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Do you dream of selling your book to a big New York publisher?
I’ve done that, but the market is ever-changing, and so it’s always nice to get an update on what counts most in today’s acquisition decisions.
Here, a few items of note from a recent session on the subject with literary agent Jeff Kleinman:
- A manuscript must deliver. That means an agent or editor can’t put it down. It’s gush-worthy.
- Want to impress a big publisher with your social media presence? You’ll need at least 25,000 followers—and that’s just in one spot, not combined across platforms.
- Publishers want big books, the ones that will generate big sales.
- If you write fiction, agents and publishers most want your first novel.
- If you write fiction or memoir, your manuscript must have narrative urgency.
- If an agent or editor tells you that she didn’t fall in love with your manuscript, that generally means the characters aren’t strong enough.
- Your log line, or sales handle, is crucial. It should represent your core understanding of your book. Drill it down. It has to travel, meaning that it’s pithy and repeatable.
- You should know exactly where your book would be shelved in a bookstore.
- You should know the audience for your book, not in general (i.e. middle-aged women) but in terms of clearly delineated groups.
- When your book goes before a publisher’s sales team, it’s good to have two noteworthy authors lined up endorse it—not at the meeting, but in cover blurbs if the book is accepted.
- A huge problem: authors send out their work before it’s ready.
Co-founder of 49 Writers and founder of the independent authors cooperative Running Fox Books, Deb Vanasse has authored sixteen books. Her most recent are Write Your Best Book, a practical guide to writing books that rise above the rest; What Every Author Should Know, a comprehensive guide to book publishing and promotion; and Cold Spell, a novel that “captures the harsh beauty of the terrain as well as the strain of self-doubt and complicated family bonds,” according to Booklist. Deb lives and works on Hiland Mountain outside of Anchorage, Alaska, and at a cabin near the Matanuska Glacier. A regular contributor to the IBPA Independent, her views here are her own.