How to Get Your Children’s Book Published: Literary Agent Jennifer Laughran Answers the Top 10 Questions We Get Asked Every Day
We’re about halfway through our Pitchapalooza Rocks America Tour, and we’ve made a startling discovery. A staggering number of adults want to write books for kids. And approximately 99% of them have absolutely no idea what they’re doing. They don’t know the rules. They don’t know the players. They don’t know anything except that they have a GREAT idea for a kid’s book and they yearn with a burning fever to get it published. Between us we’ve we’ve thirteen books, four being nonfiction books for tween girls, and the other a middle grade novel aimed at boys. And Arielle has agented dozens and dozens and dozens of books in her 18 year career as a literary agent. But so much has changed in the world of children’s books, and so many people seem all fired up to write them, that we thought we’d get the inside skinny from one of our favorite children’s book resources, Jennifer Laughram. Jennifer’s had a fascinating career in the publishing industry, because she’s gone from hand-selling books to readers in brick-and-mortar bookstores, to finding writers who have the right stuff, then figuring out how to present and sell their manuscripts to publishers in the increasingly ridiculous book business.
BOOK DOCTORS: How did you manage to end up in the book business?
JENNIFER: My first job was in a bookstore, when I was twelve.
BOOK DOCTORS: Ah, they got you young.
JENNIFER: Exactly. It may have been child labor; as I recall I got about five dollars a day plus all the stripped copies of Sweet Valley High I could read.
BOOK DOCTORS: Who could resist that?
JENNIFER: Certainly not me. I spent the next eighteen years working as a bookseller, and then events coordinator and buyer, for bookstores all over the country. I was also a reader and assistant for literary agents for a couple of years before I became one myself. Then I joined Andrea Brown Literary Agency as an agent three years ago.
BOOK DOCTORS: So, everyone wants to know, do you need an agent to get a children’s book published?
JENNIFER: Ten years ago or more, the answer would have been no. These days, trade publishing is ever-more competitive and none of the major publishers accept unsolicited (i.e., un-agented) submissions. If you are very lucky, very persistent and very well-connected, you may not need an agent. But most authors don’t fall into that category.
That said, if you are looking to be published in a niche market, by a specialty educational publisher, regional or smaller independent publisher, you may not need an agent.
BOOK DOCTORS: What are the standard age groups for children’s books?
JENNIFER: Board books – 0-3. Picture books – 3-7. Chapter book/Early readers 5-8. Middle Grade 8-12. YA 12+ or 14+ (depending on content)
BOOK DOCTORS: Does your book have to be a particular length to sit on a children’s book shelf?
JENNIFER: Sure. But that varies depending on the age group; picture books are usually less than a thousand words, YA is usually less than 100,000 words.
BOOK DOCTORS: Can you sell a book for kids of all ages? How would you go about doing this?
JENNIFER: In general, children’s publishers pick one age group that the book is for and publish it accordingly, and if there is crossover, that is all to the good. Every book I can think of that is supposedly “for kids of all ages” does in fact fall into one of those categories above, or is an adult gift or novelty book in disguise.
BOOK DOCTORS: If a writer has ideas for illustrations, should she put them on the page?
JENNIFER: No. Illustration notes are distracting and almost always unnecessary, and will expose you as a newb.The only time you should put them is if there is some sort of visual joke or device that is totally necessary to the plot of the book, but impossible to deduce from the text alone.
BOOK DOCTORS: Is a good idea to have your uncle’s friend’s 18-year-old son who’s pretty good at art illustrate your book?
JENNIFER: No. Let me say again: NO!
BOOK DOCTORS: Is it ever okay to team up with an illustrator before going to a publisher?
JENNIFER: There are some successful folks who are husband-wife or sibling teams or even best-friend teams, where one party is a professional illustrator and the other writes. They work well together and create awesome projects together. That said, these sorts of collaborations aren’t the norm. The much more likely scenario is that a publisher will prefer the text or the art and might be fine with publishing one but not both. Publishers almost always really want to choose their own illustrator.
