Get Published Part 2: Market It!

by Brenda W. Clough

 So, you’ve written a novel. And it’s perfect. Gemlike. Every beta reader says it’s dynamite. The editor you hired urges you to submit it; your fellow workshoppers ran out of suggestions and have taken to bringing hip flasks of gin to the meetings, to soothe their angst at your wonderfulness. Well, that was easy! Now we come to the hard part.

Now it’s time to take off the writing/editing hat, and put on the marketeer hat. Here’s a simple way to begin. Go to a book store, a brick-and-mortar one that sells new, not used or remaindered, books. Or go to an SF convention, and survey the offerings in the huckster room. You know your work, yes? You know what genre it is, whether it’s YA or for adult readers, whether it’s milSF or literary fantasy. Tour the store (or the biggest vendor table at the con) and make a stack of every book that is like yours. Look on the inside of the back cover dust jacket for hardbacks, or on the back cover or the title page of paperbacks. The name of the publisher should be there. Make a list of all the publishers of that stack of books. (Then buy something, to soothe the rage of the store or dealer.) This is the core of your possible market list.

Now that you have a core list of current publishers who actually offer a real paper product that is similar to your work, hop on line. Google every publisher, one by one, and look for the ‘submissions’ page somewhere on their web site. They’ll break out into two main groups. Most of them will not take unsolicited or unagented submissions; set those aside. Those that do will have varying criteria — subject, length, formatting. If your work meets the subject and length criteria, format it properly. Check on that web site once more, to see if they don’t accept simultaneous submissions. Your goal is to slam the work out to as many publisher as you can, all at once. The ones who insist on being the only ones to look at it can wait for round two. It may take you days, weeks to work through all the publishers on this list A, so don’t hurry yourself. Meet all the criteria demanded, learn how to write a cover letter, jump through those hoops. This is a green M&M moment, when you’re going to demonstrate that you can be worked with.

Oh! That was the key word  there: wait. Because that’s mostly what you do after all that work. You have baited the hook, thrown the worm out into the water, and now you wait for a bite. Do not live on your nerves for this period, which could take years. Instead, go back to the list. You separated out all the publishers who only take agented mss, remember? Okay, now’s a good time to go and look for an agent. If somebody on list A that you’ve just submitted the work to suddenly buys the work, you might want an agent to help you with the contract. If nobody on list A bites, you’ll need an agent to submit to list B. Which will be the topic for our next rock!

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Get Published Part 2: Market It! — 5 Comments

  1. Even though you saw them at cons or stores you may still want to check Preditors & Editors or Writers Beware.

    Full scams are unlikely to have such books, but small presses may be hitting troubles.

  2. Oh, definitely. I had to push a mention of Writer Beware into the next post, because there’s just too much to cover. All small presses balance on a knife blade, because the costs of paper and shipping vary. There’s no guarantee. But at least you have a broad filter here, to pick out the absolute villains.

    • All small businesses operate on thin margins, simply because they’re small. They don’t have the strategic depth of a large corporation, so they have less to fall back on if hard times hit.

      Also, the smaller the business, the more likely that there will be financial irregularities. Not necessarily shady or dishonest, but definitely not in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles. Commingling of personal and business funds is the biggie, and while it may be able to slide in a mom-and-pop grocery or hardware store that does its wholesale buying on a cash basis, it can have nasty consequences in small presses. I’ve been on the sidelines of several ugly meltdowns of small presses in which the owner “borrowed” money that was supposed to go to authors in order to deal with a health crisis or some other emergency, and never was able to catch back up and restore the funds.

      • Oh yes. The possibilities for trouble are endless. There’s even a joke: How do you make a small fortune in publishing? Start with a large one.
        Even the most well-meaning publisher, as you point out, can become waylaid by difficulties over which she has no control. But at least the small publisher is, hopefully, actually interested in publishing books or magazines. The giant conglomerate that owns, as a tiny sucker on the massive writhing tentacles of its multinational empire, the ‘big’ publisher, doesn’t. They only care about return on investment. Books are just another widget to sell, and they’ll throw it over the side whenever it’s convenient. So there’s no joy there, either.

        • That’s the trade-off. The small press has personal commitment, but little or no strategic depth for retrenchment. The big corporate publisher has the strategic depth to fall back on if things go pear-shaped, but is beholden to bean-counters, many of whom are not readers.