How to Get Published in
We dreamed of getting a mainstream New York publishing house to
publish our line of romance novels for gay men. Just 90 days later,
we achieved our goal. Based on our successful experience, here are
suggestions for how to get published in 90 days.
Consider POD Publication. Print-on-demand
(POD) publication can give you a finished product that stands out
from the slew of plain manuscripts on an agentís or editorís crowded
desk. It also may allow you to pitch a publisher or agent based on
actual ongoing sales (via your own Web site and/or Amazon).
The downside is the cost and quality. Expect to pay a minimum of
$300-400 to format your book (no frills); and be limited in cover
design. You will also have typos, unless you are a copyeditor.
Donít make your POD decision solely on price. Two key
considerations: distribution on Amazon and the ability to customize
your cover design. For a great Web site comparing the various POD
publishers, try http://www.booksandtales.com/pod/.
Caution: POD is not for everyone. A
mainstream novel targeted at a general audience is unlikely to reap
the benefits of POD. But if you target a niche market, POD can help.
The narrower the niche, the better. In our case, we were writing
romance novels for gay men. We targeted a specific narrow niche: not
just men; not just gay men; but gay men who believe in happily ever
after and want to read about it.
If these qualifications (a definable niche) and restrictions
(price/quality) rule out your manuscript, POD may not be for you.
Get a Web Site. Web communication is essential to modern
marketing, whether your product is a book or a widget. Web sites act
partly like a business card and partly like a book cover. They
attract interest, supply information and provide a way of
communicating with media, fans, potential agents and prospective
publishers. For a sample, see http://www.romentics.com .
A google search can provide thousands of Web hosting services at
reasonable fees. Many of them provide templates for web design
(avoiding the quality issues with print media). Many will do a
simple design for a fee. The number of unique visitors to your site
(which our web host tracks for us) can be used to demonstrate to a
potential publisher the high level of interest in your book.
Get a Brand. A brand shows book professionals that you have
given thought to how to distinguish your book in a crowded
marketplace. In the world of books and authors, such thought is
Our brand was "Romentics," a line of romance
novels for gay men. But even if you have just one novel to sell,
make it a brand. Boil your idea (no matter how grand) down to a
simple, intriguing statement. Give it a slogan. (Ours was "A Novel
Approach to Gay Romance.")
|Consider developing a logo for you or the
novel. (Ours can be seen on our marketing materials, including
our Web site.) Use consistent colors, photography and other
design elements on all your promotional materials, from the
Web site to the book covers and online advertisements.
Consistency suggests professionalism and a cohesive
Trade Favors. Nothing we did -- except the writing -- was
done alone. We enlisted amateur photographer friends to take photos
for our Web site and book covers. In return, we plied them with
cocktails and rewrote resumes for them and gave prominent mentions
on our inside cover page. We enlisted Web and graphic designers with
a weakness for electronic devices. In addition to the iPod we gave
each of them, they now use our Web site, our book covers, our logo,
and our online ads in their own freelance portfolio.
Spend on a Quality Cover (if marketing
through bookstores). Our covers are simple four-color designs. These
are adequate for Internet sales and they support our brand identity.
But the moment our books got to a distributor, we heard in no
uncertain terms from booksellers that our covers needed significant
improvement. The money spent on a cover will be well worth it.
Consult with your POD publisher and enlist friends!
Leave Bookmarks Behind. A significant element of our Web site
design is a bookmark motif, with a folded corner as if to mark a
page on each screen. We complemented this motif with actual
bookmarks, too, using the consistent Romentics design elements and
our contact information. Your bookmarks -- with your brandís
consistent coloration and design -- should be your calling cards.
Carry a supply everywhere you go. Take them with you on vacation and
leave them in conspicuous places when you depart. Insert a bookmark
in every mailing as a constant reminder. Search the Web for
printers, ask your local copy and print store, and check http://www.gfxinc.com/bookmark_printing.html.
Check out a sample
pitch we admire: http://www.closetcasebooks.com/pages/879643/index.htm.