BOOK DOCTORS: If you are an illustrator that has an idea for a kid’s book, but you have no writing chops, how would you go about getting your book published?
JENNIFER: I’d learn to write, or get enough published as an illustrator of other people’s works that I developed a reputation with publishers. A big-name illustrator has a much better chance of getting help from publishers in developing a project.
BOOK DOCTORS: What are the top 3 mistakes you see in author submissions?
JENNIFER: Impatience, Poor Presentation, General Cluelessness. Folks often shoot themselves in the foot by not taking the time to craft an effective pitch, or to target agents specifically, or to query in small batches. They submit material that is deeply flawed, not revised, not finished, or in some cases not even started. They submit material that is totally inappropriate and not what I represent at all because they are blanket-querying every agent in the world simultaneously. I only do kids & YA, fiction yet I daily get queries for erotica and narrative nonfiction.
Ideally, authors would do their homework before they start querying, and their work would be as finished, polished, as close to being ready to sell as possible.
BOOK DOCTORS: Does it help to come up with a publicity and marketing plan for your book when querying an agent or publisher?
JENNIFER: Sure, though I wouldn’t lead with that; it’d just be a cool bonus if they loved your work enough to publish it already. Most marketing plans sort of grow organically as the book progresses in the editorial and design process and as buzz builds in-house.
A book can take anywhere from a year to several years to be published, and the content of the book, as well as the way it is positioned in the marketplace, are definitely subject to change in that time. That means marketing and publicity pushes that come about just prior to or just after publication will likely look a lot different, and be a lot more effective, than what was being imagined at the query stage. That early in the game, most folks don’t REALLY know what their book is going to be when it grows up.
BOOK DOCTORS: Jennifer, on behalf of the Book Doctors and clueless children’s book writers all over America, we thank you.
JENNIFER: You are all certainly welcome.
Jennifer Laughran worked in bookstores for years, and is now an agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency. She is also the founder of the Not Your Mothers Book Club.
The Essential Guide Tour Pitchapalooza #18: Nirvana in Naperville–300 Writers Flock to Anderson’s for Pitchapalooza
Naperville? On a Thursday night? Seriously? That’s what we thought when our publisher told us our Chicago Pitchapalooza would be in a suburb 45 minutes and a world away from the Windy City. That’s kind of like doing your New York City event in Hohokus, New Jersey. We rolled our eyes. We shook our heads. We tutted.
OMG, were we wrong. When we showed up at 6:25 for our 7pm event, there were already 50 writers waiting, pregnant with their book ideas, expectant, hungry, make-my-dreams-come-true looks in their eyes. Turns out Anderson’s is a bookstore with a capital “B”. It is a destination. A hub of intelligent, fun, interesting events that people look out for. And a staff that is as knowledgeable and professional as you’ll find.
On arrival, we were whisked downstairs into what the employees affectionately call, “The Dungeon”. One of the fun things about doing events in bookstores is that you get to go where all the books are before they get put out onto the shelves. It’s like some strange beautiful alternative universe you imagine exists when you’re a kid who loves books and reads way too many of them.
Downstairs, we met with an 11-year-old writer who the Make-a-Wish Foundation people hooked us up with (we will be sharing more about her soon). She told us she wants to be published by a REAL publisher, no self-publishing for her, which made us laugh because many of the adult writers we meet don’t know the difference between the two. Her pitch was incredibly moving, and so accomplished for her age.
When we hustled back upstairs it was about five minutes ‘til eight.
Our flabbergasted eyes and jaws popped and dropped wide open. Every single chair was filled by a writer, or someone with deep affection for them. There were writers and their entourages 10 rows deep behind the chairs. Writers huddled and cramped in the aisles behind the rows of books on either side of the chairs. Writers hanging from the rafters. Over 300 writers and writer-lovers waiting, breath bated, for us to start listening to their pitches. On a Thursday night. In Naperville.
