…But How Are You Going to Get Published?

by Kendra Bonnett on April 5, 2013

Book Business PaperclipPost #99 – Women’s Memoirs, Book Business – Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler

As writers, it’s a question we all must ask ourselves…and answer. Consider.


“I ordered an iPad Mini,” my sister told me over the phone last November. She spoke with such enthusiasm, her voice was almost an octave higher as she extolled the many virtues of her digital reading machine and closed by saying, “It’s my birthday present to myself.”

I confess I was so stunned that my technology-loathing, self-proclaimed Luddite sister would buy an iPad–I mean watches literally die on this woman’s wrist–that I didn’t consider the bigger message…until now.

We’ve heard about dramatic changes in publishing for so long now, and we’ve seen some. We’ve visualized the paperless society, and maybe some of you have even tried to implement it a few times. I have and I’m still buried in paper.

But my sister’s willingness to use an iPad Mini represents, I think, a true turning point. She is the canary in the mineshaft; ebooks are catching hold with a broader spectrum of the reading public.

So what does this mean to you as a writer who wants to get published and wants to sell more than a few dozen copies of your book to family and friends?

Self-Publish As An Ebook

I think it requires you to consider–and consider very seriously–the role of ebooks in your publishing strategy. If you listened to my interview with memoirist Judy Mandel two weeks ago, you heard her say that it was probably her decision to create an ebook of her memoir Replacement Child, which sold between 12,000 and 14,000 copies that earned her a print contract with Seal Press.

And there’s more. A couple of days ago I heard about a new sci-fi mystery/thriller that’s supposed to be the Shades of Gray for 2013. The book is called Wool Omnibus, and author Hugh Howey is reported to have signed a seven-figure, print-only deal with Simon & Schuster…but only after his book became a #1 Bestseller on Amazon and winner of Kindle book review’s “Best Indie Book of 2012” award. Over at Paid Content you’ll find a free podcast that will give you a little more insight into Howey’s path to success.

And don’t let the magnitude of Howey’s success discourage you. You have to be good. You have to sell enough to interest publishers, but you don’t have to grab the Number One spot to make it.

Build Your Digital Platform

Matilda and I have written about platform building before and how you can use social media and blogging to help create a following. Today I have another idea for you, and it’s based on an observation.

Just as more and more traditional readers…those “but I love the feel and smell of my real books” readers (like my sister) are dipping a toe into the digital waters, those who have been on the e-cutting edge for awhile are beginning to find some innovative ways to take advantage of the relative low-entry costs of digital to open new avenues to writers. And I think this spells opportunity for you.

The other day on TechCrunch I read about Columbia Journalism professor Michael Shapiro and his plans to create an Algonquin Round Table, of sorts, for the 21st century. He calls the venture The Big Roundtable, and he’s raising money through Kickstarter (he’s already passed his initial funding goal of $5,000).

As The Big Roundtable gets off the ground Shapiro and his “readers” will be looking for long-form nonfiction, which is something bigger than a breadbasket and smaller than an elephant. If your work is accepted by the readers, you’ll work with an editor to whip it into final form, and you’ll be paid for each download. Shapiro expects to launch The Big Roundtable by the end of August, 2013. If you’re looking for a path to publication, this may be just what you need.

What’s Your Takeaway?

I think the message is that the ebook revolution is more than growing. It’s picking up more and more of the people who only a short time before said, “Never!” That means that if you can write a good story and produce an ebook that sells well, you have a chance ultimately to land a traditional publisher…a Seal Press or Simon & Schuster.

The relative low costs of digital enable us to break into writing, build our platforms and do all the things we need to do to hone our craft and develop a following big enough to interest a mainstream publisher with a marketing budget and broad distribution.

But your story must be good. And it must be well written. So etch those characters firmly in your readers’ minds. Engage your readers at an emotional level. Make scenes come alive with sensory description. Use dialogue–not as a break from narrative–but to show more of your characters, move the story along and more.

And if you need help doing this, maybe it’s time to put that copy of Writing Alchemy: How to Write Fast and Deep to good use. Read it. Apply it.

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