What a new writer needs to get right

Why can some authors do everything badly and get away with it? Do you need to be unique? Or good at branding? Guest blogger Suzanne Collier of Book Careers.com explains all

Careers consultant Suzanne Collier

Careers consultant Suzanne Collier

Even in today’s climate I am still speaking to authors who don’t do their research.

They somehow have gone down the self-publishing route, scraped together the cash to print 3,000 lovely hardback books which are sitting in their garage (or even worse they are paying storage for at a warehouse) without any thought about how they will sell or market what it is they are writing.

Sometimes, the impulse to get in print was so high, they forgot to get the book edited properly.

The key to any publishing success is sales and marketing. Yes, we are living in a marketing-led world, probably over-emphasised by far too much celebrity culture, but you as an author need to learn about what it is.

Top marketeers will call it your USP (unique selling point) but to me, you don’t even have to be unique, you can be writing the same stuff as anyone else but simply have a better idea as to how to reach your audience.

It isn’t even about branding. I have seen authors do everything badly – write appalling synopses, interview badly, give public talks where you wish you could gently slide under your seat with embarrassment (I admit I’ve probably given a few of those talks myself) – yet because their book has some personal appeal it has survived all of these mistakes and more.

So my advice to you, whichever route you choose to get your work published – be it by a ‘proper publisher’ or by self-publishing – is to do your groundwork. Learn as much as possible about the marketplace you are writing for.

You may want to write about fly tipping, but who is likely to publish books on fly tipping? Where are they likely to sell? How many people out there are likely to buy a book on fly tipping? If you as the author can’t see the market for the book, then don’t expect the publisher to.

I have seen some of the best authors get rejected by publishers many, many times, before they were accepted. I have seen a book rejected at one publisher turn up at another five years later (and accepted) because it became topical again. Publishing tastes change along with life.

It might all be a bit mystifying to someone starting out for the first time – even established people in the industry can find it overwhelming. But persevere. It will pay off.

Suzanne Collier

(Publishing & Careers Consultant, Bookcareers.com)



Filed under Getting Published, Marketing Yourself

7 responses to “What a new writer needs to get right

  1. lawrenceez

    Thanks for the advice. I’m trying to get my first novel published. (Actually, I’ve written two complete novels and the opening chapters of a third). So far, I’ve received some positive feedback from agents but no one has taken me on yet. It’s quite stressful and discouraging.

  2. Pingback: bookcareers.com » Blog Archive » Advice for Authors

  3. Yes, to echo the original post here, there is sometimes a gap in the market for a good reason.

  4. I found this advice excellent.

    My genre is unique; physician bluegrass fiction. I might be the only one. I do not count on that to save me, though.

    After four years and twenty revisions of my manuscript, I just now feel comfortable enough with the work to ask an editor to take it on.

    I interviewed several. They were all excellent, and I settled in on the one I thought was the best fit. We are going to work together for six months, then I think I’ll be ready to consider a Publisher.

    Dr. Tom Bibey


  5. Dr Tom – that sounds interesting. Good luck with it!

  6. lawrenceez

    Dr Tom,

    That’s exactly what one of the agents suggested – that I take the manuscript to an editor and work on the problems concerning one of the viewpoints. Only problem, I can’t afford editors at the moment. I’m a self-employed musician struggling in the recession.

    I’m currently posting articles on creative writing and updates about my writing and music at http://lawrenceez.wordpress.com

  7. Although my avocation is creating humorous hoaxes(using the media as a conduit to the public, supplying fictional stories they published as fact) I’ve had eight books published without an agent and promoted them myself using offbeat gimmicks. “Don’t Get Mad…Get Even” (W.W. Norton) became a best seller in the 80’s after I had the title on a T-shirt worn by a fake official in the Super Bowl game between the Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins. A present hoax has been on the internet for a year now, both amusing and angering millions, soon to be revealed as a record and book promotion. So stay tuned! Sincerely, Alan Abel