How Do I Get Published? . . . aka Marketing 101
Having spent over 20 years in book publishing at major publishers, I have often seen people’s ears perk up when they hear that I have worked in book publishing. For a while, I would cringe as I knew the next thing would be some version of . . . “So I am writing a book”. Or “my _____ is writing a book”. Honestly, I couldn’t make any guarantees about if my company would publish said book, but I can tell you how to pitch your book.
Over my publishing career, I have pitched everything from theoretical physicist Richard Feynman to pro-wrestler Andre the Giant; novels of loss and the human condition to cyborg retold fairy tales; teenage vampires to Green Eggs and Ham. So, I know a thing or two about what sells and how to sell it. . . . My first question to each would-be author is pure Marketing 101: Who is your audience?
Know thy customer, the user, your audience. Put yourself in their shoes. Because your book will need a way to reach that audience. The days of an editor in an ivory tower selecting a book by some arcane and nebulous process are long gone. Modern publishers are businesses and like all businesses, they will look for ROI. This shouldn’t be intimidating. There are a few simple steps anyone can take to understand how a book fits into the publishing ecosystem and reaches its audience.
Walk a mile in your customer’s shoes
Go to your local Barnes and Noble or favorite indie book store (they still exist). Walk the aisles. What books are on the front display where publishers have paid for prominent placement? Which books get noted as staff picks? How are the sections of the book store organized and divided? Imagine your book would live in the book store. It’s a great exercise in realizing how your audience will find your book and what books the audience is looking for.
Read the labels
Once you’ve decided where you could see your book in the bookstore, look at what other books will sit next to it. Pick them up. You can find the publisher’s logo on the spine or name on the copyright page. Make a list of these publishers. Look them up on the internet to get the flavor of their publishing program and imprints. Do you like what you see, and do you think they did a good job? Chances are if they have been successful with one book in a genre or style, it may be a particular field of interest for that publisher or their editors. With this research, you have started the journey to know which publishers to target for your book.
While you are in the bookstore with books in hand, check out the Acknowledgements Page. Most authors will thank their editors and agents here. More names for your list!