I’m embroiled in a short story just now, which is taking all my time. It’s for the Guardian Weekend short story competition which closes tomorrow. I only found out about it last week and wasn’t planning on entering it because it normally takes me a month to write a short story, then something happened. It was just an ordinary thing that happens to ordinary people and not important on its own, but I realised that if I put it together with a conversation I heard a few weeks ago and an experience I had last year then it became something significant – it became a story. I didn’t know that one piece was missing from my puzzle until I found it.
So, during my short break from arranging all the pieces and bashing them into place with a sledgehammer (just kidding – I hope I’ve fitted my story together a bit more elegantly than that) I typed up some notes I made at the 2008 Geneva Writers’ Conference Business of Publishing Discussion Panel (I already posted notes from a travel writing workshop at the same conference here) . Sorry not to be offering you sparkly new material but my brain is a bit frazzled from the short story and I think these notes are still very pertinent:
Laura Longrigg, MBA Literary Agents, on getting an agent:
The letter to the agent is crucial. You have to sell yourself. Be boastful. Mention all your prizes and publications and conferences that you have been to. A media presence is an enormous help.
An agent wants to know that you are in it for the long term. Let them know what’s next, what your future writing plans are. They will want more books of the same style or a series. Include a synopsis and the first 2-3 chapters (about 50 pages) which should be as good as you can possibly make them.
Consider paying a literary consultancy which will provide an in-depth critique of your novel for a fee and may put you in touch with an agent. Most of Laura Longrigg’s authors are taken on through these kind of contacts or via editors.
Bill Newlin, publisher at Avalon Travel, on independent publishers and marketing:
An independent publisher is less likely to get into a chain store and may not have money for marketing. They do work hard to get your book registered with Amazon and on databases. To find the right independent publisher for you go to a bookstore and see who is publishing novels like yours.
Book reviews and advertising do not work in marketing books. The only mass media that sells books is talk shows. Web campaigns also help sell books. It is a good idea to have a web presence because publishers and editors are looking for someone who has already created a market for their work.
David Applefield, founder of Frank, on publishing and marketing strategy:
You need to manage your expectations. Very few people make money from writing. To get published you may have to reduce the risk for a publisher e.g. get a sponsor to pay for translation or a firm to buy 5000 copies. If you can’t market your book to the whole country, target a specific region. It’s not and/or, it’s and/and. Try everything to get your book published. Have a plan B. Youtube is good way to market a book. Include links to publisher websites.
If you found these notes useful (hopefully you did) and are interested in learning more about marketing a book, take a peek at my interview with Sade Adeniran.