Publishing Writing

Four Things Publishers Expect From Authors (they may not be what you expect)

Be prolific, consistent, predictable, and marketable for publishing success. I just talked to Jerry Simmons, NAIWE’s publishing expert, and came away with some interesting insights into the expectations of publishers. I suspect that there are more than four things that publishers want authors to bring to the table, but the ones that Jerry chose were based on his own vast experience in the business side of the publishing world. A couple of them surprised me– how about you?

Here are Jerry’s picks for four indispensable ingredients for publishing success:

Be Prolific

Publishers are in the business of producing content that they can sell. If you write decently and can turn in at least a manuscript every year, a publisher is more likely to value you.

Be Consistent

Stick to your area of expertise, and turn in good quality work each time. If you’ve gained an audience for a particular type of work or in a particular genre, write for your audience. It not only keeps your backlist alive longer, but it’s also easier to sell to an established audience, rather than having to build an entirely different audience. If you feel you must write in other genres, you may want to get a different agent and use a pseudonym. According to Jerry, publishers regard commitment and consistency as a huge plus, and that can have a positive impact on your writing career.

Be Predictable

No, this isn’t quite the same as being consistent. Predictability actually has to do with percent of predictable sales. If a publisher ships out 1000 copies of your book, they want at least 65% of them to sell (the ones that don’t sell are returned from the bookstore to the publisher to meet a dismal fate). Publishers also like to see your backlist continue to sell (the backlist is books that are over about six months old). If your work consistently sells at a high percentage rate, you’ll be considered a publisher’s gold mine, and you’ll benefit from the multiple streams of royalty income.

Be Marketable

The best way to sell books is through publicity. Are you presentable and articulate for book signings or radio and television interviews? Remember, you’re representing not only yourself, but also the publisher, so they need to be convinced that you won’t embarrass them, and that you’ll effectively participate in the marketing of your book. Marketability can weigh quite heavily in a manuscript-purchasing decision, so take a close look and see how you can make yourself more marketable.

You may decide you need to get a media coach or join Toastmasters International to learn about speaking, or get your teeth whitened, a fresh hairstyle, or perhaps just a nice outfit or two (get good advice from a professional who understands business wear). Whatever you do, it will be an investment in marketability which can further your writing career.

There… what do you think? Were you surprised by any of these items? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

You can listen to the interview on NAIWE NewsWire.


Telephone Rules for Writers

What’s worse than sitting down at the typewriter and not being able to think of anything to write? Sitting down to write, finding your words flowing easily and well, then being interrupted by a phone call that completely derails your train of thought.

One of the best things I ever did for my writing career was to create a telephone policy. By setting a few simple boundaries, I eliminated an enormous potential source of distraction and frustration, and noticeably increased my daily word count. My rules are tailored for my life and preferences– yours may be different. Whatever boundaries you choose, I recommend setting at least a few. You’ll be amazed at how much more you can get done!

My Telephone Policy

  • Answer no calls during writing time–I have voice mail for a reason.
  • Make all outgoing phone calls at one time during the marketing/administration part of the day.
  • Encourage week-day business and social contact via e-mail rather than by phone (easier and more convenient).
  • Return inquiry calls with an e-mail when possible. It’s much faster, and you have a record of your response.
  • Any call to my personal number that is from an unknown source goes to voicemail (where is usually discovered to be a telemarketer if anyone ever checks the messages).

In what may seem the most curmudgeonly rule of all, I advocate turning off cell phone ringers when you’re out on an artist date (as Julia Cameron recommends in The Artist’s Way), when you’re doing errands, eating out, or any other time you don’t need to be talking. As a writer, it’s important to be present in the moment, seeing, hearing, and feeling all that is going on, and that’s impossible to achieve with a remote person talking at you. And few things are more rude than ignoring the people you’re with in order to talk on the phone.

If you have children or are a caregiver, you’ll have to be somewhat accessible, but other than those needs, try not to let yourself to be controlled by the phone. It’s a major time-waster, and can ruin a perfectly good writing session in no time. If you’re firm, friends and family will grow accustomed to your eccentricity (and if they don’t, you’ll develop a remarkable tolerance for ringing;-)). Business calls can be returned or answered with an e-mail each afternoon, which is usually soon enough. Very few calls are urgent or time-sensitive, so an occasional phone check should be all you need.

Becoming a writer means writing, and one of the things that makes it possible is setting boundaries around your writing time. The phone is often the last intruder to be banished, but when it is, I believe you’ll find yourself more creative and productive. Enjoy!