Thursday, June 2, 2011

Writers Need More Than a Great Book Idea

While going through the 2012 Writer's Market articles (book will hit stores in Fall), I was reminded of one of those things that I know, but that I sometimes forget, and that many potential authors don't realize, because they're not involved in the book publishing industry: Writers need more than just a great book idea to get a book published.

Many writers (and I don't blame them) think that it just takes a great idea to get a book published, and that may be the case if writers and readers and publishers were to live in vacuum in which money doesn't exist. However, the evil that is money is an important factor in how book projects are ultimately given life or killed.

A great book idea is an important first step for potential authors, but here are some other steps a writer usually must take to find success (whether fiction or nonfiction):
  1. Create a concise description of the book in one sentence (or in 30 seconds of talking). This is one of the most important tools to communicating your book to agents, editors, publishers, marketers, sales reps, book buyers, readers, etc. Of course, your book is more complicated than one sentence (or a 30-second description), but we live in a world in which people digest information in quick bites.
  2. Develop an amazing title. There are many ways to choose a title, but I suggest going over all the bestselling titles of the past year and looking for inspiration and ideas there. When writing nonfiction, it's usually a good idea to go either humorous or helpful. When writing fiction, use the title to evoke a mood or hint at a mystery that the reader must solve (by reading your awesome novel).
  3. Prove that a market exists for your great book idea. Just saying that you have a great idea and that people will benefit from reading your book is usually not enough. Explain what kind of people, where publishers can find them, and show that these people are willing to buy books like yours. One way to do this is if you...
  4. Identify successful competitive titles. If there are books that are like yours that are already doing well, then highlight those success stories. It establishes a market. But you can't write an exact copy of what's already successful. Instead, you must...
  5. Show how yours is different. Maybe your nonfiction book tackles the subject in a new way or has a different slant. Maybe your novel has a new twist or is set in a new environment or somehow incorporates teenage zombie magicians or something. You want a unique selling point that is still in the same ball park as an established success story.
This may sound impossible (or very challenging), but it's a simple step-by-step process that helps you define your book and your audience better. If you understand your reader better, it only makes you more confident as a writer, because you know what they want and how they want it.


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Jennifer Ruth Jackson said...

A lot of people dislike scrunching their entire work into that of a sound-byte but they shouldn't. We have to be compelling early and it is basically the same thing.

If one sentence can change your career for the better, wouldn't you want to know what it was?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this helpful (and concise!) info.

Sarah Allen said...

Very good tips, and absolutely things I needed to here. Thanks for sharing!

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

Angle on Writing said...

Thank you for the great advice! All wonderful suggestions!

How about making a video about your book? Like the one I helped Mikki Reily make for her book Your Primal Body