Think Like a Published Author
By Rick Frishman - Feb 29 , 2008
What It Takes
When writers try to sell their books, they often feel like they’re swimming against the tide in a tsunami. For most writers, the process of trying to sell a book differs from anything they have ever attempted before. For many, it’s as if they’re entering a strange new world, and they can quickly get lost or beaten down. When they are not fully prepared, they may suddenly discover that they have to do much more than they expected and do it in a manner that may not be their strength.
First-time writers are seldom prepared for the demands that agents, editors, and publishers will ask them to satisfy in order to get published. Usually, they have no idea how to meet those requirements and find them surprisingly difficult and discouraging. Many get frustrated, disillusioned, and quit.
Often, just getting your foot in the door, having someone read your proposal, or listen to your idea, can be daunting. But don’t despair! The good news is that every author at one time or another was a first-time author! Including us.
We know what it was like to want to land that first book deal. We understand where you are coming from and where you want to go. We, too, were once in your shoes and we know how it feels. On one hand, it’s an exciting ride into the unknown that could end with your winning the lottery. However, on the other hand, it can be a frustrating waste of your time, effort, and money.
Before we take you through the details of how to write bestselling book proposals, it’s essential that you have the right frame of mind. The proposal process can be brutal, so how you approach it can make the difference between whether you succeed or fail.
Get in the Pipeline
Virtually all published writers have had to invest an enormous cache of sweat equity. Then, they have had to adjust—to make compromises, change, or even give in. Great, top-selling books have taken complete U-turns from the projects that were initially proposed.
The publishing process is highly collaborative. Many voices are involved in publishing, and they often sing different tunes, many of which writers don’t want to hear. However, it’s the way the book industry works.
So, if you want to get your book published, you must expect and learn to welcome input from the entire team. It isn’t always easy, but it’s absolutely mandatory! To see your book published, you may be asked to do and invest far more than you want and initially would have thought it was worth.
“Generally speaking, authors are ignorant about many essential parts of the publishing industry,” agent Richard Curtis observes. “People who want to enter into the profession are finding the bar higher and higher and their options more limited. So my approach is to do whatever has to be done to get the author into the system so he or she has books to point to, sales numbers, and a website. The key is to get the author in the system because it’s easier to work an author up than to break the author into the world of publishing.”
It’s all about the system. Ironically, many individuals become writers because they don’t want to work within a system. They love the isolation of writing and the fact that they can work alone without a lot of interference. They don’t want to become salespersons who are forced to promote their books. All they want is to write. As lone eagles they can chart their own courses, set their own goals, and answer only to themselves.
So, it frequently comes as a shock to writers when they’re asked to change, to take so much direction, and try to fit into the system in order to get their work published.