Before I go off on my vacation (one week away!) I want to give you part two of the lessons I learned at the Writer’s Digest Novel Conference in Los Angeles.
These tips come from two workshops: Phil Sexton’s “Dirty Little Secrets of Publishing,” and “10 Ways to Get Your Novel Published Faster,” by Susan Shapiro and Daniel Smetanka.
I know how difficult it is to get to workshops. There is limited time and money to spend, so sharing resources is a way to gain more knowledge about the writing world.
These tips come from Susan Shapiro, an award-winning journalism professor at The New School, NYU and Daniel Smetanka, the Executive Editor at Counterpoint Press.
Before you seek out a literary agent:
- Your work has to be ready before you query. Do your revisions, use a professional editor in your genre. Use EFA, or look for freelance editors online. Here’s a good article about finding the right editor.
- If you want to get published, you need to get online and use social media (cue the groans in the audience). It’s useful, collaborative, and you don’t have to use every medium- pick two.
- Determine where your novel fits on the bookshelf.
- Publish short essays on the theme of your novel or any topic. Look for established magazines and newspapers. An example is the NYTimes, Modern Love column for contemporary relationship issues. Check the submission guidelines. Agents might contact you if your article does well.
- Get involved with associations, organizations, and clubs. Build relationships.
- Learn to pitch your novel in soundbites. Talk about your book energetically and creatively in a way that interest people-not in a ‘sales pitchy’ manner.
- Be a good literary citizen. Some definitions of literary citizen are here and here. Now submit your query.
Using these tips can weight your query and distinguish you from the crowd.
Phil Sexton, Publisher of Writer’s Digest, has over 20 years experience as a bookseller, editor, and author. These tips are for the writer who has just sold their book to a publisher.
Be your own advocate. Ask specific questions.
- How is my title positioned on your list? How much space will it have in the catalog?
- What are the marketing bullets?
- Is co-op (cooperative marketing dollars) reserved for my book? If not, the writer must take themselves on a regional tour and do their own publicity.
- Can I review the metadata (keywords, ISBN, anything identifying the book)?
- Barnes and Noble is more important to your print run. B & N sees 150 new titles a month, 80 get promoted. Amazon print is based on pre-orders. They print what is needed.
- Promotion is based on genre trend, marketing plan, editorial ‘pedigree,’ and publishing house.
- Book covers matter more than you think and has to advertise the content.
- Ask for a cover consultation/review of front and back cover. The spine has to be easy to read.
If you believe in your story, keep working on it. Fulfill your passion and do everything you can to make it a great novel.
Don’t give up or give in.