We were lucky enough to have assembled an absolutely fabulous panel to gently yet firmly critique all those book ideas: Dominique Raccah, founder, president and publisher of Sourcebooks; Joe Durepos, author, Executive Editor at Loyola Press and former book rep and literary agent; and Wendy McClure, senior editor at Albert Whitman & Company and author of the forthcoming The Wilder Life. It’s always shocking to us how generous book people are with their time and expertise. These are all top-notch pros, coming out to give writers their immense, invaluable wisdom. For FREE!
Suddenly it started, and the pitches were flying thick and fast. Paranormal apocalyptic novels, picture books with purple yawns, hard-boiled thrillers set in the high-stakes world of international finance, and about a dozen pitches with awkward outcast geek teens overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds to save the world. In fact, about 75% of the pitches that night (and we heard 25 of them) were for children’s books.
Why, we found ourselves wondering, do so many adults want to write books for boys and girls? Arrested development? A nostalgic desire to return to that hormone-drenched time when your biggest worry were zits and heart-stopping crushes? A Back-to-the-Future yearning to correct the injustices of cruel adolescence? A boom in the YA business? Parents with kids reading children’s books and thinking: I can do that? We’re not sure, but the fact is, grown-ups are reading and writing kids books at an alarming rate.
A fascinating phenomenon: about half the people who were picked to pitch chose not to. Afterwards, a bunch of writers told us that when they saw a few pitches, they realized how ill-prepared and lame their stuff was. But everyone told us how much they learned just watching other writers pitch, and listening to what our cavalcade of publishing pundits had to say about them.
A few highlights:
• A young woman overcoming OCD who pitched a beautiful book about a kid who’s compelled to wash and re-wash his hands ad infinitum.
• “Hello My Name Is…”, a series of books written from the perspectives of kids from different eras, races and ethnicities to promote diversity. The author acted out one story in the character of 10-year-old daughter of a slave which was funny and sassy, even as it broke your heart.
• A dad who had lost two children writing on behalf of all fathers who had lived through the death of a child.
• The true story of a woman whose mom lived most of her life without knowing that her “sister” was actually her mother.
• Our winner, a schoolteacher who gave a bravura performance of her YA novel pitch full of tongue-twistingly hysterical characters and situations.
Here are a few nuggets from our most excellent panel.
• Joe Durepos told writers to think of publishing like a parking lot. You can’t park where there’s already a car. And you have to find a vacant spot in the place that’s nearest to the destination you want to be. In other words, you can’t sell a book that’s too much like something else. You have to find a hole in the market were your book fits nicely. But you also have to stay within the area.
• Dominique Raccah said that writers need to show her the particulars about what’s new, fresh, different and unique about their books.
• Wendy McClure, after listening to a writer’s story about a teen who has to become the sole caregiver to her younger sister, then save the world, told the writer that the pitch should be more about taking care of the kid sister. “I get stories every day about teenagers saving the world. Saving the world’s easy. Being the sole caretaker to your kid sister, that’s hard.”
It took us almost an hour to sign just some of the 171 books we sold that night. Becky Anderson, the boo-yeah owner of Anderson’s who made all this possible, said she’d never seen that kind of attendance for a reference book, which made us feel proud and that all the energy expended was well worth it.
We thanked our thoroughly awesome panel of judges, then, elated and exhausted, we staggered out into the frigid Midwestern night, reveling in our Naperville nirvana.
Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry know publishing from the inside out. Both are successful writers and “authorpreneurs.” Together, the married couple has produced the most current and practical guidebook for aspiring authors I’ve ever seen. “The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It . . . Successfully!” ($15.95 in paperback from Workman Publishing) is full of real-world examples, including the success of local author Susan Wooldridge, whose “Poemcrazy” is now in its umpty-umpth printing.
