The publishing industry is as competitive today as it has always been.
This competitiveness manifests itself in an industry slush pile stacked to the moon.
Most of these submissions are now electronic. The ease of use to submit in this manner means that the majority of literary agents now receive over 2000 queries every year. But of these, only 1% of an agent's slush pile receives an offer of representation.
In spite of these long odds, breaking in and making an impression has become the single driving force for writers across the world. Their perseverance to be published and their yearning to be accepted by a literary agent never wanes.
Rejection only dents that dream, causing writers to react in different ways. But one way that never materializes is a global decision to quit writing.
The dream to be noticed continues. Consequently, many writers spend time and money perfecting their craft so that their manuscript makes an impression, because they know:
Publishers want to beat their competitors to its discovery. Literary agents only have slush piles so they have a barometer for finding it. Writers share the dream of being its author.
The one book that shines.
5 Characteristics of a Great Book
- 1. Page One Perfection - Any reader who begins a book, wants to feel confident they are in good hands. That no matter the word count, the experience of being absorbed by this writer's story will be worth it. This all comes from page one. The very skilled can hook a reader in the first sentence. Some choose to wrap their hook inside the opening paragraph. Others allow the final punctuation on page one to be its own climax. When a publishing professional reads page one their trained eyes can instantly determine the writers who have meticulously studied the craft of writing, and those that have not. After the query letter, it is the single most important page a writer can submit.
- 2. Three Dimensional Characters - The most memorable aspect of a good book are the characters. Not the 'talking heads' of wooden dialogue, nor the exaggerated ones put on the page merely to shock. But the ones that breathe in the reader's ear. The writer is able to suspend belief that their characters only exist within their pages. These are the characters that must exist in reality, because they have made a connection which transcends the pages of a book. How can they be merely fictional? By creating detailed complex characters that draw readers in, the writer is able to command the full attention of their readers until the final page. If anyone mentioned a great book, a reader would instantly think of the leading protagonist/s. The three dimensional characters are the ones with a fascinating backstory, a unique sense of being, conflicting motives, and a permanence in the reader's memory long after the book is finished.
- 3. Voice - When a writer has a rich back catalogue of projects, it is evident in their latest. An industry professional with a trained eye can quickly see how the writer has developed their own unique voice. The writer has written and read so many works that they have honed their craft into their own style. They way they use certain words, how they choose to link paragraphs, their turn of phrase, their dialogue, everything about them is unique to their narrative voice. It stands out. It screams at the reader that this is a writer they need to pay attention to. A literary agent or publisher knows from reading a writer with a skill for narrative mode that their subsequent books will be an easy sell. They know readers will expect a certain style from that writer. If the agent examined their roster of clients they would see a collection of individual voices. Narrative voice is the clearest indication that the writer is worth investing time in.
- 4. Marketability - Hundreds of submissions are read by a literary agent or publisher throughout the year. But when they stumble upon one particular book, they can instantly see its cover, its trailer, and even how they may commission a series of books from the same writer. The marketability of the book and also its author are evident. This is especially true if its author already has an impressive online platform. It is not essential, because the book itself is the key ingredient to success, but it certainly helps. When a literary agent reads this book, they know how to sell it. They will have contacts within the publishing houses who they know have this particular book on their manuscript wish list. There is an instant market for the book. The quality of the writing is one thing, but its commercial value to the industry is what counts the most. The publishing industry is a business, and as with any other, it needs to see a return on its investment.
- 5. A Lingering Story - Many stories suffer the unfortunate fate of being instantly forgettable. Despite the effort required to write it or later for the reader to finish it, the experience was meaningless. The book has a sameness about it, especially when read in succession with hundreds of submissions in a slush pile. It does not glow. It does not excite. Instead, it remains in the shadows as a missed opportunity. Yet one book among them will catch the eye. Its story is written with such delicacy for prose and turn of events, that every chapter reveals a new facet of the writer's skill for storytelling. After the first three chapters, the reader is aching to read the fourth. The captivating story is such that it is not optional to put the book down. Even if the reader or publishing professional does leave a gap between reading chapters, the story itself does not leave them. It has become lodged in their everyday existence. They ponder where the story will take them next. They even try and outthink the writer to guess the specifics of the subsequent chapters or final resolution. The story itself has leaped off the pages and embedded itself in the minds of its readers. When the final chapter ends, the story does not - it lingers.