“My story is perfect just the way it is.”
These words were spoken to me by an aspiring author. I was meeting with this lady on the request of a friend. This aspiring author had penned a lovely rhyming story for children aged three to six. She was seeking feedback and direction.
At the start of our meeting, the author informed me that she thought she should find herself a literary agent for the book. She asked me how she would go about finding one.
I let her know that I could give her information on finding a literary agent, but I could also save her some time by giving her some feedback on her story that would help her in securing the services of a literary agent. This is when she made the statement that her story was perfect.
I attempted to explain to this aspiring author, that while her story might be wonderful, a literary agent and a publisher look at potential books from a number of angles. One important thing they always consider is the sellability of a book. In other words, literary agents and publishers evaluate first and foremost whether people will buy the story or topic in the format presented.
To begin with, this author’s story was 1,600 words in length. I explained to her that this length was much too long for a picture book for her target age group. Therefore, for a literary agent to be willing to represent it, she would need to cut the story length.
This author then suggested that instead of one book, she would make it into a series of seven books. Again, I talked about the ability to sell a book. Selling one picture book is much easier than selling a set of seven picture books. Parents are more likely to invest in one book than in a set of seven.
Stuck on her original idea, this lady really did not want to change her story. Hence, she began to have the same thought as many authors: “Maybe I should just publish it myself.”
The truth of the matter is, sellability matters whether you publish a book yourself or someone else publishes the book.
Readers have expectations. They have expectations about how a picture book should read for their child’s age. They have expectations about the flow of a story. They have expectations about the layout of a book. A book needs to meet these expectations to sell well.
If you are publishing a book, ask yourself: Can I sell it? Will people buy it?
The answer to this makes all the difference.
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