After years of promoting their own books, the authors found themselves in demand as “book doctors” for others. True to their own advice, they have plunged into social media with a website (www.thebookdoctors.com) and more. Now they are bringing their well-received “Pitchapalooza” workshop to Chico.
This free event will be held at the 1078 Gallery, 820 Broadway, on Tuesday, January 18 at 7:00 p.m., and is sponsored by Chico’s Lyon Books. According to publicity materials, local writers get sixty seconds to make their best pitch to a panel of experts, including the authors, who will provide feedback on the concept and its potential in the marketplace. The winner of the competition will receive an introduction to an agent.
“The Essential Guide” is divided into three sections. The first, “Setting Up Shop,” deals with the new world of social networking as well as book proposals and finding representation (Eckstut is herself a longtime literary agent). “Taking Care of Business” takes on contracts, working with a publisher, and self-publishing. “Getting the Word Out” concerns the fine art of selling. Key to the guidance is the importance of research. New writers simply have to know the terrain out there–which books might be competitors?–if they are to increase their chances of a sale. In fact, the reader is halfway through the book before the authors say it’s time to sit down and write.
Tips abound, like checking the acknowledgements page of similar books for possible contacts, but in the end a writer’s passion must carry the day. Eckstut and Sterry have the passion, and wit. Get the book.
PROGRAM NOTE: Please join host Nancy Wiegman and me for a live edition of Nancy’s Bookshelf tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. on KCHO (Northstate Public Radio, 91.7FM)
Hopeful authors ‘pitch’ stories to editors Anderson’s Bookshop 123 W Jefferson Ave, Naperville, IL. Nearly 300 people attended a unique book signing at Anderson’s Book Shop in Naperville, where 25 prospective authors were able to receive feedback on their book ideas.
By Kim Lovejoy-Voss
Naperville offered a unique opportunity Thursday night. “Pitchapalooza” was held at Anderson’s Bookshop and featured Arielle Eckstut and her husband, David Henry Sterry, authors of a newly-released book, The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published.
While authors of recently published books are nothing new at Anderson’s, this signing was a little different. Anyone who purchased the book was given a number and a chance to pitch their book idea to the authors and a guest panel. Twenty-five hopeful authors heard their number called and then attempted to sell their story to the panel and nearly 300 guests who had packed into the shop on Jefferson Avenue.
“All three (of the editors on the guest panel) have fine, upstanding credentials and are good friends with Anderson’s,” said Gail Wetta, events and publicity person at the shop. “They are all local, and they came forward to help us out and create this wonderful program.”
Guests on the panel included Dominique Raccah, founder, president and publisher of Sourcebooks Inc., based in Naperville; Joe Durepos, senior acquisition editor at Loyola Press in Chicago; and Wendy McClure, senior editor at Albert Whitman and Co. in Park Ridge.
One-by-one the brave and optimistic souls came forward to try to sell their story ideas to the five judges. Children’s stories, gothic tales, science fiction, fairy tales and true life experiences were explained in a variety of ways.
I was one of those hopefuls standing in the audience. When my number was called I experienced a mixture of hope and complete and utter fear. My book idea has been tossed around in my head for nearly a decade and, just recently, has been growing in my computer. It has been fun to write the story, loosely based on me getting pregnant in my 40s and dealing with the burdens and trials of a pregnancy late in life while raising three rambunctious teenagers. But what would others think of the idea?
Well, I didn’t bomb. I carefully read my pitch, heard a little laughter at certain parts and then waited for the criticism to start. To my surprise, they actually liked what I had to say and how I presented my story, asked if it was based on my experiences and then said, although the presentation went well, my ending fell a little flat. Having worked with editors who have critiqued and changed my newspaper stories for over 30 years that was criticism I could live with.
After the 25 authors presented their ideas, Sterry explained that everyone who had purchased a book at Anderson’s Book Shop would receive the opportunity to speak with Eckstut or himself for 30 minutes during a phone interview to receive feedback on their book ideas, find out the next step to having a book published and to gain information regarding book publishing.
