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Land a publishing deal by thinking like a publisher...

When out and about, at authors’ signing events, or when I’m networking and attending similar meetings, I get asked many, many times if TWH would be interested in publishing Joe Public’s book.

I can see the light go on behind people’s eyes when I tell them TWH, as well as helping self-publishing authors, occasionally picks up titles to traditionally publish, as an independent publishing house. They think, ‘Aha! I’ve found someone to publish my book! Credibility and fame will be mine! Hurrah!

If only things were that easy. To the author, TWH publishes books; they have a book, ergo, a deal must be in the air. They fail to see what I, as a publisher and business owner, may get out of the bargain, too.

Would the same approach go down with your bank manager?

Would Joe Public assume, because they’re in need of a loan, and because a bank lends money, that funds would be nailed on? Or would they perceive that they’ve to prove their credentials and have a damn good case for money to be lent? You effectively have to show the bank you don’t need the money before it’s awarded.

Apply that same knowledge to a publishing deal. Not only does an author have to have a book (and, therefore, a need for a publisher), and they have to find a publisher who publishes books to make the equation work, they also have to prove their credentials.

The book has to be a solid punt for the publisher. An author must show how they plan to promote their title (gone are the days of lavish marketing budgets and invisible authors – these days you’ve to sell your soul, along with your story); on top of that, an author must show how easy it will be for a publisher to make back their investment.

If that seems unfair, so is spending hour after hour editing, proofing, researching, creating anticipation, design, typesetting and laying out a book. That’s beside cover design, the legalities, point of sale, author events and promotion, long-term marketing – and more, the list goes on – all things the publisher has to complete or steer AS WELL AS BANK-ROLL THE WHOLE THING, with only their expertise and understanding of the market as assets in this regard.

If the book fails to make a wave the author can toddle off and write another one, but the publisher has lost time and money – and, most probably, buckets of faith in their choice of career.

In today’s economy, bank managers have been accused of not lending enough. Perhaps the same could be said of traditional publishers: that they’re not handing out enough ‘deals’ to the multitude of existing and aspiring authors aiming to release books each year.

If you’re an author, try and understand the commitment you’re asking of a publisher – particularly indie outfits like TWH that may only release a few books annually. No publisher wants their catalogue to remain static or book-less, but neither does any publishing company want, or can afford, huge losses.

Next time you come across a publisher, don’t assume your book will be the only one they’ve seen or heard of that year, month, week – or even, day. Just because they publish books doesn’t mean they have to take yours; entice them, give them a short (not a rambling) overview, then tell them how many readers you have chomping at the bit to buy your story. Whet their appetite; make them feel this book is the next ‘must-read’. Why there’s nothing like it out there already. Then maybe, just maybe, you may see a light go on behind the publisher’s eyes.

Bankers aren’t popular, and neither are publishers, if either have said ‘no’. Banks have to make money and so do publishers – a creative industry it may be, but it’s also business.

It may not be palatable to hear, but if you want a book deal, you’re more likely to be successful if you can show you don’t need one.


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