Fresh and Frank: An Insider’s Guide to the Publishing Industry – Key Takeaways

Press Room blogger Sian Campbell attended Saturday’s panel with industry insiders – here are the key takeaways, in case you missed it!

There’s pretty much nothing that can bring the writers to the yard like an honest and well-informed panel on the underbelly of the writing industry. Case in point: when editors and marketers Lex Hirst, Hannah Temby, Bethia Thomas, Nadia Junaideen, Nikki Lusk gather at the Royal Exchange on Saturday morning to dispense their invaluable advice to writers, there aren’t many empty seats, and question time is a sea of hands.

Considering how eager ya’ll seem to be for secret tips on how to become the next Rowling, I’m not going to get in your way! So for anyone who clicked through hoping for a cheat sheet, here’s a helpful summary of some of the best advice dolled out by the literary Yoda panelists:

  • Don’t worry about having an online presence across all the social media boards if you’re not into that – pick one social medium that you love and know (or want to learn) how to use effectively, and do it well. (Apparently Elizabeth Gilbert is super big on Pinterest. Who knew?!)
  • On this note, publishers are always reaching readers in new ways. Increasingly, authors are being marketed as opposed to their books. If you’ve already established a brand for yourself through a blog or social media, you might just seem like a better bet to a publisher. Obviously, a bunch of followers will not help you if your book is sub-par, but those followers plus a great manuscript might get you pretty far.
  • It sounds pretty obvious, but be professional about your manuscript application. So, no glitter bombs. And if it says to only submit a one page cover letter, you are not the magic exception to that rule. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot. If you’re trying to make your application stand out from the others, it might send the message that your manuscript can’t speak for itself.
  • While we think publishers want something that hasn’t been done before, often this can scare publishers off. (There’s often a reason things haven’t been done before!) Go into bookstores and learn what titles your book might hanging out with on the shelves. Don’t be afraid to compare your manuscript to these in your cover letters! Uh, only if they’re comparable, obviously. Your book does not exist in a vacuum, and publishers want to know what your book is like as well as why its not just a carbon copy.

Most importantly, the main thing the panelists stress is that there is no real way to cheat your way into a book deal. Savvy thinking, networking and social media are not going to get a crappy book into print, so focus on the writing before anything else. That being said, if you’ve got a manuscript sitting in your top drawer, when NYWF rolls around in 2014 be sure to scan the program and get along to the industry insider events. It can’t hurt!