“This evening was done because of the release of the book,” Wetta explained. These authors “have quite the pedigree, and it is only logical to add (the pitching of stories) to their event. They are very committed to their craft.”
She added that Friday the shop had received numerous emails regarding the event, most expressing gratitude for the opportunity to sell their story, while others praised the panel.
“This was one of our larger (book signings),” Wetta said. “But it shows you the amount of talent that can be found right here in the Chicago area. You don’t need to go to New York or L.A. to find talent. We have plenty of it right here.”
How To Write 60 Books in 20 Years: The Book Doctors Interview Terry Whalin–Writer, Editor and Publisher Extraordinaire
1) You’ve written over 60–SIX ZERO!!!–books. How in the world did you accomplish such a feat? And what can other writers who have trouble writing learn from your ability to keep writing?
I often say writing a book is like eating an elephant. You do it one bite at a time. It’s the same with books. They are tackled one page at a time, one chapter at a time, one section at a time, one book at a time. One of the best ways to write a full length adult book (something with 40,000 words or more) is to set a daily word count then consistently day after day write 500 or 1,000 words or whatever makes sense for the type of writing that you do. In nonfiction (and all of my books have been nonfiction), I look at each chapter as a lengthy magazine article. In magazine writing, you need to have a beginning, middle and end plus you need to lead the reader to a particular point (call to action or takeaway it is often called). If you can write a successful magazine article and get that into print, then you can string 15 or 20 of those articles together into a single book.
While many writers want to produce a book, I always encourage writers to learn the craft of writing in the magazine world. I have written for more than 50 magazines and I’ve been a magazine editor. It is much better to learn this skill on a short magazine article than a long book. Also you can reach many more people with a magazine article than most books. I wrote many magazine articles before I ever tackled my first book, which was published in 1992. The same principles apply to writing books from my perspective.
I also love many different types of writing and books. Too many writers make a decision that they are only going to write nonfiction or fiction or children’s books or young adult books. It is almost like they are hitched to a plow trying to get through a muddy field and are constantly plodding forward. I’ve discovered great joy in the variety of the writing world. One day I was writing children’s material and another focused on a magazine article then a third day writing a chapter in a nonfiction book. The decision to write a certain type of material is to be made consciously—just like you can decide to write many different types of material.
2) Your books have been published by publishers big and small, general and niche. How did these experiences differ? What were the biggest pluses and minuses of each?
Each book and each publisher has a unique way of working. I’ve learned to ask a lot of questions before I turn in my manuscript to make sure I’ve met their expectations and I encourage them to voice as many of those expectations as possible so I deliver what they want. Some publishers expect you to be a mind-reader and I’ve learned that often I’m off base if I make assumptions and don’t ask expectations questions. This reality is true whether you are working with a large or small publisher.
The key from my perspective is building a relationship with the editor and also as many different people within the publisher as you can access such as marketing and sales and publicity. Position yourself as a proactive author who wants to come alongside and help each person in the house exceed expectations for the performance of your book. There is a fine line each time between proactive and high-maintenance (not where you want to be as an author).
Finally I advise authors to be open to many different ways of working with a publisher. Writers often have a pre-conceived way of working with a publisher. For example, many writers only want a royalty contract with a publisher and are turned off with the offer of a work-made-for-hire, all-rights contract. With that attitude, they walk away from a WMFH offer rather than take it. My literary attorney (notice I have one) says that I’ve signed more WMFH agreements than anyone she knows. I like to have book contracts and work as a writer. Many nonfiction writers don’t understand that about 90% of nonfiction books never earn back their advance. This figure isn’t my statistic but I learned it in a writing book (unfortunately I can’t remember the source). The statistic bears out in my own writing. I would rather be paid well WMFH for a short term book than not have my book earn out a royalty advance. For example, I wrote two devotion books on a very short-term deadline and each book sold 60,000 copies. My name is in the tiny print on the copyright page of those books since devotional books are topical and not author driven. It’s OK with me because I was paid a flat fee and gained a great writing credit that I can use to get other books. Many writers lose sight of such possibilities because they are focused on one way to publish when in fact there are many ways of working. Do not limit yourself.
