Monday, March 30, 2009

Where Do Agents Find Clients?

Referral from one of their other clients 39%
Direct contact by the writer 33%
Referral from editors and publishers 9%
Referral from other authors not their clients 8%
Referrals from other agents 5%
Attendance at writers’ conferences 3%
Other 3%

It comes as no surprise that referrals from their current clients were the top method cited. Publishing is a relationship based industry. Contacts are extremely important. A recommendation from someone whose opinion an agent trusts always is valued and receives prompt attention. Several careers of top selling authors were launched when another bestselling author took them under their wing and introduced them to agents or publishers.

What might be surprising is that as many as one-third of the agents said direct contact from the writer was the most common way they found new clients. There is most definitely hope for the budding authors out there, sweating over the last draft of that perfect query letter to send out to agents.

Friday, March 27, 2009

More on agents

What Is The Most Critical Mistake Writers Make When Approaching Literary Agents For Representation?

Agents we surveyed responded as follows:

Poor writing or poorly prepared contact letter 44%
Inappropriate subject or genre for that agent 22%
Author’s hype, ego, arrogance 18%
Uneducated about publishing process 16%
Lack of knowledge about the book’s competition 8%
No platform for nonfiction 6%

Poor writing or poorly prepared contact letter

It comes as a surprise that agents report they get so many weak query letters. A number of books have been written on the subject of crafting a query such as Making the Perfect Pitch by agent Katherine Sands. Numerous writers’ conferences also cover this topic in depth. A query letter isn’t really that complicated to compose—particularly compared to writing a 100,000 word novel.

Inappropriate subject or genre for that agent

The second most popular response to the question reflects that the writers don’t do their homework when selecting agents to contact. Sending a wonderful query about your, say, cookbook, to an editor that specializes in placing mystery fiction is simply a waste of everyone’s time. Reference books such as Writers Digest Guide to Literary Agents point out very clearly what individual agents are looking for. Not that some of their preferences don’t seem odd, even a bit nonsensical. In one reference guide agent warned, “Don’t send me any right-wing Tom Clancy stuff.’’ Did this agent really mean to say he’d turn down the chance to earn 15% of the mega-royalties author Clancy has earned in his career?

Author hype, ego, arrogance

Agents report that creative people oftentimes have big egos. Hard to believe, isn’t it? Part of the problem stems from author’s awareness of how many other writers they are competing with for the agent’s attention. The temptation to use hyperbole to differentiate oneself can be overwhelming.

Of course, then some of the agents go on to contradict their colleagues by warning against over-selling and arrogance. “Trying to act more like a sales person, and not like a writer,” one agent said. “Hyping the agent. A straightforward recitation is much more effective.” But another one said the worst mistake was, “Not writing an engaging query.” “Writing dreary query letters describing the plot of the book.”

Now we’re starting to get confused. Do the agents want an exciting query, or that “straightforward recitation”?

Uneducated about publishing process

The author who is truly talented and dedicated to the craft of writing has a clear advantage right from the start; the overwhelming response from agents was that the quality of many submissions they receive is poor. The author who can articulate the market for his or her book is also way ahead. The author needs to think of himself as a small businessperson entering a new industry, not as a “literary artist.” They must be able to address the question, Who is going to buy your book and why? Authors who can show they will be helpful in selling the book once it is published are particularly sought after in today’s marketplace. Writers should not assume that an agent, or an editor at a publishing house, will automatically recognize who the target audience is for a book, or how large that audience might be.

Lack of knowledge about the book’s competition

The responses below point up something that many authors don’t even stop to consider what the competition for their book might be. They have no idea whether their book is really new and different (nonfiction) or whether it fits into a fiction category that is “hot.” Food product manufactures talk of the keen competition for shelf space at the grocery story. The same holds true in the bookstore shelves. Can you imagine where in the store your book might appear?

No platform for nonfiction

“Platform” is something everyone in the publishing industry is talking about these days—it should be nominated for the coveted “Industry Buzzword of the Year” award. Having a “platform” is one of the best means of getting your non-fiction book to the top of the agent’s to-do list. Platform simply means the built-in audience you have for your book, and the media exposure you can generate for your book, apart from the marketing done by the publishing house. If you can say, “I am a frequent guest on the _______” (nationally syndicated radio program). Or, “I publish an Internet newsletter that has 20,000 subscribers.” You are telling a publisher that a potential audience already exists for your book—lots of readers know who you are—and therefore you represent less of a risk to the publishing house, because awareness often translates into sales.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

FAQ on book publishing

What is the difference between mass market, trade paperback and hard cover?
The way the books are produced and consequently how they’re priced. Mass market are the smallest in size usually 4” by 6”, they are the least expensive from $4.99 to $9.99, the binding is perfect which means the pages are glued in. The cover is paper. Trade paperback is 5” by 7”, mostly nonfiction titles, the prices range from $9.99 to $24.99. The cover is paper and the binding is perfect. Hardcover or hard back comes in various sizes, the pages are stitched to the binding, and the cover is cloth covered over cardboard. The price ranges from $19.99 upward.

