It’s always a pleasure to spend time among book lovers and a recent industry insider panel called “How to Publish Your Book” hosted by the Medill Club of NYU definitely delivered. The guests, all graduates of Northwestern University, spanned the publishing industry, from Marysue Rucci, Editor-in-Chief at Simon & Schuster and Whitney Frick, Senior Editor at Flatiron Books to novelist Sally Slater, bestselling author Maria Murnane, and Renee Zuckerbrot, founder of Renee Zuckerbrot Literary. Here are some encouraging findings from the front lines:
Editors still edit: While the publishing industry has experienced its ups and downs, there are two constants we can count on: Editors are always looking for wonderful, well-told stories and they love working closely with authors to help shape their books and guide their success. People in publishing are “eternal optimists and romantics,” noted Marysue Rucci. They get up each morning inspired by the belief that, “today’s the day we’re going to discover that amazing book.”
Research reaps results: While she is awash in queries, Renee Zuckerbrot noted that many of them miss the mark because aspiring authors don’t invest the time and energy needed to identify agents in their genre who might be good matches for their projects. The good news: A well-targeted submissions strategy sets you apart. Reliable online resources for focusing an agent search include the Association of Author Representatives (AAR) database, the “Poets & Writers” website, Agent Query.com, and Publishers Marketplace.
Creativity counts: Just as creativity fuels our writing, it can also fuel our success in reaching readers. Risk-taking, ingenuity, outreach and the willingness to self-promote are all key to success. Sally Slater has used Wattpad, an online book community, to attract readers to her work and Maria Murnane has used a mix of innovative tools, including a “Buzz” form on her website, to build a loyal readership. Connecting directly with readers can be both emotionally and economically satisfying. One tip I’ve heard consistently: Select one primary social media tool to focus on.
There’s so much good news here: When we craft strong, well-told stories, the world sits up and takes notice. If we take time to do research during our submission stage, we can increase the odds of finding representation. By connecting directly with readers, we’re can build a strong foundation for success, whether we self publish or attract a traditional publisher. All this takes time and energy, it’s true, but all of this can be accomplished through our own effort and attitude: It’s within our grasp. Write on!