3) We’ve entered a new age of publishing where the barriers have been ripped down and anyone can publish. Do you see this as a positive or negative for all of those out there that not only want to get published, but get published successfully? Please elaborate as much as possible!
The fact that everyone can get published online with a blog is great (a positive) but writers need to learn to tell good stories and not just write from a stream of consciousness (a negative). Every single book I know has a good target audience and delivers well-crafted stories and how-to information for that reader.
Whether publishing an ebook or manuscript, the successful authors know how to tell a good story and work on their visibility in the marketplace (platform) through speaking, an online presence or other aspects. I encourage writers to attend conferences and build relationships with other writers as well as with magazine and book editors. You never know when one of those relationships is going to lead you into a new publishing opportunity. The old saying is true, “Often it is not what you know but who you know.” What editor is thinking about you and going to pick up the phone or email you when they have a need that they believe you can fill for their publishing house? Much of writing is isolated and writers need to make the effort to get to conferences and continually build personal relationships.
Also writers need to join with other writers and take an active role in a writer’s organization like the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) and The Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). They will grow as writers and learn a great deal from the experience. Like going to conferences, an active role in an organization will help any writer grow in their craft and abilities.
My final point is to encourage writers to establish their own independent publishing business. While building and working within the publishing structure, there is something refreshing and freeing about having your own ability to generate income and reach people through your own initiative. This step teaches you that writing is a business and you need to run it like a business but also this action removes the gatekeepers so you can interact directly with your target market. Establish your own free newsletter like my Right-Writing News. Give away part of your work to build your audience. As you sell products, you can collect the money directly from your reader rather than waiting for a magazine to pay or your book publisher. It will help you have an independent income stream as a writer and is vital for your on-going work in this market.
4) You’ve been both a writer and an editor/publisher. What did you learn about becoming a successful author from being an editor/publisher?
I’ve learned there are many options to get published. There are several keys: the right book for the right audience which is created right and has the right distribution to the bookstores and the right marketing behind it. I understand there are many “rights” in that last sentence. No one cares whether Doubleday or Podunk Press published your book if your book is edited, designed properly and has distribution and marketing. At Intermedia Publishing Group where I’m a Vice President and Publisher, we offer these services at an affordable price. I’ve signed several authors who have sold millions of books (no exaggeration) in the traditional market.
5) You established a strong niche for yourself by writing many of your books for a Christian audience. Do you think this helped your career? Did you ever felt you were the equivalent of type-cast?
A common saying to writers is to “write what you know.” I didn’t necessarily select the Christian audience but I was writing what I knew. The relationships I built were primarily with Christian editors and they gave me the opportunity to write for their magazines and book publishers (in many cases over and over).
There are merits to specialization but my writing is also diverse in the types of writing that I’ve done such as children’s books, young adult, biographies, how-to books, co-authored books, etc. Even within a particular category such as religious inspirational books, there is room for wide diversity. In my years in publishing, I’ve worked in many aspects such as a magazine editor, a book author, a literary agent, an acquisitions editor and now a book publisher. Each aspect has taught me something new and helped me grow as a writer. I’ve built many of the lessons from my diverse experience into my latest how-to book, Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams, Insider Secrets to Skyrocket Your Success.
Some great additional links from Terry:
1) The list of Terry’s published books online. Notice the diversity in his writing and the different categories he straddles.
4) Here’s a link to a free hour-long teleseminar that Terry did with editor, Diane Eble, talking about the changes in publishing and the differences between traditional publishing, independent publishing and self-publishing.
5) A free sample of Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams
6) The book trailer to Jumpstart on YouTube.
there’s a nice mention of our events coming up on Thursday, January 6 at Anderson’s bookstore in Naperville. Thanks again to the Huffington Post!