Monday, March 02, 2009

More FAQs on book publishing

Do I have to pay the advance back?
In most cases, no, only if you don’t deliver an acceptable manuscript by your deadline. If the actual sales of your book don’t reach the amount that was advanced, and 90% of books don’t, you don’t have to pay the difference back.

Which is easier to get published fiction or nonfiction?
Nonfiction. Of the 172,000 books less than 10% were fiction.

What category of fiction is the largest.
Romance, 55% of all mass market paperback books sold are romances.

What is backlist, mid list and front list?
Backlist books are those written in the prior year(s) but still selling and still being published. Publishers select a small percentage, probably less than 5% of the books published in a season and actively promote those books in the front of their catalogues with full page descriptions including national promotion, book tours dates, advertising budgets, first print runs, as their front list. 95% of books published are mid list, in the middle of the catalogue, no ad budget, no promotions, no book tours.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Query Letters

You’ve got your list of potential publishers or agencies, now what? The journey of how to get a book published begins with the query letter.

The first step for both nonfiction and fiction is the query letter. It is your chance to open doors to the book publishing industry, to literary agents and book publishers. Because of the volume of submissions agents and book publishers receive, it has become the standard way of make a contact, rather than sending out entire manuscripts. Absolutely, positively include an SASE (self addressed stamped envelope) for the agent/publisher to contact you.

Why you need a query letter and how to write it
You never want to send a full manuscript. It won’t be read. The standard method of contact is the query letter. A good query letter is short, one to two pages maximum.

The goal of query letter is to get the manuscript or book proposal requested by the literary agent or book publisher. Often they request just the first 60 pages, read that, then decide whether they want to read the full manuscript.

Think Like A Businessperson Trying To Make A Sale, Not an “Artist”

Writers tend to think they are the book publisher’s customers, as though the publisher exists to make their dream of being a published author come true. The truth is that book publisher’s real customers are the people who purchase and read books. So your goal as a writer is to demonstrate how you can help the publisher reach his or her objectives. In the query letter, you introduce both the specific literary work you want to sell them, and yourself, your background and accomplishments.

There is something unique, fresh, different about your book You are professional: you will be able to deliver the manuscript on time You are willing to expend effort to market the book You have the background, experience to write the book you are proposing It fits in the publisher’s area of concentration Your book has a large market

The query letter is very challenging to write: you have to choose every word carefully. Also, your target audience reads so many of these each week, it is difficult to make yours stand. Even if you write the “perfect” query letter, it’s still a crapshoot whether your work will be requested.

The emphasis of the query letter is on “Why readers will buy my book,” rather than “Aren’t I a great writer.” Don’t start with: “It’s been my lifelong dream to be a writer.” They don’t care. It is their lifelong dream to sell more books than their competitors.

How many queries should you send out? Try batches of five or ten, then measure the response you get. You may need to tweak the content of your query letter.

Suppose you send out the first batch and no one asks for the book. What does that mean?

Suppose you send out ten. You get three polite turndown letters and no response from the other seven. What should you conclude?

1. The agent may not be taking on new clients
2. You have no talent
3. Your book has no market
4. You didn’t express yourself well in the letter
5. The publisher is swamped with submissions and didn’t have a chance to reply
6. The agent is rude and threw your letter away
7. The publishing industry isn’t interested in new writers
8. You contacted an agent or publisher that is not interested in your genre

Most likely one of the following is the case:

1. The agent may not be taking on new clients
2. You didn’t express yourself well in the letter
3. The publisher is swamped with submissions and didn’t have a chance to reply
4. The agent is rude and threw your letter away
5. You contacted an agent or publisher that is not interested in your genre

Important rule:
Not hearing a positive response should not be interpreted as REJECTION, of you or your work. It may simply mean you are not getting anyone’s attention.

Don't give up after the first 10, 20 or even 50 rejections. In this case persistence is a virtue in how to get a book published.

Discover How You Can Achieve Your Dream And Get Your Book Published. Sneak peek of Dee Power's new book, The Publishing Primer. Get your free chapter. Find out how books get in bookstores. How bookstores select titles. How the bestseller lists work. What boosts a book to the top of the bestseller list? And frequently asked questions about publishing

About The Authors
Brian Hill and Dee Power have written several nonfiction books including The Publishing Primer: A Blueprint for an Author's Success and The Making of a Bestseller: Success Stories From Authors and the Editors, Agents, and Booksellers Behind Them. They are also the authors of the novel, Over Time