I used to say there were 3 things publishers look for: project, market, and person (author).
Those things haven't changed.
But, in addition to a compelling project and a strong market, there are really two important things that publishers need to see from authors.
A publisher is looking for a book with a unique and compelling concept. The best books serve readers by presenting a timeless truth with a vibrant fresh angle. When publishers read these proposals, they say, "Hmmm...I haven't heard it put quite this way before."
An author needs to demonstrate that there is an audience with a felt need for this book. This book meets readers' felt needs, offering valuable takeaway. These readers can't not buy this book.
3. PERSON: COMMUNICATOR WHO IS BUILDING A PLATFORM
Author is building a solid platform and is already reaching audiences.
This might be reflected in social media numbers. It might mean the writer is reaching thousands of individuals annually as a speaker. He or she might have a wildly popular podcast or is a growing an audience on youtube. She might have a popular column in an online magazine.
Although there is no magic formula, the author does need to be reaching readers.
4. PERSON: COMMUNICATOR WHO WRITES WELL
Author captures reader's attention by engaging readers with beautiful writing.
Could missing one of these four be a deal breaker for a publisher? Unfortunately, yes. In fact, absolutely. While a publisher will occasionally take a chance on a brilliant writer with very little platform, that happens infrequently.
If your proposal has all four of these elements, it will be hard for a publisher to say no.
If your proposal lacks one or more of these, it will be hard for a publisher to say yes.
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