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How Books are Selected – the “Yes” Pile and the “No” Pile

Posted by in Books for Sale , Self Publishing on January 18, 2011

Some people believe that perseverance is the key to getting published or signed by a literary agent.  In many respects this is true, but not if you think that pestering the same agent or continually asking a publisher to reread your work is going to get you into the bookstore.  Your book is personal and means a lot to you, but it means nothing to them unless they can make money.

Is your book saleable?

That is the question all publishers and literary agents alike will be asking, and that is why they only have two piles on their desks in front of them (or on their PC, I’m not talking literally here).  If your book doesn’t look like it’s going to make them money within the first few moments of them reading it then it’s likely to be placed on the “no” pile.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again here: agents and publishers mostly know what they’re looking for before they even begin reading in the morning; if you have what the market needs or needs more of then you’ll be in and it’s as simple as that really.

Will you get any advice?

No, quite simply.  You will not get any advice from a publisher about your book in order to improve it, and you are really unlikely to get any advice from a literary agent unless you are already one of their clients; in which case they want your work to be good because their salaries depend on it!

You must always remember that this is the reason they have a “yes” and a “no”.  This is to simplify their jobs and to prevent them offering manuscript appraisals or any kind of hints and tips to people.  There is no “Maybe, but needs a little work here…” pile and there never will be; these people are out to sell books and make money and that is all.

As far as publishers and literary agents are concerned, if your book isn’t ready to put in the bookstore or the online bookstore then they don’t really need to be looking at it.  There are freelance writers and editors out there in the publishing world that would happily review your manuscript before you submit it to an agent or publisher.

Don’t send too much

If you send more than the publisher or agent has asked you to send then they probably won’t bother reading any of it.  It’s really not worth you trying to let them see more of your work to recognise that it’s a masterpiece.  It’s more than likely going to be their thought that you cannot follow very simple instructions and that you lack professionalism if you do, so just be careful how you present yourself.

To summarise

As long as you do the following you should be fine:

  • Don’t expect a literary agent or publisher to review your book; they won’t, get an editor to do this if you can’t do it yourself.
  • Make sure your book is what you (and preferably some others) would consider saleable.  Research the markets yourself and draw up some conclusions.
  • Make sure you approach the agent or publisher professionally and follow their instructions regarding submissions.  Do not try to appear too clever or a little eccentric; although many writers are, it doesn’t mean that agents and publishers like it!

Good luck!

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