Sending off a manuscript is terrifying. It is adrenalin inducing, heart-stopping stuff for any writer. But so many writers bail or fail at this critical point. They send their book off to a publisher and get a rejection letter. Then they put it in a bottom drawer and don’t send it again. This is not called submitting a book! Submitting a book is a long process that requires work and persistence.
This is NOT the time to be shy or hold back.
Do you believe in this book?
Did you invest your time in it?
Now change gear from a writer into a sales person and get this book SOLD! And remember that selling a book is a process of securing a deal in which a publisher agrees to print your book, carry the printing, distribution and marketing costs and share some of the profit with you.
Here are a few essential steps you need to take and some advice from an agent who does this a lot.
When I started teaching writing over a decade ago I always used to tell writers NOT to write about themselves. This was in the interests of cultivating good fiction authors. Why? Because if you write about yourself in fiction, you really only have one story to tell. It is also a totally misunderstood maxim of writing that you must ‘write what you know.’ All this has changed!
Starting a book? That is the (relatively) easy bit. Keeping going is a bit harder. Who wants to sit alone in front of a keyboard while everyone else is out playing. Facebook is waiting. Maybe a blog would be more achievable than a whole BOOK? So here’s my take on why many writers stop before the end. This is not any professional research, just my observations from experience.
One of the most common complaints I always hear from writers is that they can’t 'find the time' to write. They may start their books but then, three months into the process, a pressing project at work is taking up all their time. Or the kids are too demanding. Or (on the other side of the spectrum) I get writers who tell me they are going to quit their jobs to finally write that book. Now go easy on both sides of this extreme. There are better ways to tackle this.
I started the first writing course and agency ten years ago and focused only on novels. Almost all the writers who found me saw 'writing a book' as 'writing a novel' so my work was to get writers to plot, plan and craft their novels. Publishing and writers have changed dramatically. Not many writers send queries about wanting to write a novel any more. Most writers who find me want to write their own story - either as a memoir or a non-fiction book.
I get asked this so often. There is only one answer to this question (in my view). YES of course you should plan a book!
I believe in writing with intent if you want to get published.
Ever wonder how many books get sold in SA every year? What SA publishing looks like from the inside? How many books the average South African author sells? Ever wonder how many books get sold in SA every year? What SA publishing looks like from the inside? How many books the average South African author sells?
Pour yourself a drink, this is going to hurt like hell. By Paige Nick
You may have written (or want to write) a non-fiction book that is based on your professional expertise. Or a memoir (also a non-fiction by the way). Or perhaps it's an illustrated children’s book, a cookbook or a photographic travel book. Enough? Not quite. If you want to get a publisher or agent you are not going to send them your whole book.
You need to drill down your entire book into a shorter document that captures its essence. Most books are commissioned by publishers or agents on a proposal basis. (I am going to use the terms publisher / agent interchangeably). You don't send them the actual book on first contact.
This means that writing a proposal is actually a Pretty Big Deal. They are long and they take a whole lotta work. But they will easily weed out the serious writer (that’s you) from the ‘don’t care enough’ to an experienced publisher. Don’t rush the process of the book proposal and don’t underestimate how carefully crafted this needs to be.
This is what is going to get your book sold....
(This is the latest version of this - I regularly update this article based on market trends)
Sarah Bullen is a writing coach, literary agent and book editor. She coaches writers on how to become authors and how to write to get published.