Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Intricacies of Publishing by Marianna Heusler

I’ve been writing for twenty years and during that time publishing has changed dramatically.

The old way to get published was to somehow entice an agent to love your manuscript and then hope that the agent would entice a publisher to like your manuscript and then pray that the publisher could entice a reader to buy your manuscript.

And, while all of this was happening, the writer held her breath and waited.

Thankfully, independent presses began to crop up, which gave writers another vehicle. They were easier to deal with, some of them eliminated the extra step of finding an agent, and they were able to release your book and even help you a bit with promotion.

But alas, my first independent publishing company went bankrupt at the same time my book was nominated for an Edgar. And even now, the independent publishing houses who are left are struggling to make ends meet as self-publishing is knocking down the doors.

And here is the thing – there are self-published writers who swear that they are making more money now then they could ever make writing for a traditional publisher. Writers brag that they clear several thousand dollars a month as readers happily download their books and the author, who sets the price, can keep up to seventy-five percent of the profits.

Publishing on Amazon is not hard to do, not really. And if you’re smart you’ll hire an editor to catch all those typos, then someone to draw an eye-catching cover, and lastly someone to do the formatting for you, which can be tricky. So be prepared to spend money, although there are authors who feel they will make up the difference soon enough.

The problem is that there is so much product out there, it’s hard to tell a great book from a mediocre one from a really, really bad one.  I once asked my third grade class what they thought the hardest part of being a writer was. I got the usual answers, thinking of a story, making it interesting, getting it published, when one bright girl merely said, “No one knows that your book exists.”

This was so apparent when J.K. Rowling wrote her mystery, The Cuckoo’s Calling and published it under an alias. While the reviews were excellent, the sales were dismal. Until the news broke, and identified the real author, and then, of course, it sold.

But the question is – what is the best way to reach your target audience? Social media helps, of course, Facebook, Pinterest, - personal blogs, etc. I can’t help but think, though, of something Mark Cuban (the billionaire on Shark Tank) once said, “If 10,000 people are doing the same thing, why would you want to be 10,001? There is just no good reason.”

He also discussed the importance of going where your audience is, instead of trying to think of ways for your audience to find you.

This worked well when I was writing young adult novels. I would line up school visits and then do a mini-mystery writing workshops, donating a copy of my book to the school library. I remember one day when I walked into an auditorium and the entire seventh grade (about fifty kids) had a copy of my book.  (The teacher made the classes read it.) I was ecstatic. Where else can you sell fifty books in an hour?

Of course, kids are always in one place at one time, and that is school, so that makes them easy to find. Not so true of adults.

I’ve read many articles on what doesn’t sell books, but no one is quite sure what does.

What I know for sure is: 

If you want to do well as a writer (whatever that means for you) you need to figure out what you do best and stick to it. If you’re great at writing mysteries, don’t switch to romances because you think they will sell better. You won’t be able to compete with those authors who have been reading romances for years. If you write adult horror, don’t decide to write for the YA market, when you know nothing about it, and have no experience with that age group.

Your book not only has to be well written, it has to be better than what is already out there and in some ways different. (So you really have to spend time scouting out your competition. You won’t have any way to know if what you do is good, if you don’t know what is best.)

Then use what is different and unique about your book. We’re creative people, that’s what we do. So use that creativity to go where interested readers may lurk.

There is saying I am quite fond of:  “For every locked door there is a key that will open it.”

I challenge you to find that key.


Marianna Heusler has published eight novels and a hundred short stories. Her novels have been nominated for an Edgar and a Claymore Award. She lives in New York City where she teaches at a private girls' school.

You can learn more about the author at the following sites:

1 comment:

Jean Henry Mead said...

Welcome to Mysterious Writers, Marianna. It's great to have you join us here for the coming week.