Friday, July 13, 2007

So You Wrote a Book--What About Getting Published?

Get a Book Published? The Road to Publication Might be Getting a Little Rougher

By Dee Power

Is it getting easier or more difficult for an unpublished writer to get their first book commercially published? We asked nearly 60 literary agents about the outlook for the next generation of authors. Their comments are in quotes.

Agents do not envision a great deal of change on the horizon. They are mildly negative about the next 12 to 24 months. When asked the reasons behind their forecast, the most common responses were:

Industry Consolidation, Changes Within the Publishing Industry Itself

Changes in Book Retailing

Publishers are Becoming More Risk Averse

The Pessimists

The Optimists

The Impact of the National Economy

Industry Consolidation, Changes Within the Publishing Industry Itself

“Editors no longer rely on their instincts and passions as selection criteria; instead they go by such formulas as, Bad Numbers, Author has no Platform etc.”

“Continuing consolidation and conglomeration of industry.”

“For non-fiction works, in particular, publishers need credentialed writers, which leaves out the many individuals who have great ideas but nothing to back it up. With fiction, they are more likely to take a chance on an unpublished writer IF it is in an area (genre) they are seeking at the time and the writing is passable enough.

Changes in Book Retailing

“Because of the pressure of the chain buyers, publishers are increasingly locked into publishing only the brand new authors with no record, and best selling authors.”

“Because as long as the retail market continues to consolidate in the hands of fewer and fewer retailers, the entire industry becomes dependent on the taste of a small handful of 'buyers' who choose which books get shelf space.”

Publishers are Becoming More Risk Averse

“It just seems like it's getting harder and harder to get people to take a chance on an unknown.”

“Editors are buying fewer books, they are reluctant to take chances.”

“What does keep projects from being bought is the fact that lists are shrinking, and in a marketplace in which it’s terribly hard to win anyone’s attention – from buyers all the way to customers – everyone up the editorial chain is anxious about making the wrong bet … more often than not, ‘No’ is a safe answer.”

The Pessimists

“I base this on the number of rejection letters publishers have sent for well-written, well-plotted novels by new authors that would have sold if given the chance.”

“I don't see the market picking up much, and if the current trends continue, it will only decline.”

The Optimists

“Because I don't agree that the publishing industry is either for or against unpublished writers. They are FOR unpublished writers who have a brilliant first novel to offer or a nonfiction platform. They are AGAINST unpublished writers who are bad writers or (in the case of nonfiction, are not credentialed in their field, have a new original, high concept idea etc.)”

“The Industry is not a monolithic thing. Some genres (nonfiction especially, which more and more requires the author to have a major platform for promotion and media attention) will continue to become more difficult; some genres (upmarket fiction) exalt first-time writers. The “first novel" for literary fiction represents a unique marketing opportunity for the publisher; it's the second and third novels that tend to be far more difficult to publish well if the first novel doesn't take off.”

“Some trends favor new writers and new voices, however the money is often discouragingly small, so there is not the sense of a career being launched.”

The Impact of the National Economy

"Publishing is an increasingly tough biz in tough times--fewer people read."

So What Can a Debut Author Do?

1) Study the elements of a good query letter.

2) Make your contact letter succinct, positive, but not obnoxious. Stress that you understand the market for your book and how to address that market.

3) Learn what types of manuscripts individual agents are looking for and send yours out to the agents that match up the best with your topic or genre.

4) Don't give up.

Avoid scams and still get your book published. Get our free report Perils and Pitfalls of Publishing for Writers just visit [] Free Report

About The Authors

Brian Hill and Dee Power have written several nonfiction books including The Publishing Primer: A Blueprint for an Author's Success and The Making of a Bestseller: Success Stories From Authors and the Editors, Agents, and Booksellers Behind Them. Read Dee's blog or Brian's blog The Packer Literary Corner

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Online Tips for Offline Writing

Here are a few practical tips for those marketing copywriters among us.

10 Online Writing Concepts That Work Wonders Offline Too
By Suzan St Maur

After all the agonies we suffered some years ago when people tried to make offline text work online, we’ve finally turned the tables. Now we can borrow back a number of online writing concepts and use them to sharpen up our paper-based marketing communications.

