Last year was another year of major drama in the publishing industry.
The trend of major acquisitions continued with huge conglomerate publishing houses taking over small, medium and even sizable publishers to create even larger international publishing groups. Many independent publishers had to become ever more inventive with their publishing decisions just to stay in the game.
These are challenging times for publishers and booksellers. The advances in technology of recent years have brought advantages and disadvantages to large and small businesses alike. The balance of power has shifted away from publishers towards retailers with the growth of market share that both internet booksellers and supermarkets have enjoyed.
As a result publishers apply ever more rigorous criteria when considering new books for publication – and when deciding if existing books warrant reprinting. As a general rule, publishers are under increasing pressure:
– to publish fewer books overall and sell more copies of each one – not to take too many risks on new projects with new authors – to require a great deal more from writers than ever before – long gone are the days when all you had to do as a writer was come up with good ideas and be able to write!
The relevance of this to you as a writer on the path to publication is to understand that publishers are increasingly looking for new authors and new projects that they can have real confidence in.
So how can you give publishers as much confidence as possible in you and your book idea?
The answer is to prioritize a professional approach, high standards of excellence and action! Knowing this gives you a wonderful opportunity to make the most of your chances to impress publishers. And as Louis Pasteur once said, ‘Fortune smiles on the man who is prepared.’
Let’s look at what this means in practical terms.
‘Professional’ is defined in the Oxford English dictionary as ‘being competent or skilled in a particular activity’ and as ‘relating to an activity as a paid job rather than as an amateur’. When you begin your writing journey, understandably very few of these words are likely to apply to you.
Yet, you are automatically at an advantage over many writers simply by appreciating the importance of presenting your ideas professionally and to high standards of excellence. With this as your foundation, you can ensure that you give the right impression as you learn the skills and competencies relating to your writer’s craft – and the publishing process.
Understand that your role is to provide the right information to the right people in the right way. And in doing so, you will dramatically improve your chances of publishing success.
So what does having a professional approach to writing for publication mean? In summary, it means that you:
– are prepared for the tasks and challenges that lie ahead on your journey by having researched and read enough relevant information to guide your actions
– present yourself and your ideas clearly, competently and confidently by finding out what level of detail is required at each stage of the process and showing that you understand your role as an author
– are direct and to the point with all of your communications, both written and verbal (all publishing professionals have very little time and an even shorter attention span!)
If you decide to publish your book yourself, there is even more of a rationale for you to aim for high standards of professionalism and excellence at all levels. The reason for this is that books which are poorly produced stand out a mile, and as a result, run a high risk of not reaching readers in significant numbers. Such books are also likely to have a short life span and so all of your hard work will go to waste unless you prioritise appropriate quality at each stage of the process.
INVITATION TO TAKE ACTION
Here are five suggestions for how you can become more professional on your writing journey:
1. Begin by making a personal commitment to pursue the highest standards of excellence in all that you do. This means, for example, that you take enough time at the start to consider carefully what your motivation and objectives are for becoming a published author. By doing so, you are making a solid commitment to yourself which is a very good place to start!
Also, be realistic about the amount of time you have to devote to your writing … and then perhaps stretch a little further to make sure that you are fulfilling your greatest potential. Commit to scheduling time in your diary for your writing and publishing research – then make sure you do it!
2. Become as well-informed as you possibly can about the publishing process by reading relevant books, researching on the internet, taking relevant courses and working with a coach who has knowledge and experience of the publishing process.
Immersing yourself in relevant information will give you more confidence which will inevitably inspire more confidence in publishers.
3. Watch out for mistakes that should be easily avoided. For example, one literary agent I know receives around 4000 approaches a year from writers (including email) but a staggering 80% of these approaches aren’t right for him!
This is because he only takes on authors who are writing in specific areas as outlined in the information about him on his agency website. Yet only 20% of writers have taken the very first step in making a professional approach which is to research properly before sending anything to anyone.
4. Pay attention to detail. This advice should be applied to all that you do on your writing journey. From finding out what publishers expect from a good book proposal – and delivering just that – to choosing good quality paper and a hard-backed envelope to keep your material looking presentable.
First impressions count for a great deal and are very hard to change at a later date. So don’t be in too much of a hurry and later wish that you had spent a little longer fine-tuning your material before sending it out.
5. Give yourself a deadline by which to have achieved the next step of your journey – and stick to it! Take yourself and your writing project seriously enough to do what you need to do to achieve your goals.
All of the ideas and thinking, researching and making notes will lead to nothing if you do not take action on following through. Having a deadline to work to is a fabulous way of focusing the mind and organising your priorities.
So put dates in your diary to aim for, announce them out loud to at least one person (so that you are encouraged by accountability) and when the moment comes – just do it!
My final recommendation today is to choose at least three of these five suggestions that feel most relevant to you at this stage of your writing journey and give them your full attention this month. If you follow through with this recommendation alone, you will undoubtedly have made good progress by the end of the month.