Getting Into Print - The Publishing Climate

I have run a publishing company and am a published author. I have worked in the media and have run my own marketing and training company. Pulling together my experience and knowledge, I hope to build a series of articles on this web site to help authors, both published and unpublished on a range of topics from writing tips to getting a publisher and self publishing, with lots of information in between and guest articles from other writers. Here in this article I examine the publishing climate. You can also register for one of my seminars or workshops on getting a publisher, self publishing, marketing your book, promoting yourself as an author,or one of my fiction writing workshops.

We write because we enjoy it, because we have something to say, because we want to immerse ourselves in another time and place, because we wish to create, inform, educate or entertain; because it is a hobby that very often turns into an obsession. We do not write to become rich and famous, although that would be nice, but many of us know the financial rewards in pursuing a writing career are small to say the least.

For all of us who write, though, there is no greater reward, or sense of satisfaction, than seeing our work in print. Getting into print however is extremely difficult. Marketing your book is even harder. Publishing is a highly competitive business. Books are low value goods and you need to sell an awful lot of them to make any money. Profit margins are being squeezed by the increasing cost to produce books and by the ever higher discounts demanded by the large booksellers and the supermarket chains. The days when a publisher used to take a risk on an unknown author and let him build sales over a few titles are gone - or almost gone. Now, to get your work published you have to go BIG right from the start, or you need to have an established name in the eyes of readers and potential readers, (i.e. celebrity authors), which can generate sales pre-publication.

In response to a tightening market, many publishers are seeking economies of scale. This means they are merging to form bigger publishing houses creating even fewer opportunities for new writers to get their work published. But before you throw down your pen in despair, or switch off your computer, it’s not all bad news.

There are now many smaller independent publishers who are producing a wide range of interesting books and selling them. The market for selling books has expanded with the growth in specialist retail outlets, direct mail and the Internet. New technology has enabled books to be produced digitally allowing short print runs, thereby opening up the market to the self-publisher and small publisher. And the popularity of e books is increasing.

To boost your chances of finding a publisher you need to know your market. Publishing is about categories and some books simply do not fit into a category. That doesn’t mean to say that they won’t sell, they can and do, but it can be more difficult for you to pitch your book to a potential publisher or agent because of this.

So if you write fiction try and define the category of fiction. Visit a local bookshop and see the categories on offer. For example:

· crime
· romance
· historical
· literary
· fantasy
· sci fi
· erotic
· adventure
· thriller
· contemporary
· chick lit
· children’s fiction
· teenage fiction

And that’s just to name a few.

For non fiction there are specialist subjects, such as:

military history

And, of course, there are many other categories including poetry, anthologies, short stories…

Can you sum up in one phrase what type of book yours is? For example, I write crime novels and thrillers, which have a unique selling point (or USP) of being marketed as ‘Marine Mysteries’ because they are all set around the sea. This 'branding' places my crime novels in a crowded market place and helps the reader and potential reader to find, and hopefully buy them.

By defining your category and your market you are then in a better position to identify the type of publisher or their imprint, or the type of literary agent who is most likely to take a look at your work . Use the Internet to research them, or the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook. You can also examine books in your local library and bookshop to see who publishes what. Visit the London or Frankfurt Book Fairs, not necessarily to pitch your work to potential publishers - they are usually too busy at these fairs with pre-arranged appointments - but to get contact details. Or you can attend some of the many great seminars that are held there.

The better your understanding of how the publishing industry works the more chance you have of writing the kind of book publishers want to publish, and of getting a publishing deal. And if you don't, then there is always the self-publishing route, which is getting more and more sophisticated every day and there are some great opportunities now for you to produce a very professional product indeed.


Debra said…
I enjoyed your article, Pauline, and as a self-published mystery author, I agree your comments. Recently, I took a workshop all about author branding, a concept that's pretty new to me, but a valuable tool for those of us marketing our books. My books are Vancouver-based, white collar crime mysteries that incorporate a little humor and a little romance. Needless to say, I have to work on a shorter tag.

All the best
Debra Purdy Kong
Pauline Rowson said…
Good luck with your tag. You're not far off though in your description. And interesting that you went to a workshop on author branding. Think of your tag as a sound bite on the radio, and don't forget who your target or typical reader is. Best wishes.
Patricia said…
Dear Pauline,

Good post--important topic. I'd like to invite you to visit my blog Also, may I send you a copy of my book, "The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book" for possible inclusion in your list of "Helpful Books."

Keep up the good work.
Patricia Fry
Pauline Rowson said…
Hi Patricia, Thanks for your comment. I have visited your publishing blog, there's some very good advice there. Would be delighted to receive a copy of your book if you want to send it to me and happy to put a link to your blog on here. Best wishes, Pauline
akalethian said…
I am more than a little put off by anyone who abuses the English language with such high school English as "try and" rather than "try to."