jeudi 14 décembre 2006

The author

author of a manuscript, can play a
significant role in influencing an editor’s
decision. They will consider your reputation as
a writer or expert, your personality, your previous
books (if any) and whatever publicity you may
have achieved about yourself and your writing.
1. Reputation
An author is a brand. Your name stands for
something when you become a published writer.
People read your work and form an opinion
about you – that is your reputation. If they
enjoyed your book they will be predisposed to
consider purchasing your next book, just as if a
person buys a particular brand of car and has a
good experience owning that car they will be
likely to buy that brand again.
So building a reputation under your name is a
way to ensure a guaranteed readership for your
future books. You are building a brand name, and
brand names have value. That is the reason why
successful authors can command higher royalty
advances than first time authors. The brand
building is already done. The publisher hasn’t
got to go through the expensive business of
promoting a new book on the basis of its contents
– simply announcing ‘the new Dan Brown
thriller’ or ‘the new Delia Smith cookbook’ is
enough to get booksellers racing to their shelves
to make space for something they know is going
to be popular.
But ‘the first Joe Bloggs book’ won’t generate
the same kind of excitement. Therefore the risks
are higher for the
publisher because
they have to spend
more money to tell
the public about this
Promoting a new book by a famous author is
cheap and easy: television chat shows will
interview the author and plug the book;
newspaper and magazine reviewers will feature
it; bookshops will place it prominently; the
Amazon website will make sure there are plenty
of links to it.
Everything is tougher with a new author.
Television appearances are not out of the question
(I’ve plugged many of my books on television,
starting way back with my first book – all it took
was a press release sent to the production
companies of various chat shows) but it’s not
something that can be counted on because it
depends on the type of book and whether it can
be presented to the media with an interesting
angle. Reviews will be shorter, smaller and fewer.
Bookshops will stock a single copy, spine-on, if
at all. Amazon will have a page for the book, as
they do for all registered books, but won’t make
a big song and dance about it.
So the only option left for the publisher who
wants to achieve high sales for this new author is
to spend money (which they hate doing) on
advertising and promotional materials to bring
the book to the attention of the public.
This is all very well, but you’re reading this
book because you want to get published for the
first time so there’s no way for you to develop a
following of thousands of devoted readers
beforehand. Don’t panic: an author’s reputation
doesn’t necessarily have to come from previous
books. There are a few more ways in which a
reputation can help you, but they still only apply
to a minority of writers.
Reputation as a specialist or expert in any field
will make it far easier to get a book on your area
of expertise published. For example, a reputation
within the scientific or academic community is
helpful when attempting to get a science textbook
published. Reputation as a stand-up comedian
will open doors when trying to get a joke book
published. Reputation as a record-breaking solo
yachtsman will help to get your sailing memoirs
That’s the kind of thing that can help swing
the publishing decision in your favour. The
trouble is we’re heading towards celebrity
territory here, which by definition rules out the
majority of us. Virtually any celebrity will be able
to get a book published, unless they are regarded
as ‘has-beens’ or unless their book has nothing
to do with the reason for their celebrity.
When the late Buster Merryfield who played Uncle
Albert in the sitcom Only Fools and Horses asked if
I would be interested in publishing his book, I was
pleased to see that it was a memoir called During
the War, which was his television character’s
famous catchphrase at the time.
I published it because he had a reputation on
television and because the title was right. If he had
presented me with a book he’d written about
someone else, with a different title, chances are I
would have rejected it.
2. Personality
A commissioning editor has to enter into a
business relationship lasting several years with
any author that gets signed up. Editors know that
although these relationships are often at arm’s
length they can be fraught with problems.
Authors are sensitive creatures with delicate egos
that need praising. They need attention and
sympathy. Sometimes they just need someone to
talk to (it’s a lonely business, writing, after all).
Editors, on the other hand, are very busy
people. They work hard preparing the text of
every book to make them as perfect as possible
prior to publication and it’s difficult to
