This is a question that comes to my inbox on a weekly basis. An enthusiastic author will send over their manuscript and besides asking for an editing quote, they inquire as to whether or not their story is marketable. “Will my story sell? Will an agent or publisher pick it up? Do you think my book will be a success?”
All good questions, and actually all questions can be answered “Yes,” but… there is a but… you need to have a plan in place to make that happen. When it comes down to it, anything is marketable—if you can sell it. After all, Chi-a pets still sell year after year.
So, how do you create a plan? Start with who you know. Who’s in your inner circle? Who are your contacts? There is a saying in the entrepreneurial world, “You are just one relationship away from changing your life.” Remember, every famous author was nobody at one time before selling a million copies and getting movie options for their stories. Reach out to your contacts and ask them what would they do. You never know who they may know. Get together for coffee or a video chat and brainstorm ideas.
Before you can even ask if your book will be a success, you need to define success. What is success to you? Is it being a New York Times best-seller? Is it winning an award? Is it giving your book away to attract clients? Could it be being picked up by a major publisher? Ask yourself, what’s the purpose of your book? What is it you really want to achieve? Once you define that, then you can build a plan to implement the success you desire.
Let’s say your definition of success is to be a New York Times best-selling author. Then you need to study how authors have marketed themselves to hit that plateau. What connections did they have? How did they meet their agent? What did they do that was outside-the-box to get noticed?
Before going any further, let’s dispel one huge myth when it comes to getting traditionally published. Even though you land a contract with a publishing house, they’re not going to invest a lot of money into your book. They’re not going to get your book into every Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million. They’re not going to take out huge ads in newspapers or magazines and they’re not going to set up a book tour across the country. Yes, they believed enough in you and your story enough to take you on, but there is still no track record. If your book goes well and flies off the shelf, as they say, they’ll likely opt for your next book or two and invest in your writing. Sorry to share this, but it’s the cold, hard truth.
Here’s an example: A good friend of mine (we went to the same writing group) landed an agent at the request of her friend. The agent read her manuscript and offered to represent her. Next, her story is being fought over by a few publishers. Finally, it was Simon & Schuster (the biggest of the houses) contracted with her. When I heard the news, I wished her a heartfelt congratulations and asked her, “What is Simon & Schuster doing for you?” She then made a zero with her thumb and fingers. I said, “Really?” She then proceeded to share with me that she had to do all of her own advertising and set up all of her book signings. Once she set up a signing, Simon & Schuster would ship a case of books to that location. Then it would be six to nine months later she’d get paid royalties from the sales (if there were any) during that event.
To answer the question once again, yes, your book is marketable as long as you have a plan. Here’s your checklist:
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