What a Publisher Looks For

    Being in the publishing business, I get to read a lot of manuscript submissions.  And I can tell you three things that publishers are looking for.

1.  A Platform

    A publisher wants to know who you are.  Do you have a following?  Does anyone know your name?  Do people care about what you are writing or putting out into the world?  A publisher may look at your Facebook friends and Twitter followers.  If you have a blog, they will look at your readership numbers.  Have you written anything in the past?  If so, how did that sell?    

2.  Your Writing Style

    This is a pretty important consideration.  Can you write?  Do you have a voice?  Does your story move?  Now, you need not be the next Hemingway, but you need to be able to tell a story.  To quote Stephanie Meyer, “There are good writers, and there are good storytellers.”  She isn’t wrong.  There are some stories I have really enjoyed, and the prose has not changed my life.  But the writing adequately told a story and kept my attention.  There must be a voice that builds tension, moves the reader from scene to scene.  When I read manuscripts, if I get pulled into the narrative, that is a huge sign that this writer has a voice worth investing in.

3.  Your Idea

    What is your book about?  In Hollywood, this is called the pitch.  If your book has a great idea, that will help market it to the largest possible readership.  In non-fiction, I often get submissions that are just too broad.  A book for everyone is really a book is for no one.  I cannot direct marketing dollars to the entire mass of humanity.  But if a book is in a certain genre, or meets a need that there are no other books for, that is a chance to get into that niche and make a splash. 

    For example, someone sends me a manuscript about their book on leadership.  Their pitch is “how to be a good leader.”  Unless this is being written by a celebrity or a four-star general, nobody is going to care.  There are too many books out there in this space.  But if they were to narrow their focus, and their main idea was about “your first 100 days leading a new church.”  Well, that is a much more focused submission.  It is not to the whole world, but to the church world.  And it’s not for everyone in the church world, but to people who are starting off on a new leadership journey.  People would see this title and know right away if they want to read it or not.  It stands out.  

    This is true for fiction and non-fiction alike.  I have a manuscript on my desk right now, and the idea is so good that the book just writes itself.  The pitch is strong and is, therefore, easier to market.

Now, you do not need all three of these things to be published.  Honestly, if you have a platform and either of the other two, you are in great shape.  Shoot… I know guys who can’t write and have bad ideas and still get published.  A platform matters.  This is like guaranteed sales.  Here at Hidden Hollows, we are not against publishing unknowns.  If we get a submission that has a good voice and a great idea, we would fight for that author.  It is the hardest kind of marketing.  I know a great book that came out last year.  It was the best book about personal finance I have ever read.   But the author was unknown. So the publisher put no push in marketing this work, and it has gone largely unnoticed.  This can happen.  But I believe it is worth the risk.

So, how do you strengthen your platform, your voice, and your ideas?  I will be writing about these things over the next month.  I hope it is a help.