This piece was originally posted January 26, 2017
I've been working on a memoir for the past couple of years. This year, when asked, I finally gathered up enough courage to submit it to a major player in the publishing industry. The result, a prime learning experience on understanding how the industry works.
Below is the response I received last week from a senior acquisitions editor with Harper Collins. For continuity and discretion I have removed all names and association from this post. The editors response to my manuscript is listed in bold and italicized.
1 Platform - Earlina who?
"It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself." - Eleanor Roosevelt
"First of all I must tell you that we will not be able to help you with a publishing contract. Our sales goals are so high that it’s nearly impossible to sign anyone unless they have a pretty large platform. It seems as though you have a start to that with your social media, so good for you, but you’ll need to keep working on it because with hundreds of thousands of books published each year, to have one stand above the fray and be purchased is a tough thing to make happen."
2 The Publishing Business
"A publisher puts out an advance, spends $$ to edit, produce, warehouse, and sell a book to retailers only to have those retailers send it back if there are no sales. So we have to be assured there is a market before we publish. A significant market that would sell 30-50,000 copies in the first year. There are for sure smaller publishing houses that don’t have those same hurdles but we’re just not one of them."
3 The Craft
"So my recommendation to you is to keep writing and perfect your craft, then secure an agent who can help you shop the book to publishing houses. But keep one thing in mind. A consumer is never so self-focused as when they are buying something—like a book. It has to relate to them, speak to them, help them. In fact you need to consider who your audience is and keep them in mind—actually writing to them. Not just the traditional psychographic description but truly put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself why they would want to read your story? What’s in it for them? Because not only does it need to be compelling, it has to connect with them, and if not purely entertain them, then help them in some way. If you’re writing in the self-help category that’s a whole lot easier than a memoir which sometimes necessitates that they know you and want to know more of your story. This is again why a platform, even to include speaking engagements, is so important."
4 Perseverance – How bad do you want it?
"I’m sorry it’s a “no” from us but as I heard just yesterday from one of our authors—he said when he was pitching his first book he took every “no” as a reminder that he was one step closer to his “yes.”
Noooooo.....tear *rips clothing, run and hide* but ain't nobody got time for that! The only proper response to an email like this is:
"Thank you for the amazing insight into the publishing industry. I will take your recommendations and begin again."
"If you’d like some ideas on how to find an agent as well as other book publishing helps I would suggest two different blogs—michaelhyatt.com (he used to be the CEO of Thomas Nelson) and Janefriedman.com. Jane has also been in publishing many years. Their websites have lots of valuable information and lists for new writers."
If you are considering building your brand in any industry, have you considered your platform? What is your means for reaching and connecting with your audience? Have you considered rejection and how you will respond?