Feature image from MEGHANBREWSTER
On the 29th of May 2015, I went inside a publishing house, metaphorically speaking. As part of the EMERGING WRITERS’ FESTIVAL, I was able to attend a Publishing Masterclass with one of Australia’s largest and most successful publishing houses, HACHETTE AUSTRALIA. Here’s what I learnt, straight from the Hachette’s mouth.
Submitting Your work
When submitting your manuscript to a publisher, be clear, direct and slightly business like. You need to convey an awareness of what you’re selling. ‘This is the book, this is the type of book it is and this is the hook. That’s all we need to know.’
There are a number of reasons why a publisher will say no to a manuscript. Firstly the manuscript might actually be very bad or nowhere near publication. Alternatively, it might have potential, but the publisher is already working on a similar manuscript. The manuscript might be in direct competition with a writer the publisher has already signed. It might also have a lot of potential, but the publisher simply does not have time to get the work ready for publication.
It pays to have that manuscript ready. A publisher has no intention of signing an author that is only going to publish one book. Publishers are interested in building careers. ‘When I sign someone I want to build their career’. The ‘book a year’ thing really is important.
‘If you analyse publishing history, you may be able to predict when a big change is coming but won’t know for sure what it is.’ Publishing trends are much easier to identify once they’ve passed.
Online publishing did not bring down the death of the print book as people feared. Instead, it looks like online publishing and eBooks have added to the publishing world. Publishing online offers a new way to reach readers. Digital publishing is very much genre based, romance, erotica, sci-fi and fantasy. Publishing ‘digital first’ is also a great way to test a work on a smaller market. It’s a cost effect way to see if there is a market for something before committing to paper publishing.
Attitudes Towards Self-Published Authors
The stigma surrounding self-publishing is falling away. Fifty Shades of Grey changed all that. It was a huge wake-up call to end the snobbery that had developed towards self-published authors. Being a self-published author is not a bad thing.
There are great self-published authors who are savvy and switched on. Successful self-published authors have a business mind. They have learnt a lot on their own and are very driven.
Working with the Author
When working with a new author, it’s important to manage their expectations. ‘Raw numbers aren’t always discussed.’ But what publishers are clear about is where the book will sit in the market.
Authors will never be left on their own or in the dark about their work. There are a lot of people involved in the publishing process and a whole team behind the author.
Working with the Publisher
When an author agrees to a publisher, they’re agreeing to a team of professionals. They need to understand and be ok with that. ‘They need to be open to listening to our input and accepting our expertise’. Conflict tends to only arise when the author believes something else should be happening at that time. Open communication and collaboration make a writer easier to work with.
If you wish to eventually work with a publisher it’s recommended that you practice having your work constructively criticised. Practicing receiving criticism will help the author understand the process and get the most out of the experience of working with an editor. Constructive criticism is designed to make a better book. ‘Begin with a clear vision of the book from the start’. This will help frame criticism towards getting that.
Marketing and Advertising
Marketing is about pushing the product. A marketing campaign for a book can run anywhere between two weeks to a month. Social media changed how publishers market books. Digital advertising is easier to track success. Social media has also introduced more places to put ads. There are more options for book markets than ever before including, guest blog posts, twitter conversation and podcasts.
While marketing focuses around advertising a book when it is released, publicity is an ongoing relationship between the author and their audience.
Publicity is pushing the person. Publicity is relationships based marketing. Many authors are surprised at how public they need to be when promoting a book. The most marketable authors are those who want to talk about their books and go out and meet people. Are they good looking? Are they nice? What is their personality? Ultimately the best writers are good people. In nonfiction, the author needs to be an authority on the subject they are writing.
Did you know that book launches don’t sell books? I’m as surprised as you. Apparently book launches are just seen as a party for you and your family. The people who come to book launches already know all about the book and probably already have a free copy. Marketing, reviews and word of mouth are what really makes sales!