What You Don’t Know About Publishing Can Hurt Your Future!
by Wendy Keller, literary agent
At a writer’s conference in 1999, a smart, respectable man pitched me on representing his business book. It was a terrific idea! I invited him to send me his proposal at once. (A book proposal is the critical document every agent must use to present your book idea to any publisher.)
I never got it!
As the world turns, I have seen that same man twice in the intervening years, at other events. Both times, he’s assured me that he’s still working on it. But here’s the problem: it’s been done to death now. It’s no longer a hot, interesting idea that I could have sold easily in a few weeks – and that would have opened all kinds of doors for him.
Reason Number One: Life goes on. Tastes, topics and interests in the general public change. Sometimes in as little as six months, a great idea is obsolete, or could only be published as a “Me too!” book because a blockbuster came out on a very similar topic. (You’d be shocked how often this happens!)
Reason Number Two: Consumer spending. According to the BISG (Book Industry Study Group), only 17% of US households purchased even one or more books in the preceding year. That’s it! Imagine that! You and I are not in that group, because you’re a writer and I’m an agent. But I bet you can think of at least 10 people you know for whom this applies! Those people spend their disposable income on movie tickets, restaurants, video games or those old standbys, “Food, Clothing and Shelter.”
Reason Number Three: The publishing industry is changing fast. Right now, there’s a lot more prestige and success associated with being published by Random House, HarperCollins or McGraw-Hill, etc. From the date my agency takes you on until the day you have a deal with a serious publisher can be 4 to 6 weeks! Then the publisher will give you 9 months to write and they’ll take at least another 3 to properly publish you. That’s a year. Who knows what the industry will be like in a year?
Reason Number Four: Someone may beat you to the punch. My friend Mark Victor Hansen, one of the co-authors of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, once said offhandedly that he believes that the Universe [God, the Force, insert your preferred term here] sprinkles the same idea on 1,000 heads at the same time. In 100, it takes root. In 10, they take some action. And 1 achieves worldwide notoriety for it. Be the one!
Reason Number Five: Procrastination costs you big time. If you believe that a book can transform your life, your career or the planet we all share, you have a moral duty to get your act together and get it published – by a real, qualified, capable publisher. I have a responsibility to help you (which is what I’m doing by writing this) and you have the solemn duty to get it done. Write the best possible proposal. Build your platform. Find a great agent (even if it isn’t me!) and get yourself sold. You must!