New Authors: Reasons Why a Publisher Will Buy Your Book

You probably can’t help it any more than I can … that creeping, niggling, horrible feeling of doubt every time you pick up a writer’s magazine and thumb through its articles. It starts in the back of your mind, worming its way through your subconscious until it’s right there, blazing in front of you as clear as a headline:

I’m not a “somebody”. I’ll never get published.

So I’m sitting here thinking, and finally decided it was time to have an article that gives reasons why a “nobody” will get published if they work towards it. After all, every writer was a “nobody” at some point – Stephen King nearly gave up writing to work a 9-5 job before he landed his first book deal. You’ve got to start somewhere, and if you don’t start at all, well … at least you know where you’ll end up.

Editors will buy a book even from new authors if they find compelling reasons to do so. If you take the time to address some of these common “reasons” for buying a book from a new author, you can design your submission packages around them.

Common Reasons for Buying a New Author’s Book

1. They think a book will sell – Even though the push should be (in an ideal world) about the creative outlet, editors have to constantly think about the bottom line or they won’t have any money to continue publishing. It’s really that simple.

I list this reason first because it is often the overriding factor in buying a manuscript. The editor or publisher thinks the idea for an author’s book is timely, the writing itself is superb, or the title alone will cause the books to jump right into consumer’s hands.

Do your market research, and really tune your writing toward a concept that you can see, yourself, will sell and then weave this fact right into your submission packages.

2. They love it, regardless of commercial potential – When an editor finds a manuscript on their desk that grips them so strongly they can’t put it down, they might decide to buy the book even if it doesn’t look like it will be a best seller. Perhaps you’ve come up with a topic that is of great value to a cause or to the country, or maybe your characters and writing style are so superb that the editor becomes passionate about your book.

This is a harder “reason” to predict, but when it happens, an editor will push the work past the doubts the publishing house may have.

How to work towards this? Create characters that come alive and really walk and breathe right through the pages, and make sure that your plot and sub-plots are tight and compelling. Make your writing mean something more than words on a page, something that will wrench emotion and leave the reader breathless.

3. The book is part of a series with growth potential – If your characters and plot line are strong enough to carry a series, definitely pave the way for one. Readers love series because they get to grow with your characters, it’s like being able to constantly check in with someone they love, admire, or respect. A window to another world that never really closes, it just lowers between installments.

What this means for an editor is, well, the bottom line. When they find a book that will be the first in a series, can clearly see potential for the series, and can easily see readers enjoying it, they can justify buying the book and offering a contract.

Work towards this “reason” by really concentrating on your characters. In a series of books, it’s the characters that carry a plot more strongly than single novels; you want your readers eager to pick up on your character’s lives where the last book left off, you have to instill the need for more. Setting and plot are obviously important as well – you want a setting that the characters can continue living in or moving from in the next book – but it is the characters, ultimately, that the readers of a series want to know.

4. The house has published similar books with success – Although not the most important “reason” that you should work on, this one definitely needs to be considered. It’s also likely one of the easiest reasons to determine.

Start with your own bookshelves. Often, we tend to read the same “genre” of books over and over again, even if we branch out into related themes. (On a side note, you can tell a lot about a person by checking out their bookshelves – their reading choices reveal a lot that words never will.) Even more often, when we read a particular genre of writing avidly, that’s the same genre that we choose to write in. It’s pretty easy to see why – if we love reading it, it’s something we’ll enjoy writing, and we can write it with conviction.

So, hit your bookshelves and check out the spine of your favorite pieces, the ones that are similar to the work you’re currently writing. When you hit three or more books that are similar in genre and theme all published by the same house, you’ve got somewhere to start. Visit their website and look at how many other books they’ve recently published along the same lines. Your confidence will start growing immediately.

Then, when you create your submission package, mention the books you’ve read which were published by them, and show how your writing is similar to these books. This immediately shows an editor that you’ve not only done your research (which makes you look more professional), but that you sincerely enjoy reading the type of writing you’re working with – it always shows in the finished product.

5. Okay, but the next ones have best seller potential – Not only do we, as writers, want fans who appreciate our work and loyally follow us from one book to the next, but editors want the same thing. If your writing shows the potential to build a fan base, your work will be rated as more important because it can earn more money.

So, what this “reason” amounts to is the idea that while the work you’ve submitted might be good, but doesn’t look like a best seller, the editor believes that your future books will be best sellers. How do they know? Simple – you let them know in your submission package what books you’re currently working on that might also be of interest to the publishing house.

This is an important tip, and you’ll definitely want to do your market research first – the whole idea will backlash if the future books you mention have been “done to death” or simply don’t toe the line. You want to show the editor that you’re dedicated to your work, that you can consistently come up with great ideas that will please your fans, and that in the end your work will be valuable to them because it will earn them the money they want to see.

These are only 5 reasons that a publisher will buy a book from new authors – there are more. In the end, if a publisher really wants to buy a book they will find the reasons that they need. In the meantime, hone your writing skills to perfection, work on your own writing voice, and breathe life into your characters. Your submission packages will reflect the research you’ve done, and your manuscript will show off all your creative talent.

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