If you want to succeed as a writer you have to realize you’re in the book business, with all its strange ways of doing things.
Publishing is still a relationship business and you need to know the players, the powers that be, who’s making what things happen.
Publishers Marketplace draws back the curtains and reveals the nuts and bolts of daily life and how to gain entry.
How to get in the game
Years ago it was difficult if not impossible for aspiring or established authors to know what was going on behind the scenes in the book business. Who were the important agents and editors? What were they selling and buying? How could an author penetrate the higher echelons of influence and power and get published?
That’s changing big time.
I’ve been telling writers at conferences and workshops for years that they should subscribe to Publishers Marketplace, the insider’s connection for crucial book publishing information, and a tremendous resource for every writer. And now it’s more important than ever with all the changes going on in the business.
Subscriptions cost $20 per month – a bargain, in my view, for the access you gain to information you need to be an informed participant in this business. It’s on a month-to-month basis, so you can try it out and see what you think.
There’s also a free version with limited access, but unless you subscribe you miss out on most of the essential services.
I use Publishers Marketplace every day to learn what I need to know as an acquiring book editor for a large commercial company. So this isn’t an infomercial, but heartfelt advice.
How I use Publishers Marketplace
• Like every publishing professional, I read a plethora of Publishers Marketplace email reports including Lunch Deluxe, Lunch Weekly, and Daily Deals, which provides news-breaking information on deals, hirings and firing, mergers and acquisitions, and other headline book news.
• Using PM’s immense industry database, I can search recent sales to see which agents are handling the kinds of books I want to publish.
For example, I can search by genre — self-help, mysteries, cookbooks, memoirs, debut fiction, YA, etc. – and find all the recent deals. Sometimes I can also learn approximately what they sold for, described in a scale of euphemisms starting with a nice deal (less than $49k), all the way up to a major deal (more than $500k).
• I can find authors with projects I’d like to see by searching Rights News and Offerings (available free) — a reverse chronology of recent books for sale by both agents and individual authors who post them daily.
• I’m able to check out the competition and learn which of my esteemed colleagues has acquired books in categories we share. For me, this is a valuable way to see if our own advance offers are above or below the level the competition is paying.
• Checking under my own name, I see that I have some housekeeping to do to bring my information up to date, as many of my acquisitions are missing — yikes, 15 of the 19 I signed up in the last 12 months — and haven’t made it into the PM database.
• I can tinker with my Members Page (searchable for free) where anyone can see my editorial bio, current genres and specialties, best-known projects, recent purchases, and a photo. The shameless story of my life where everyone can see how old I am, even though I did start at the age of eleven, ahem.
So if you’re a writer who has a book that hasn’t been sold yet or for one reason or other is looking for a better publishing situation, by all means subscribe to Publishers Marketplace.
Features of special interest to writers
• Contacts Search (subscribers only)
Obtain email, phone and address information for anyone in Publishers Marketplace’s extensive database. Search by name, company or branch of publishing from more than 2,000 listings for agents, 2,500 for editors and hundreds of other specialists.
• Top Dealmakers (subscribers only)
Writers can use this feature to research agents and editors by genre. For example, you can learn the names of the literary agents who sold the most debut fiction in the past 12 months, including the titles, the editors who bought them and how much they paid. This is important information since a good track record is the best barometer for future success.
• Who Represents Search (subscribers only)
This useful feature searches the database of authors and agents, permitting a user to search by author or title to track down the name of the author’s literary agent. This provides another way to find agents who handle books similar to yours or represent other writers you admire.
• Search Member Pages (free)
This feature allows browsing and searching of member-hosted web pages, including agents, editors, consultants, book designers and publicists. Individual bloggers and writers who are members and have established their own web pages are also listed here.
Find out how to reach acquiring editors who have bought books like yours or are looking in your general genre or category. I generally advise writers to get an agent first, but some authors I know prefer to go directly to the publisher’s editor and take their chances. I for one do read unsolicited proposals and manuscripts if there’s something about them that grabs my attention, but many companies won’t even consider stuff in the slush pile.
•Rights News and Offerings (free)
Post your own proposals. Yes, you can describe your book in an abbreviated pitch that if well done can capture the attention of agents and editors.
•Top Reviewers (subscribers only)
Click on a reviewer’s name to browse his or her reviews, sorted by tone (positive, neutral/mixed, or negative) with links to the actual reviews. Includes reviewers from major newspapers who have at least 25 reviews in the database.
• Publishers Lunch Automat (subscribers only)
Publishing industry news, commentary, financial updates, blog posts and more live from about 200 sources, including trade people (yours truly appears there), literary agents, bloggers, newspapers and booksellers. A rolling news feed draws on the major headlines.
•Publishers Lunch Deluxe (subscribers only)
If you want to keep up with every bit of news and gossip, this email summary is considered the industry’s “daily essential read, now shared with nearly 40,000 publishing people every day.”
This is where you can learn about new techniques and services that publishers and other authors are using to help authors sell their own books in the brave new world of internet marketing and social networking. All the old assumptions are off, we all know now, and we’re all experimenting with new ideas and ways of selling directly to the reader.
The times when authors could hide in the attic are long gone. Ignore this information at your peril, and make the worthwhile investment of time and money.
More than 600 writers have built substantial member web pages at Publishers Marketplace. We’d love to hear from you if you have information to share, for example if you’ve found any features at PM particularly valuable. And if there are any questions, please post them here in comments.