Q. What’s the main thing a traditional book publisher considers before signing an author?
A. Yes, publishing decision-making can be complex, and acquisitions can take days and involve many people. But it always comes down to one simple question: will people buy this book? No market=no money for publisher=no money for author.
Seems pretty intuitive, doesn’t it? Yet 9 out of 10 queries that cross my desk (or zoom through my email) don’t seem to consider this fact.
And 99 out of 100 people derisively calling traditional book publishers “gatekeepers” and demanding that all books must be published definitely don’t consider this fact.
Publishing is a business. Publishers may be in it for love, but they’ve got to consider money first. All books–whether esoteric poetry collections or practical dog-training manuals–must promise a sell-through to consumers to be of interest to publishers.
Impact on Authors
Writers who seek traditional publication must always be aware of their markets. Of course you have heard it all before: develop your “platform;” build up relationships with your readers. But do you fully understand why?
Publishers must publish books that sell–in order to continue to publish books.
Authors who want publishers must write salable books.
What Makes a Book Salable?
Ah, that’s a subject for another quick question!
But for now, think of it this way: all roads point back to sales. Is the nonfiction author an expert in his field? Publishers like this because: experts are more trustworthy, and bookbuyers who trust the author buy the book.
Has the literary novelist published short stories? Publishers like this because: published writers have an easier time getting blurbs and reviews, blurbs and reviews influence consumer decisions to buy the book.
Make a game of it. Name a publishing component: quality, title, cover, length, website, concept, competition, genre. I promise you: if you can figure out how each component enhances the potential appeal to bookbuyers, you’re on your way to getting published yourself.
*Quick Questions are open to anyone! Here’s how to submit yours.