Note: This is the third post in a series of four posts: 3 Things a Publisher Must See.
Let’s say you do find yourself on an elevator face to face with an acquisitions editor from your dream publisher. She’s heard your pitch, is interested and asks you who will buy your book.
Do you know the very worst answer you can give her?
While you think it might be what she wants to hear, it isn’t. It really isn’t.
Jonathan Merritt, a savvy friend of Margot’s, explains, “If you aim to write a book for everyone, you’ll write a book for no one. But if you write a book for someone, then you’ve written a book for everyone.” Your book will be most effective if, as you write, you are imagining one person—Reading Rita or Literary Lou—and write to the heart and mind, questions and concerns, of that one person.
Know your audience. Editors want to see that you know who is reading your book and are writing to them. So you need to be able to describe your audience demographic: How old are they? Male or female? Education? Married Parents? Church attenders? Listen to Christian Radio? Etc.
Most often, people don’t buy books they think they should read. ($16 to learn that the best way to lose weight is exercising more and eating less? No thanks.) Books that sell are ones that meet a reader’s felt need. ($16 to learn that the best way to lose weight is by eating pizza every hour on the hour. LOL. Just kidding. But not really. #bestseller.)
In your proposal, you demonstrate that there is an audience for your book by letting a publisher know that it is meeting a real need for readers.
There are all kinds of creative ways to communicate readers’ felt needs to a publisher:
- Description, “In the last month, five of my friends have had this problem…”
- Statistics show that….
- The top-selling books of 2015 were…
In the writing, of course, your book must actually meet the readers’ felt needs. There needs to be a benefit to the reader who reads your book. (This is what makes readers rave to their friends about your book over coffee and on GoodReads!)
Here’s how: On every page, be asking, “What is the reader feeling? What is the reader thinking? How can I serve the reader with this story, page, chapter?”
To convince a publisher that there’s an audience for your book, you must communicate clearly that it offers value by meeting a need readers really have.
Exercise: Draft a character sketch of your book’s target reader, Reading Rita or Literary Lou. What keeps this reader up at night? What does this reader care about? What concerns does this reader have? Tape this list to your computer screen so that you remember to write every page with Rita or Lou in mind.
Cheering you on,