Remember how early website text could make you cringe? Squinting at all 2000 solidly crammed words so obviously lifted straight from an equally cringe-making corporate brochure? Peering at that fat, uniformly grey column of garbage scrolling hypnotically up through the browser window?

Well, nearly all of that has gone to the Great Delete Tab in the sky, thanks to people like Jakob Nielsen (and many others) who showed us how to get real and write for the web as it should be done.

What goes around, comes around

Now, though, there’s evidence that Dr Nielsen’s chickens are coming home to roost back in the old offline barn.

First of all, there’s a cosmetic trend for online notions to powder the nose of paper-based communication ... web and email jargon, smiley faces, text abbreviations (U h8 txt 2?) and more are turning up in printed material every day.

More usefully, many of us who write for a living are applying some online writing techniques and approaches to our offline work, too. In fact the very “fashionableness” of all things online has given us the excuse we needed to clear out a lot of the awful old junk that’s been cluttering up some clients’ offline text for years.

Online to offline: key connections

1. It’s essential to have clear objectives. Any piece of online communication that doesn’t have clear-cut objectives comes over as chinless and indecisive. Many printed documents have got away with being chinless and indecisive in the past, but no more – possibly due, in part, to online influences. If they’re going to be taken seriously today, printed comms need clear objectives too – driven by what you want to achieve, not just what you want to say.

2. People often prefer to scan and go back to get detail later. Although online text has championed scanning, people have been scanning offline text like brochure copy since long before the www came to be. Online, to facilitate scanning we break up text with highlighting, bold type and crossheads which enable readers to get the gist of our message in a few seconds. Paper-based messages can be improved dramatically when given the same treatment.

3. People do not always read in a linear fashion. We don’t expect people to view our website pages in any particular sequence. This is not new. For years people have been leafing through brochures starting at the back, skipping to the front, dipping into the middle and back again. Longish offline content benefits greatly from being organized on a non-linear basis to cater equally for the linear readers and the grasshoppers.

4. Not everyone needs or wants the technical stuff. Even with high-tech business, we often put the techie details in their own little cubby-hole on a website, or in a downloadable PDF file. That way they’re there for those who are interested but don’t obscure the main marketing messages. Offline messages gain in the same way, when you box off technical data or append it to the back of a document.

5. Visual clutter confuses readers. In the same way that people loathe website home pages that bristle with shouting headlines and graphics and other grinning gargoyles, they hate cluttered print and press ads that shriek “busy, busy.” If it’s hard to find your message in amongst garish junk, online or offline, they’ll just flip or click over to your competitors’ information.

6. BS is boring. Everyone sees through hype now. The online environment makes it look even sillier than ever. Readers of any marketing communication, online or off, expect your writing to talk directly to them, as one human being speaks to another. If you wouldn’t insult a customer by using boastful, pompous hype face-to-face and online, why do it offline?

7. Complex thinking doesn’t work. Although the long copy often works online, the writing style itself needs to be very economical and uncomplicated. Every word has to earn its keep. Sentences and paragraphs should be short and free from convoluted notions. And that’s an approach that also works wonders to clarify and enliven text for brochures, print newsletters, and other longer marcomms.

8. Lists in the form of long sentences don’t get read. Online, if you have more than two or three items to list you’re advised to create bullets, rather than run them together in a long sentence. If that makes them quicker to absorb online, think what a beneficial effect it can have on lists in offline text...

9. Headlines and crossheads must be relevant, not cutesy-clever. In the online environment these lines often have to stand alone - e.g. as email subject lines – so must be directly relevant. Although abstract headlines are acceptable in some press ads, in longer offline text the headlines are what people latch on to while scanning. This means they also have to be directly relevant, so they’re instantly understood.

10. Cut the c*** and get to the point. Not only do online comms demand uncluttered information, but also relevant information. People haven’t got time to wait 10 minutes while your incredibly creative animation downloads, and equally they haven’t time to figure out the meaning of a literary quote over an arty picture when they’re in a hurry to find out about your diesel generators. In our high-speed business culture, direct is beautiful.

This article first appeared on the US website,

Suzan St Maur is a leading business writer, author, editor and writing coach. Check out her website

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