concentrate when an author they published a
couple of years earlier angrily rings up and starts
complaining because a friend’s aunt went into a
bookshop and couldn’t find their book and was
erroneously told by the bookseller that it was out
of print. This scenario happens all the time, by
the way.
With many pressures on their time it’s hard
for an editor to give every author the attention
they indubitably deserve. Editors can get
defensive of their time: experience teaches them
to steer clear of timewasters.
What kind of personality are we talking about
here? How can you avoid being tarred with this
grossly unfair brush that is ‘timewaster’? The
answer lies less in how nice a person you may
be, and more in your ability to understand
the publishing and
bookselling industries.
It’s about whether you
can communicate with
a publisher on a
professional level. You
must give them the
space to do their job and
be able to turn complaints into a positive
communication. Instead of moaning that your
book isn’t in stock somewhere, e-mail or write
to the sales manager (it’s less intrusive than
phoning) pointing out that a potential sale could
be made in this particular shop.
This kind of thing applies once you’re already
a published author, so what about the first
contacts with the publisher? How do you avoid
being considered a potential troublemaker? This
is where knowledge of the industry you are
attempting to join will be invaluable. An author
who understands how bookselling and
publishing works will appear more relaxed, more
professional, and more experienced. The editor
will feel that there will be less time wasted
explaining away pointless questions arising from
the author’s lack of understanding of industry
procedures. It’s not the most important factor in
making a publishing decision, but it’s something
that any author can turn to their advantage by
demonstrating knowledge and understanding of
how publishing works. Part 2 of this book
explains everything you need to know about this.
3. Previous books
A publisher will consider your previous
experience as a writer. If you already have books
published it will only really help you if they are
relevant to the current proposal. Having a
cookbook in print won’t help you much in your
attempt to become a novelist. The publisher is
looking for evidence of previous books by you
in a related subject in order to ascertain the likely
sales levels for your current proposal. Strong
previous sales will sway the publishing decision
in your favour. Being the author of a flop or two
will only make things tougher.
If you’re trying to get your first book in print
then you can increase your chances by
demonstrating that you’ve been published in
journals, magazines, newspapers or websites.
Anything that is relevant to your book proposal
and shows some degree of acceptance as a writer
by a third party will help to increase your credibility
and ensure that your book idea is taken more
4. Self-publicity
Anyone serious about getting published should
get articles about themselves, their writing and
their ambitions printed in the local press. Even
though your town’s newspaper won’t make you
nationally famous, it’s nevertheless impressive to
receive a book proposal together with newspaper
clippings showing that you’re not afraid to
promote yourself and your book. A pro-active
author will sell more books than a timid author,
so evidence of self-promotion is a big tick in your
Getting your face in a newspaper is easier than
you might think. Local papers always run features
on local writers – all they need is an angle, and
that angle could be that after years of research
you’re now ready to find a publisher. Just phone
them up or write to them asking if they’re
interested in running an interview about you and
your work.
One of the factors that impressed me when Geoff
Thompson approached me with his first book,
Watch My Back, was the publicity he had obtained
for himself. He phoned me up to ask if I would
like to see his book and mentioned that he had
received substantial press coverage about it.
Although it wasn’t the kind of book I was publishing
at the time, I was intrigued enough to ask to see
the manuscript because I was certain that he would
make a hard working and dedicated author who
wasn’t afraid to promote himself and his book. The
manuscript arrived together with impressive press
cuttings from regional newspapers profiling the
author and his book. Twenty-five Geoff Thompson
books, several films and a BAFTA award later I’m
certain this was the right decision.
Another way to gain publicity and credibility at
the same time is to win a writing competition.
Increase your chances of this simply by entering
as many as you can and if you win anything at all
then make sure your target publishers know
about it! The more prestigious the award the
bigger the influence it will have on an editor
because they know the sales manager can use
your win to help them sell your book into the

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