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What publishers are looking for. What authors need to know

​I have been doing a bit of a roadshow presenting some new authors to publishers both in locally and globally. I also use the opportunity to gauge the market, and see what publishers are looking for right now. I believe in writing with purpose, because that way you have a better chance of getting a publishing deal.

Here are the biggest trends and what they mean to you as an author:


Young Adult novels are (still) huge

This is a huge and growing genre with a high demand from publishers that shows no sign of slowing down. Any sub-genre of YA is snapped up as long as your story is good – so you can write a crime, sci-fi, paranormal, romance, horror…. anything as long as you meet the YA requirements. What are these? Well for starters your hero or heroine needs to be a teen.

What this means for you? Look out for new contemporary trends and topics that speak to the new generation…terrorism, economic terrorism, vlogging, You Tube celebs, refugees, Trump, LBGT issues.

Genre Romance is gobbled up

Think Silhouette and Harlequin here ladies (or guys). More than 200 million women a year read Harlequin books in the US alone. That is four times more than the entire population of South Africa. The global appetite for genre romance grows ceaselessly with e-publishing, as readers the world-over download up to two romance novels a day. This one is never going away.

What this means for you? Publishers have regular open calls for all genres of romance novels - but still there are two imprints that are perennial. These are your heartwarming and cowboy romances. Writing a really strong genre romance is a really good way to get published and to cut your writing teeth. Best chance? Check my tip sheets and write a cowboy romance set in small town US.

Writers need a platform

Most publishers are looking for pro-active writers who are prepared to market themselves, and are doing that already. NB Publishers non-fiction editor Na’eemah Masoet said no author can escape this now. Publishers want to see that you have a database or following, you are already walking the talk and you are going to get out there and promote your own darn book.

What does this mean for you? You need to start building an author brand and getting yourself out there. Get a blog, a vlog or podcast and start sharing your goodies. This applies to both fiction and non-fiction authors.

Health and wellness titles always rock

Tell people how to lose weight, get healthy, eat low carb LCHF, clean their colon or go on a juice fast and they are going to buy your book. Show them you did it yourself and you will lead the way in sales. But look at my point above… you are going to need a platform.

A good proposal or synopsis will stand out

Publishers and agents get a lot of query letters and proposals. But a really solid one will sing off the page. That means you really need to understand what a good proposal requires, and deliver on that.

What this means for you? Deliver on your promise and write a cracker of a proposal.

Marketing will determine the winners

Even if you write the next Da Vinci Code, if nobody knows it is there they are not going to buy it. If you are serious about your book you have to factor marketing and publicity into your budget and game plan. So many authors don’t think this far ahead – and rightly so because the first task is to write the thing.

What this means for you? You will find being successful requires all the skills of running a small company—design, distribution, branding, publicity, exposure and social media interaction.

It doesn’t need to be a bestseller

Traditional publishing is a business of both business and heart. You don’t need actually to write a bestseller to get published. Of course publishers want to make money and they would be thrilled if they you were a breakout hit. But so many also want to publish books of meaning and soul. These are the books that make them most proud. Jeremy Boraine is publishing director of Jonathan Ball Publishers and he echoes this. “We want some strong sellers every year, but we also have some stories that simply need to be heard.”

This feels quite daunting, particularly the idea that you need to grow your own platform. I am giving you all the trends so you can write with the best chance of being published. But also I believe that you need to write what is in your heart. Writing is a calling, a passion and a huge adventure.

And so many books defy all predictions. Nobody really knows what the next huge breakout hit is going to be. Despite all of our ‘best guesses’ and careful projections you can still have a book like 50 Shades of Gray storming the charts….written in first person with no real plot and no narrative arc.

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