Shaun Yu & David Henry Sterry talk about books on NPR
Bookbuzzr December 30th, 2010
We’ve been to almost 50 states talking to thousands of authors—amateurs and professionals—and we’re still shocked that one particular fantasy still exists and persists: “My publisher is going to put together and implement a publicity and marketing plan that will rocket my book to the top of bestseller lists.”
Clearly, most authors who still harbor this fantasy are unfamiliar with publishing in the 21st century (or publishing at any time, for that matter). To paraphrase best-selling author and marketing guru Seth Godin, the writer who starts developing her community as her book is coming out and just hopes that her publisher will get her on Oprah is in for a rude awakening. You simply cannot sit around waiting for your publisher to hand you a publicity and marketing plan, because there’s a good chance this publicity and marketing plan may never arrive. Except in rare circumstances, the authors that make it big (or just make it), are the ones who are busy planning their own publicity and marketing long before their books are published.
The relationship between author and publisher is much like a marriage. It usually starts with a great honeymoon phase, often cools when the partners see each other’s warts, only works with lots of give-and-take, and both sides take it for granted after a while. That’s why it’s important to go into your relationship with a sort of publicity-and-marketing “dowry.” The more you’ve done to beef up this dowry, the better things will go for your book. Yes, this publicity and marketing plan is a work in progress that will be revised and refined up until and even beyond your book’s publication. But it sets the bar for action on both sides.
So what do put in your marketing and publicity plan? Here’s a quick primer:
1) Your pitch. You know how to pitch your book better than anyone else—or you should. Hopefully, you’ve been developing your pitch from the moment you told someone you had an idea for a book and they asked, “So, what’s your book about?”
2) A summary of your strategy and goals for publication. What are your expectations? Just be sure these are realistic, not “Get me on Fresh Air and the cover of The New York Times Book Review while I am wooed by Hollywood.”
3) What you’ve done already to prime the pump. Do you have a social media following of any kind? Have you made contacts at local or national media? Do you have endorsers ready to blurb? Do you have a workshop schedule already in place? Display your platform proudly.
4) Identify media (traditional and social) opportunities—big and small. You know your subject and your audience better than your publisher does. Most trade publishers are generalists, and while they know how to get your book into trade publications and mainstream media (whether actually do so is another question!), they probably won’t know about the niche media, bloggers, tweeters, etc that are speaking to your audience every day.
5) Identify cross-promotional opportunities with other authors on your publisher’s list. It always helps to be in the company of more-established authors. Seek out other people who are doing similar work, especially on your publisher’s list. See if your publisher can put you on a panel with like-minded authors, ask if you can guest blog on another author’s site — anything that will help raise your profile, and get the word out.
Many authors to whom we deliver this primer look at us with bunny-in-headlights eyes and protest, “I’m no marketing expert!”. That may be true right now, but if you want your book to be the success you hoped for, you’re going to have to learn the particulars about your audience, and how to find, woo, and wow them. The good news is that if you do, and if you put this information into your publisher’s hands, they may even agree to do a big chunk of this work for you. As in marriage, if you pick the right partner you can give birth to a happy, healthy, thriving book that will give both of you pleasure and coin for decades to come.
ARIELLE ECKSTUT, cofounder of LittleMissMatched, an iconic brand with stores in Disneyland and Grand Central Station, is a writer, entrepreneur, and agent-at-large for the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. She is the author of Pride and Promiscuity: The Lost Sex Scenes of Jane Austen
DAVID HENRY STERRY is the coeditor of Hos, Hookers, Call Girls, and Rent Boys (front page review, The New York Times Book Review) and author of Master of Ceremonies, Chicken, Satchel Sez, and most recently, The Glorious World Cup. He is also an actor, media coach, book doctor, Huffington Post regular and activist. The authors are married and live in Montclair, New Jersey,