5 Questions to Ask Yourself After Hearing: We Can't Sell Enough to Justify Publishing It

Author:
Publish date:
Image placeholder title

I'm often asked what to do if editors/agents love your work, but
respond with a rejection saying that the market is too small. Here are
5 questions to ask yourself.

1. Is there a smaller publisher that
would be interested because they have a lower threshold of sales to
meet? Big houses may want to sell as many as 10-20K copies in the first
year to justify publication; smaller presses may be fine with 3-5K
copies.

2. Is it possible to make your subject/topic/book more
marketable by employing a sexier hook? Many times, writers aren't
looking at their work with a marketer's eye, which is understandable,
since most of us aren't marketers. But think about how you might
interest a perfect stranger in your topic. Have you really tapped into
current trends and interests when it comes to your book project, and
are you framing it in an exciting way for a publisher (or agent)? Just
because you're fascinated by your subject doesn't mean other people
will get it. You have to know how to sell it.

I heard some excellent advice from Lisa Earle McLeod at the Foothills Writers Guild workshop last weekend, which she heard at the beginning of her career: Many
talented writers will never be successful due to mediocre marketing
skills. Many mediocre writers will be successful due to marketing
talent.

Need to brush up on your marketing skills and talent—in a way that's authentic and makes sense for the new media world? Look to Seth Godin and Chris Brogan.

3.
Do you have the platform to market and promote your book to the target
audience? If a publisher can be convinced that you have the power to
sell your book based on your reach to the primary readership of the
book, they'll be more likely to take you on. What does a platform
consist of? Primarily:

  • Your online following (via your
    websites, blogs, social networks, newsletters, regular online writing
    gigs, podcasts, videocasts)
  • Your offline following (via
    professional or personal organizations, speaking engagements, events,
    classes/teaching, city/region presence)
  • Your presence in
    traditional media (writing that you do for newspapers/magazines, any
    coverage you've received, gigs with radio/TV)

You can find out more about platform building in Get Known Before the Book Deal by Christina Katz.

4.
If the market is truly too small for a publisher to be interested, then
does it make sense to publish and market the work yourself? Especially
if you have a following or a way to reach your intended readership,
sometimes you can profit more by going this route. You can make work
available digitally through services such as Lulu and Smashwords, with little or no starting cost.

5.
Does your work really deserve book or print treatment? Some nonfiction
topics actually work better when presented on blogs, websites, or
communities/forums—where an interactivity and ability to freshen up the
content at a moment's notice has more appeal to your audience.

Traditional
houses will only become less and less likely to take on very
niche/specialized work, because producing anything in print is a
significant investment and a significant risk, without knowing there's
an audience waiting to buy. Even university presses, known for niche works, are moving their efforts to digital-only platforms.

Authors
will have to change their thinking about what it means to have a book
in print. It is not the first goal or the end goal, but merely one
channel, and not usually the best channel.

Photo credit: Zevotron

Mistakes Writers Make: Not Using Your Spare 15 Minutes

Mistakes Writers Make: Not Using Your Spare 15 Minutes

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake writers make is not using your spare 15 minutes.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Unexpected Visitor

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Unexpected Visitor

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, invite an unexpected visitor into your story.

7 Tips for Writing a Near Future Dystopian Novel

7 Tips for Writing a Near-Future Dystopian Novel

In this article, debut author Christina Sweeney-Baird explains how writers can expertly craft a near-future dystopian novel.

Pam Jenoff: On Writing About Isolation While Isolated

Pam Jenoff: On Writing About Isolation While Isolated

Bestselling author Pam Jenoff shares how she explored themes of isolation in her latest novel, The Woman with the Blue Star, while writing during the 2020 pandemic lockdown.

8 Ways to Add Suspense to your Novel

8 Ways to Add Suspense to your Novel

Authors Mark and Connor Sullivan are no strangers to utilizing suspense in their novels. Here, they share their top 8 tips for writers to do the same.

Lynn Painter: On Rom-Coms and Escapism

Lynn Painter: On Rom-Coms and Escapism

Author Lynn Painter discusses the strengths of the romantic comedy genre and how she utilized them in her novel Better than the Movies.

On Mining Humor From Family Dynamics in Your Writing

On Mining Humor From Family Dynamics in Your Writing

Humor often stems from things that are not humorous. Can you mine your family's dynamics for inspiration? Author Jesse Q. Sutanto believes you can, and gives you her top 3 tips for doing so.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 563

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write an after poem.

How to Inhabit the Character You Write About

How to Inhabit the Character You Write About

One key to engaging your reader is to give them a character they love to read about. Author Diana Souhami gives her top tips for making this happen.