Here’s a tough-love news flash:
To Get Published, You Need to Beat the Competition!
It’s a fundamental problem I see in a lot of aspiring, emerging writers. First, their work is pretty good. Second, their work isn’t good enough.
Why not? Well, it isn’t original or appealing enough to draw a reader away from other well-known books & authors already existing and successful in your field or genre.
You need to recognize and try to beat the competition.
To succeed, your work has to be appealing enough to make someone who doesn’t know you from Adam (or Eve) grab their wallet (or metaphysical wallet of time and attention) and spend it on you and your writing.
In the real world, you’re asking a reader to turn away from other, let’s face it, compelling and well-marketed work, to buy yours instead.
Instead. That’s a key word.
Beginning authors don’t think enough about the high bar of existing competition.
Take a moment to think seriously about how you go about buying a book. What’s your threshold to open your wallet and hand over real cash?
Imaging yourself going into a bookstore, or shopping for a book online. Better yet, go ahead. Do it. Shop for a book in your field. (Thinking all the time of why someone would choose your work over it and others.)
What makes you a) select a book to look more closely at, and b) decide to buy it?
Really. What does the trick?
- You need to encounter it first. How did you find it? Is it visible in the “aisles” you travel?
- You quickly eyeball the cover.
- You ask, “Have I heard good things about that book or that author?”
- You look at it a bit more. You read the back cover.
- Does the back cover deliver: Great summary? Great reviews? Is it clearly what I like/want to read?
- You might read the first page.
- Or you open it at random in the middle and scan a paragraph or two.
- If it’s a nonfiction book. you might check the table of contents, or the index.
All through the process, you’re asking: What is so special about this book that I should buy it and not the bestselling, recommended, well-reviewed book next to it?
It’s a very high bar. The catch: It isn’t good enough to write something that people will like after they’ve read it. You need to get them to like it before they’ve read it . . . to get them to buy it.
So . . . can you tell me in 1, 2, 3 sentences, why your work is intriguing, appealing, different, dramatic?
If nonfiction, can you tell me why it’s well organized, useful, a fresh take on old subject, what niche it fills, how it’s different from other similar books?
Learn to pitch your work to a literary agent or editor or reader in a way that shows that you know the competition, explaining how your book matches up well enough to win readers.
As business consultant Rhonda Adams said in a great short article (“Great Faith. Great Doubt. Great Effort.”) included in The New Writer’s Handbook, Vol 2, and also found on her website), a key factor in your success is Great Doubt.
Great doubt, not about your abilities! . . . but about the marketability of your product.
Why, why, why . . . will they buy my book/literary work? (Instead of another choice?)
Vive la différence! What’s different and most appealing? Find it, and add to it. Boost it. Push it forward. Cut out clichés and common stuff. Be more . . . something! (quirky, suspenseful, well-organized, whatever).
[next post to come soon: Delivering More Appeal]