point is, if you believe in yourself and your work, Go For It. You could have the next Bridges of Madison County, Joy Luck Club, Julia and Julia or DaVinci Code aching to get out.
Michael Larsen of Larsen-Pomada Literary Agents offers a list of ways to get you book published as a way to break into the game:
Photocopy your manuscript and sell it in a three ring binder. This is pretty common for self-help and how to do it books.
Pay a production house to create the book and then sell it through the many outlets available including independent book stores, interest groups such as garden clubs, fitness centers and the like.
Use print-on-demand centers like where you pay for only what you need.
Use a regular print shop for longer runs.
Publish through a magazine as a series.
Make your book available on-line.
Sell the book chapter by chapter as a subscription through your website.
You might also be able to partner with a business or non-profit that will pay the upfront costs. They do this because your book supports their agenda or purpose.
You can sell the rights to:
1. A small press, regional, niche or specialty publisher
2. A trade or consumer periodical that will serialize your book
3. A publisher for a flat fee as a work for hire
4. An academic or university or military press
5. A professional publisher that publishes books for special needs or audiences.
Of course, you may also find an agent who will present your book to publishers. In these types of arrangements be very careful. Unscrupulous agents will take your money and not follow through. If you go this route you need an explicit agreement as to where and when you agent will attempt to sell your book and how much they demand as a commission. Then too, I recommend that you have in your contract a periodic report of where your manuscript was presented, to whom and the reaction. This way you can check up to find if they are doing the job or not.
How to Get Agents and Editors Excited About Your Book
Write a great query letter. There is no magic formula or one best version, but there are on-line sources that will help you organize it.
Sell your great idea. Do you have something truly unique or at least very unusual in mind? Carefully and with enthusiasm explain its appeal to a given readership; i. e. children, elders, teachers or other professionals, such as retired military officers.
Timeliness. Why does the world need this book now? What need does it fulfill; comfort, information, direction, explanation of some trend?
The Hook. Nothing is more important than your first sentence. It must intrigue the reader and demand that she read the first paragraph. But hyper critical here, you need a killer opening, not just something that appeals to you. If you were sending it to someone you don’t know, like an editor, agent or me how are you going to turn us readers on.
You. Who are you and why should the reader care? What do you have to offer in the way of knowledge or experience that the world needs to know? Do you have a reputation in this field? Will your name cause people to stop and look because of who you are?
Your proof of concept. How do you know there is a readership for this? Who have you tested it on, besides your mother; someone who gave you objective feedback that was positive.
How can you help sell it once it is published? Do you have a large (thousands) list of names that you or the publisher can send notices to?
Is this a one-off attempt or the beginning of a series? It seems to me one thing that intrigues agents and editors are an unexpected twist. The people in the business read voraciously every day. You need to shake them to get their attention. If there is a surprise ending tell them about it.
Test your letter on someone who will give you objective feedback. Sometimes it hurts to hear you missed the boat. But if you’re going to be a writer you’re going to have to accept criticism from a lot of people. If you can’t take the heat stay out of the kitchen.