By Patricia Fry
I’m really pleased to welcome Patricia Fry to The Book Designer today. Patricia has a wealth of experience publishing and helping other authors navigate the indie publishing path. She speaks from a long and successful career in publishing.
Some people look at self-publishing as a last resort—something that you do when there is absolutely no other option. But for authors who want to land a traditional royalty publisher, it can be a smart business move. Why? Because some publishers seek out good self-published books.
Not all publishers are open to already published books, of course—some even write in their submission guidelines or their listings in Writer’s Market, “Do not want to see previously published books.”
Few publishers, however, will turn their backs on a book that is selling—that their audience wants and that has proven itself in the marketplace.
I have had five of my self-published books picked up by publishers—two of them in 2010. Scholastic Books issued one of my clients a contract last year for her young adult fantasy. And this wasn’t a self-published book, but a pay-to-publish book. (Self-publishing means establishing your own publishing company. A “self-publishing” company, or subsidy publisher, is now more widely known as a “pay-to-publish” company.)
What does it take to have your previously published book even looked at by a traditional royalty publisher? Proof that it is selling in large enough quantities to that publisher’s audience. The publisher must see the success potential in the project.
While there are steps you can take to prepare your book for eventual acceptance by a publisher, not every book that is picked up has been intentionally groomed for this outcome. In most cases, the author simply produces the best product he can for the right market and then promotes it as a priority, not a second-thought. This describes the scenario in all cases I know of.
With my book on how to do a Hawaiian luau on the mainland, I just got tired of promoting it. I was almost sold out of my third self-published edition and I was running out of ideas for promoting it. So I offered it to a publisher in Hawaii and he jumped on it. He sells it through tourist shops on the Islands—the audience I had in mind originally, but wasn’t able to adequately reach.
Planning for Success
Now, I recommend to my clients who have written books of potentially wide interest, that they give up their seemingly futile search for a publisher and self-publish the book to get it out there. Then I help them set up a marketing plan and advise them to promote their book as if its success depends on it—because it does! I advise them to hit it hard for a year or more and then take their book along with their impressive sales figures to an appropriate publisher.
Doesn’t it make sense that a publisher will be more interested in a book that has proven itself and an author who has demonstrated his promotional skills than take a chance on an unknown author and an untested book?
If you’ve studied the publishing business at all, you’ve already heard about some of the more famous self-published books that eventually made it big in traditional publishing houses. There was James Redfield’s Celestine Prophecy, Lisa Genova’s Still Alice and many other happy-ending stories.
Some publishers even request full books in their submission guidelines and others are known to go out and solicit self-published novels and nonfiction books.
How to Land a Royalty Publisher
So what is the best way to land a traditional royalty publisher? There’s nothing new under the sun. It’s the same advice any professional would offer any hopeful author:
- Write a good book for a large audience or a strong niche audience.
- Promote, promote, promote.
- Once you have some impressive sales figures, start approaching appropriate publishers.
- If this is your first spin around the publishing arena or if you have not quite figured out how to navigate this highly competitive industry, before putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard,
- Study the publishing industry so you have a clear understanding of what it takes to succeed in this competitive climate; so that you know what your options are, the possible ramifications of your choices and your responsibilities as a published author.
- Write a book proposal. This will help you to write the right book for the right audience, show you how to establish a platform and build on it, and help you to create a reasonable marketing plan.
If you dream of being published in the traditional way, but you are receiving rejection after rejection, after rejection, consider self-publishing your amazing book. Prove its worth and then approach the publisher of your choice. Rather than a fluke, these days, going from self-publishing to traditional publisher is becoming a rather sophisticated business move.
Patricia Fry is the executive director of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network). She established a career as a writer over 30 years ago and is the author of 32 published books. Visit her informative blog daily: www.matilijapress.com/publishingblog. Websites: www.patriciafry.com and www.matilijapress.com.
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