What Are Publishers Looking For?

By on June 4, 2018
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Getting published is hard. All writers know it. Yet so many of us keep on trying to get our work published. We keep going through the long, drawn-out process of writing, perfecting and sending off our manuscripts. We keep writing synopses and cover letters, researching agents and editors to try and find the best match and painfully, excruciatingly sitting around and waiting to hear any news.

We do all this for the teeny, tiny one in a million chance that we might hear back from them, and that they might tell us they liked our work and that they want to take it forward.

It’s a lot of effort for such a small chance. So how can we make it more worth our while?

The truth is that we can do everything right. We can polish our manuscripts to perfection, we can write a dazzling covering letter, we can research our audience and prove that there is a readership out there, but still, we don't get the response we are hoping for.

It leaves us tearing our hair out, staring at our gradually thickening pile of rejection letters screaming ‘WHAT DO YOU WANT???’

While we don’t have a crystal ball, often it’s because writers aren’t really, honestly paying attention to or accepting what it is that publishers want that they see their work rejected time and time again. If we close our eyes and ears to what they are asking us for, we naturally can’t expect to get very far.

So just what is it that publishers are looking for?

They want to be dazzled by your idea

Your story must be unique and but not so ‘out there’ that it has no mass appeal. It needs to be mainstream enough that a lot of people will buy it (or have a specific unique audience that is hungry for it) but also needs to be strong enough to stand out from the competition. It needs to be on trend or good enough to stand the test of time.

They want the whole package

Being great at writing books is no longer enough. Publishers want someone who they can rely on to get out there and be a powerhouse of promotion too. If you are personable, presentable, and passionate about your work, you need to make sure that comes across every time you pitch. Authors can no longer just let their work do the talking or hide behind their stories. They need to be marketable as people too.

They want a business partner

The more skills you can bring to the table the better. Publishers no longer want to take a punt on a new author, no matter how promising. They don’t like risks. They want to know that by going into partnership with you that you can produce results, and by results we mean book sales. Showing that you have a significant social media following, that you are marketing savvy, that you are passionate, hardworking, and already have more books in the pipeline all help publishers recognize you as a safe bet. Your credentials and author platform will help them see this. If you can prove you already have a creative and detailed promotion plan and are willing to put the work in, this can help you seem more appealing too.

So if you want to land a traditional publishing deal think about how you can mould yourself and your work into the above. These days a writer needs to be so much more than just a writer, so if you can prove you have the business know-how as well as the skill as well as the personality and passion, you may find yourself with a contract in your hands much sooner than you think.

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

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