At the end of the Quitter Conference, we’re doing a writer’s Q&A. As I’ve started to think through that, a lot of ideas about writing and publishing have popped in my head.
I’ve written three books. I published Stuff Christians Like with Zondervan. I published Quitter and Gazelles, Baby Steps and 37 Other Things Dave Ramsey Taught Me about Debt, through Lampo Press, Dave Ramsey’s publishing house.
After talking with a half dozen publishers, I learned that they tend to ask 3 fairly consistent questions when they look at a proposal from a new author:
1. Is this book a good idea?
Is this idea, the one explained in the proposal, a good idea? Is it compelling? Is it different enough to stand out? Is the story this author is proposing, whether fiction or non, a good story?
2. Can this person write?
Publishing is a really challenging business. So often, publishers want to know if you’ve got more than one book in you. Is this person a good writer? If we invest in them and publish this particular book, will we be able to publish a second and a third book? Is this person a good enough writer that they will be able to produce a lot of other books that are even better than this first book?
3. Does this person have a platform?
Thirty years ago, this question probably had a lot less sway in the equation. It was difficult to have a platform. You needed to have a radio show or be on television or be a politician or at least a local figure to have a built-in platform. Now? The sky is the limit, as far as building your platform goes, and publishers expect you to have one. It’s really expensive for a publisher to try to build you a platform with advertising or buying space within in a bookstore. They’d much rather you come to the table with a platform already. It’s not uncommon for a publisher to ask about your blog traffic or the number of Twitter followers you have or how many fans you have on Facebook. I put all of that information on my proposal when I was pitching Stuff Christians Like to publishers. (I got rejected from a lot of publishers until I had a platform too.) That said, you don’t need to have a massive platform to get a book published. That’s not what I’m saying at all. But you need to at least be able to show a publisher that you’re committed to growing one and you’re already hustling on building relationships with the people who might buy your book one day.
As an author, I’ve encountered these questions most often from publishers. But a great way to see the other side of the coin, to hear from a publisher’s perspective, is to read Michael Hyatt’s blog. He’s the chairman of Thomas Nelson publishing and incredibly generous with that type of information.
Have you ever wanted to write a book?