Imagine the publishing world as a majestic castle on a hill. Inside the castle are courts of increasing wonder. The inner court is the most awesome. It is where the Rowlings, Kings, Martins, and Grishams swim in vats of gold coins like Scrooge McDuck to the cheers of adoring fans.
Moving out from there are the lesser courts. In these there are still vats of money and adoring fans, but there are more swimmers so the room feels less like a personal celebration and more like a great day at the beach with friends.
The castle is guarded by a giant wall and moat. Atop the wall sit publishers. They hear the pleas of authors. One by one, authors step forward to make their pitch. They explain the story they’ve written and why they should be allowed into the incredible castle. The smart authors bring with them fast talking, quick witted agents who represents them in the plea process. When the publishers hear a great story with originality that offers something to the world, they lower the gate. The author and agent are then welcomed into the great castle with a parade and fanfare.
Our logical minds tell us the publishing world isn’t really like this. That the castle and entrance to it is a myth.
But like the loch ness monster and pink unicorns, our hearts keep the fantasy alive.
Which is not a problem, there’s no harm in believing in mythical things, until you put a cross bow on your back and tromp into the woods looking to bag a Big Foot.
When I began to pursue publishing I was forced to take a harder look at the world I was entering. I discovered it’s more like the great western expansion of the 1800’s than a castle on a hill. Yes, there are big companies building railroads; but most people in the publishing world are just trying to figure out how to stay alive.
AN HONEST LOOK
Recently I was listening to Jeff Goins’ podcast The Portfolio Life. In episode #24, Goins’ interviewed Chad Allen, the Editorial Director for the Baker Publishing Group (one of the “Big Five” publishers). Mr. Allen has been in publishing for over fifteen years and has a vast amount of acquisition experience. His conversation with Jeff was a brilliant explanation of what authors like myself face when we strive to enter the world of publishing.
There are more people seeking to be published now than ever before. Technology has empowered anyone with a computer or smart phone to try their hand at writing. This means publishers are flooded with proposals. Knowing this, Jeff asked Chad Allen as a publisher what he looks for in a book. Chad explained that publishers look for three things:
- a great concept,
- an influential platform,
- and terrific writing.
Sounds simple right? Sounds a lot like the castle image I painted earlier. Write something unique and interesting that people will want to read and you are in.
Wait for it. It’s not what it seems.
In my next post I’ll break down each component and we’ll tear down the myth together.