Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Getting Your Book Published - One Publisher's Criteria

Egads. Another month has almost marched on and off the calendar!

Where to begin? In the last newsletter we sent out, I asked readers what they'd like to read more of: more publishing information, more gossip, more author info.... I had three, yes, count them, three responses, which was great, actually. At least I know three people read our newsletter.

I'd like to address one of those requests in this blog: How do authors sell their books - what marketing techniques do they use.

That's a great question. It seems like it would be an easy answer, but actually, the answer ties in very closely with how we choose which books we're going to publish. So, let me tackle the question from two sides.

We select an author's book when I feel very confident that the person can walk their talk. Usually these are the authors who are extensively "involved" in some way with the very topic they're writing about. I have found that people whose lives, or careers, are intricately associated with their topic, do just great at selling their books.

For example, take Lee Anderson, author of Developing the Art of Equine Communication. Choosing to publish Lee's book was a no-brainer. Lee's personal and professional life revolve around being a "living historian and a horse-man of the old school." Lee regularly does presentations, clinics, appearances, etc. That adds up to book sales.

Robert Walton, author of the newly released Civil War novel, Dawn Drums, was a history teacher for 36 years and is a Civil War re-enactor. Many of his associates are involved in Civil War activities. Walton has a large network of people to draw upon and is an excellent promoter of his work.

Rusty Richards, entertainer, actor, songwriter, poet, cowboy...Rusty has and does it all, and he was a natural for promoting his wonderful-selling book, Casey Tibbs - Born to Ride. Rusty does guest appearances regularly and travels with cases of books in his trunk. It helps that he has thousands of friends and fans, too.

What hasn't worked for us, are authors who can write a beautiful book, but have no connection to the work once it's finished. In other words, their livestyles and/or their interests do not lead them to the necessary opportunities to sell the book. In essence, they can't walk their talk. Libraries are filled with great books sitting on shelves that never went anywhere. This is not because of the quality of the book or the's all about marketing opportunities and an author's comfort in getting out there and getting beat up by being rejected pretty regularly.

Probably once or twice a month I turn down a wonderful manuscript because in my heart I just can't see the author being able to sell the book once they've done their one or two signing gigs. Going out in public and pushing your book is punishing and a lot of hard work that is often not rewarded.

As a small publishing house, we depend on authors to walk their talk and to take part in promoting their work. We cannot, and will not do it all. We invest our time, money, and energy into a project. We expect authors to invest something of themselves to promote and sell their work. If we don't feel you can do that, we will more than likely send you a nice note rejecting your material.

Authors are often a bit on the sensitive side. The very nature of writing does not always lend itself to being gregarious and outgoing, and that's pretty much what it takes to sell a book or two. Note the three authors I mentioned in this article, however. All three are outgoing and gregarious!

Can you be successful without having that strong connection. Yes, witness Jere D. James' success with the Jake Silver books. Jere does have a strong Western connection, though, and isn't afraid to get out and pound the pavement.

Most manuscripts I receive from wanna-be Western riders read like a compilation of old-time Saturday afternoon westerns. There's no real connection apparent in the authors' writing, let alone in their lives. Re-hashed plots, characters, and settings. Nothing "real."

So how do I choose the books I want to publish? It's the author. Are the author's life and book tied together in any meaningful way?


  1. Interesting point of view and I can see why. Selling books is the hard part and most authors, I think, are not the outgoing type you are looking for, e.g., showman, entertainer, educator, or able to walk the talk. Thanks for the insight.

  2. You're right about our criteria being pretty limiting, Oscar. I think a lot of small publishers probably have criteria similar. We are less than small, however, we are "NANO". We do everything we can for our authors, and we never charge, but we can't do it all.

    1. And expansion creates its own problems.

  3. Sure wish Renee would return to work! I can't get this dang site to let me make corrections. Drats.