How to Publish a Successful Book: Three Things You Should Know
Writing a book and publishing it are two vastly different endeavors, so while you might have just finished writing a compelling, original book manuscript, getting it published is a whole new journey you’ll have to undertake.
Whether you’re opting for self-publishing or querying literary agents to break into traditional publishing, most of the marketing research will be your responsibility, and you want to be prepared. In the traditional publishing scene, you’ll need to track down the right agents and publishers to pitch to, submit a stellar query letter to convince them to invest in you, and deliver a polished manuscript to impress them.
If you’re ready to start pitching your book to agents, check out our query letter packages for traditional publishing. In case you’re not quite there yet, let’s discuss the basic steps you should take to publish a successful book.
Know your own work
The first step is writing what you know; the second is knowing what you’ve written. Before you can start pitching your book to a professional agent, you need to have a clear idea of what your project is, what it represents, and why it will sell. This may sound obvious, but it’s important to really think about it. You have to categorize your book when you market it, and not all books fit snugly into a single category.
Are you writing a novel, a collection of short stories, or a novella? Is it fiction or nonfiction? Is it long enough or is it too long? Who’s your target audience? What will draw it to your book? Having a deep understanding of your project—the genre, the topic, the style, the length—is key to selling your work because nothing says “amateur” like being unprepared. Although there’s nothing wrong with being an amateur, that’s not the image you want to project when querying an agent: You want to come across as self-assured, well-informed, and ready for what’s ahead. Even if you’re an amateur, you want to burst in with professional energy.
Know your market
The next step is market research. The bottom line is that your book is a commodity: If you want to sell it, you have to treat publishing like a business, and businesses want goods they know will sell. You have to ask yourself what’s popular, who’s on the top best-selling lists, and what elements these successful books and authors have in common. Then ask yourself if your manuscript has any of these elements, and if not, figure out a way to inject them into it.
This isn’t to say you should compromise your artistic integrity to make a sale, nor should you pump out a generic, cookie-cutter story that has all the popular elements but none of the raw soul of a good book. Let’s be real: Your book needs an element of magic to get to the top. So, what kind of literary magic is the market interested in these days? That’s what you have to find out, and when you do, you need to determine how you can fit that into your story effectively.
Know the industry
After doing your market research and figuring out where your book fits in, you want to make sure you know how the industry works so that you can break into it. Your first move should be querying a literary agent, but not just any agent—the right agent for your book.
That’s not as easy as it sounds since each agent has specific genres they work with, their own tastes, and a unique personality. Most authors have to query multiple agents before they find the right fit, so rejection doesn’t mean your manuscript is a failure—it’s just not a match for that agent. If you’re new to the industry, you should consider hiring our team of experts to create a targeted list of agents and publishers who would be interested in your manuscript.
Once you know which agents you’re querying, it’s time to write an amazing query letter and synopsis (don’t worry, we can help with that, too). Your query package is the key to piquing an agent’s interest, so it has to be up to industry standards and prove that you’re a worthy investment of the agent’s time and expertise. It’s like a resume in a job application—even minor details can throw you out of the running, so investing in creating a truly high-quality query letter is absolutely worthwhile.
Even the best writers in the world need to be prepared in order to succeed in the publishing industry. From having a professionally edited manuscript and querying the right agents to gaining a working knowledge of the market and the industry, emerging authors have to put in most of the work that goes into publishing a successful book—it’s a lot of work, but that’s what it takes to succeed. If it all feels overwhelming, check out our services for authors and rest assured that with the right team of experts, hard work, and patience, you too can accomplish your publishing dreams.