How can a writer become “the next big thing” in today’s world? A month ago, I started working for a publishing company and almost immediately became depressed at the number of books that get turned down every day. I felt as if my job title should be “Dream Crusher.” Yes, some book proposals aren’t all that great and need to be declined, but many are fantastic. Still, we often have to turn down even the fantastic proposals. Why? Because of the way the world works. Apparently, no one wants to read a book by a “nobody.” A writer actually has to be a “Someone” before they can even attempt to become an author “Someone.”
Ideally, this mindset could be changed, but it’s not reality. Here are three ways a beginner writer can hope to ever make anything of themselves: Making a brand for yourself, Have a killer proposal, and Make the first few chapters perfect.
I had always wondered why there are hundreds of people on Pinterest who have tons of boards dedicated to the stories they’re writing, but those books rarely (none that I know of) ever become anything. Now I know the problem. Writing the book isn’t the hard part. It’s getting a publishing company to take a chance on you. No longer do we live in the days of Shakespeare or Dickens in which all you had to do was write the book. Now we writers have to enter the “popularity contest” of social media. When debut authors send in their proposals, the first thing that gets looked at is all their social media platforms. Do they use all the major platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+)? How many followers do they have? Do they keep their followers engaged?
If you’re hoping to get published any time soon and aren’t already popular, your chances of getting far are slim. I don’t say this to scare you but rather to prepare you. Start now by building yourself a brand image. Start with a Facebook author page, create Pinterest boards for story inspiration, start a blog. Your goal should be to get people to start seeing you as an author. Let your friends read what you’ve written to help spread the word. Yes, it’s a lot of work in the beginning to establish a wide array of interesting content to post across social platforms, but publishers want to see that you’re invested in writing as a career and are capable of building yourself so they won’t have to do it for you–because they won’t.
Have a Killer Proposal
After looking at your social media content and followers to assess popularity, the acquisitions person will then look at your proposal. Since I never knew this was a thing, I’ll tell you a little about them. Although you can write your own proposal, most authors will look for a writing agency to write one up for them to send to publishing houses as an introduction to the submitted book. These proposals typically include basic author bio, book genre, word count, manuscript status (either complete or still in the making), book summary (short version and long version), marketing plan, social media numbers and platforms, and target market. If you do choose to have someone else write your book summary, I would highly recommend going over it yourself as well. The summary is crucial to whether or not they read your actual manuscript. First, make sure basic grammar and punctuation look good. (You would be surprised how often that isn’t the case). And secondly, summarize your story in a way that sounds fresh, unique, and as far away from cliche as possible.
Make the First Few Chapters Perfect
If you’ve made it this far–meaning your social platforms and proposal look good–then you’ve got a good chance at getting considered for a contract. The final test is the actual manuscript. Page one is most important, followed by chapter one then two and three. In my naive mind, I had always assumed publishers would read the entire book. I thought, “If the beginning is slow, that’s okay. The action-packed ending will make them love it!” But, no. The truth is, if the beginning puts them to sleep, they will never reach the end. In those first three chapters, your writing had better be impeccable, your scenes vivid, and dialogue natural.
Publishing is first a popularity contest, then a talent contest. Should be the other way around, but we can’t change how the world works that easily. All we can do is work harder. Don’t get discouraged. And most of all, have patience. Most people don’t get famous overnight. It’s possible but not the norm. And chances are, it could be a year before a publisher will even give you an answer. That’s the time you use to write book two 🙂
Please share this post with your friends and don’t forget to come back next Tuesday for more! Next week will feature debut author Patricia Beal who will discuss her journey of getting published as well as some insights for fellow writers.