Over on Twitter we sometimes post publishing insights and tips. So they don't get completely lost in the ether, you can also find them here! These tips were first tweeted on Saturday 3rd April 2021.
These tips for middle grade writers come from two people – an author and an editor – to bring together both points of view, and opposing opinions (hello, trends and marketing spend)!
You’re better off ignoring trends. Publishing moves slowly, so by the time you’ve written your “bang on trend” book it will end up being published after the trend’s been and gone. Opposing opinion #1: Some publishers move very quickly, and if you’re prepared to write FAST to meet a “crash-in" deadline, you can still write trend-led books. Also, trends can stretch out longer than predicted. Remember, the unicorn bubble still hasn’t burst...
Whether you steer clear of trends or go for it, focus on where your book sits in the market. Look at the books that tend to get shelf space in supermarkets and bookshops. Could your book sit alongside them? If the answer is yes, you’re in the right ballpark. But remember...
Sometimes the most successful books are the ones that aren’t like anything else. They may be a bit harder to get past gatekeepers, because as an industry publishing can be cautious of perceived risk, but they could be the big breakout hit. (Also, if you write what you really want to write you’ll enjoy it more which will see you through the dark bits and inevitably shine through in your writing.)
When you’re pitching your first book, question whether you want to write a load more like it. Because if your first book is a success then your publisher may want more of the same (this is what usually happens). Think about your author brand – is developing your book into a series something you could keep doing for a while?
Publishers are very busy. Sometimes they go silent for long periods of time. Don’t panic. There’s just A LOT going on behind the scenes. That said, publishing can seem secretive and if you feel your editor isn’t sharing enough information then you have every right to say so.
On marketing: your publisher is unlikely to tell you how much they’re spending on marketing, but you can get hints of how high priority for them your book is via a few clues: your advance (higher = more marketing), whether you have advertising or a fancy proof package... Opposing opinion #2: High marketing spend does not automatically = high priority book. If you don’t have a huge marketing spend, it does not mean your publisher doesn’t believe in your book. Not all books *need* the same level of marketing. It can depend on the retail channels a book is expected to sell through (some retailers love bound proofs, others don't), specific sales hooks (could PR drive sales more successfully than marketing?) and whether a book’s sales will be lifted/driven by schools and librarians.
Get an agent who’s respected in the industry but make sure you’re not scared of them. You need to be able to ask for what you want honestly (so they can ask the publisher on your behalf and you don’t have to be the annoying author).
The jury's out on whether having a lot of followers on social media actually sells books, so only do it if you enjoy it. For an MG author, social media is most useful for networking w/ booksellers, teachers, librarians - not for connecting w/ parents or children aged 8-12.
Another good reason to use social media is to find a network of other writers. Knowing others in the same boat can be a great source of both solidarity and information - especially if you’re still working towards a more communicative relationship with your publisher.
Day jobs are normal. Most writers have them. Even bestselling authors won’t necessarily be rich, so moderate your expectations.