You should use the tease to describe your book in a prominent place
on your Web site.
|Punch Hard. The masterpiece
may be a thousand pages, but your back cover and your pitch to
agents should be no longer than three-to-four lines long. Just
like branding, the most brilliant concepts can be communicated
quickly (e.g., Just do it; e=mc2). Discipline yourself. Read
the back cover of many books for inspiration. Be punchy. Be
dramatic. But above all, be brief.
Do Google. Especially if you are in a niche market, Google
(or other search engines) will connect you with sites specializing
in your niche. Google can yield many directories of media covering
your niche market. (Try googling "media" and "directory" and "[your
niche]".) Google led us to services providing free Web-based fax
capability (http://www.fax2mail.com) so we could put
out our key press releases at zero cost.
Drive Web Traffic. Companies like Google and Overture (Yahoo! and others)
also provide a relatively low-cost advertising vehicle that users
can click to get to your Web site. With "pay for performance" ads,
you can control how much you spend a month. We budget about $100 for
Google a month, and about half our approximately 3,000 unique
visitors a month come through search engines. We found search engine
ads far superior to online banner ads in our first 90 days in value
Focus Your Press. Nothing beats free
press for driving Web traffic. But you donít need a New York Times
book review to achieve your goal. When you begin, target niche (Web
and specialty pubs) and local publications through Google. Be
persistent. Send the link to your site. Explain why your book is
worth a story. Getting that first story is the hard part. Once you
have the first story in hand, send it to a wider array of
publications. The media likes a bandwagon and once someone else
covers a story, the others will climb aboard.
Focus on Fans. Even if you sell a single POD book, you have a
fan. And your Web site and bookmarks give potential fans a way to
contact you. Find a way to communicate with them. E-mail them. Use
their ideas and foster a relationship. Use their enthusiasm to
attract agents and editors and tease the media. One of our fans
contributed great quotes to the Boston Globe and got her entire book
club reading our novels.
We also put out a Romentics
newsletter every month. Hereís a sample: http://www.romentics.com/news/NewsMarch.html.
|Make it human. Put together the photos, the
brand, and news to personalize your project. Invite feedback.
Make your fans invest. Give them a chance to forward your news
and recruit new fans. Offer a portion of your Web site for
reviews. To build our newsletters (all electronic to save
money), we bought cheap software on ebay ($30) and taught
ourselves to use it.
Build a Marketing Portfolio. Collect every news clipping,
however obscure, and every book review, and every newsletter, and
every advertisement you do. Even the book marks themselves should be
part of this package. This portfolio -- the real life proof of your
bookís ability to generate a buzz -- is what you will send to agents
and editors (and ultimately what editors will use to convince the
money men to back your book and set your advance). The key is to
hand agents and editors a complete, finished product of which your
book is just one component of an integrated whole (portfolio, brand,
Pinpoint Your Agent Search. Use the many
resources that tell you how to get an agent. (We like "The Practical
Writer" published by Poets & Writers Magazine.) Consult
directories that explain what subject matters and genres an agent
will consider. If you have a niche, make sure your target agents
handle it. Call them if you cannot tell. Donít waste a romance
proposal on an agent that handles only non-fiction. We sent out
letters to twenty agents and got three positive responses. (We were
willing to send out another fifty letters if necessary.)
Arm Your Agent with Your Marketing Portfolio. The agent we eventually signed with said that what caught her
eye was the completeness and professionalism of our marketing
materials and our (rare) willingness to do the marketing side of the
business as well as the writing. She said she had a hunch that
publishing houses would see those attributes as well.
She was right! Our agent reproduced our marketing portfolio and
sent it with actual copies of our POD books to various mainstream
publishing houses. Interest was immediate. Within six weeks, we had
three publishing houses seriously considering acquiring one of our
books, and we eventually signed with Warner Books. They are
publishing our first Romentics novel in June, 2005, and we are now
negotiating Warnerís publication of the other books in the line
(with continued marketing, branding, communications and hard work).
Celebrate your success. And publicize it, using the same
tools you used to get the contract in the first place. Once you hit
success, start at the top of the list again! Though the message may
change, you never stop pitching the brand. Good
Scott&Scott are the authors of Romentics, a line
of romance novels just for gay men, available now at http://www.romentics.com. A
Romentics novel "Hot Sauce" will be published by
Warner Books in June, 2005.
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