Monday, April 1, 2013

Guest Post by YA Author (& Editor) Stephanie Karpinske

Stephanie Karpinske is a writer. But you already knew that. What you may not have known is that she's also an editor, and she's got a lot of insight when it comes to what publishers and editors look for in aspiring authors. Stephanie, as the author of the YA novel, The Samantha Project, is familiar with both sides of the same coin: the editing aspect and the writing aspect of storytelling. Check out her words of wisdom for anybody hoping to break into the writing world! 

What Editors and Publishers Look for in Authors

Before becoming a freelance writer, I was an editor for a book publisher. I edited diet and fitness books as well as cookbooks. As an editor, part of my job was to make recommendations regarding which books to publish from the large stacks of book proposals that came in every week. 

If you’re a writer or an aspiring writer, you may wonder what goes into an editor’s decision to publish or not publish a certain book. Well, here’s the answer. In today’s world, there’s one thing that an author must have in order for his/her book to even be considered. And that thing is...  

Platform! The author must have a platform. By that I mean that the author needs to have a built-in audience anxiously waiting to buy the book. Most publishers have little to no money to promote your book so you need to show up with fans who are waiting to buy the book and tell others about it. 

How do you show that you have a built-in audience? When you write a book proposal or contact an agent or editor about your novel, be prepared to share numbers--number of Facebook fans, number of Twitter followers, number of people who subscribe to your blog and email newsletter, number of speaking engagements you’ve done, number of times you’ve been interviewed on TV. The more numbers you have and the higher those numbers are, the better. For the nonfiction world, you need to have a platform AND be a recognized expert in the subject matter. For example, publishers often look for experts who own a successful clinical practice or consulting business with clients who are eager to spread the word about the book.

As for my own experience, a few years ago, I tried to sell a diet book based on eating whole foods. I was tired of seeing diet books based on eating highly processed convenience foods. I wrote a 60+ page book proposal and sent it off to agents and publishers. I’m a dietitian with a masters in nutrition communications so I had the credentials to author a diet book. I also have an MBA so my proposal included tons of ideas to help the market the book. Plus I had data showing that eating more whole foods and less processed foods was a rapidly growing trend. But even with all of that, the proposal was rejected. The reason? I have no platform! I wasn’t famous. I didn’t have a built in audience to buy the book. Several editors liked the book and liked my writing but they said that I had to build an audience before the book would even be considered. Or they suggested I find a famous co-author to be the face of the book. A couple editors told me the idea wasn’t unique enough and yet since that time, I’ve seen at least 3 diet books published that are based on eating whole foods. The authors of those books all have a platform! 

Keep in mind that my experience is based on working with nonfiction titles, not fiction, but from what I’ve read, getting published in the fiction world is also becoming more dependent on author platform. So if you want to sell your book to a publisher, start building a platform before you begin sending out your book proposal or novel. Build your Facebook presence. Get more Twitter followers. Show that you have an audience for your book. Doing that will help you at least get the attention of an agent, editor, or publisher. 

Description for The Samantha Project

Seventeen-year-old Samantha Andrews has a seemingly perfect life; great parents, early admission to Stanford, and her quarterback boyfriend, Colin. But a shocking secret from her past turns her world upside down. Sam discovers she’s part of a global corporation’s genetic enhancement project. And just as she’s learning what these enhanced genes can do, the corporation decides they want her, and the technology hidden inside her, back! 

During a heart-pounding race to flee from her pursuers, she encounters Erik, another person who was part of the experimental project. He's tall, blond, tan--completely irresistible. And he can read her thoughts. Together, they're in even greater danger and a rogue scientist discovers a deadly secret lies inside them

About Stephanie
 A former book editor for a publishing company, Stephanie has worked on several bestselling nonfiction books. She's currently a freelance writer and author of several young adult novels, including The Samantha Project and The Golden Couple.

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  1. Thanks for this, I love that you explained about the platform we writers need to grab a publisher.

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