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What Publishers Look for in a Good Book

What Publishers Look for in a Good Book

What's your #1 worry when planning to submit your book to a publisher? I'm going to go out on a limb and guess it’s: "What if this book isn't good enough?" Writing a book that's "good enough" is definitely the first step toward getting that publishing deal, but it's not the ONLY thing to think about. There are many more things that can affect your chances of a deal, including:
  • Plot, characters, and setting
  • Correct grammar and punctuation
  • Coherence, adherence to structure
  • YOU, the author
  • and so much more…
It's tough to know what a publisher is thinking when they read over your work. I know I've anguished for weeks and months as my work was in the hands of an acquisition editor. Thankfully, I got a chance to sit down with a few publishers and ask them the question: What do you look for in a good book?

The Cliff Notes

What do you look for in a good book?
  1. An idea that is a twist or unique to something that exists.
  2. Quality, coherent writing that's well-organized.
  3. Solid plot line—in terms of character development, not just stories.
  4. Can we work with the author? Are they polite, friendly, and easy to work with?
  5. Draws them in, brings out some emotion or resonates with you.
  6. Unique, well-developed characters that readers can identify with.
  7. Author personality. What are they like on social media/in public?
  8. Hook us quickly! Three chapters to hook us, or no thank you.
  9. Follow the rules of submission!
  10. Ending done right. Good pacing, solid story.
  11. Does the book have series potential? Closure of the story, but threads to lead into the next one. It should be complete and close the circle.
  12. Can we build a relationship with that author? For future books—publishers see authors as an investment.
What makes you turn down a book?
  • Poorly written.
  • Lack of basic editing.
  • Didn't follow submission guidelines.
  • Lack of beta-reading: too many plot holes and mistakes.
  • Too many mistakes!
  • Unclear or lack of character/setting/plot development.
  • A book that isn't engaging enough.
Marketing ability vs. writing/story quality: story quality is more important—you can learn to market anything if the story is good enough! How important is an author's platform? Story matters more than platform. A great story can build a platform, but a large platform may not be enough to sell a crappy story. ALWAYS look at the book first, then platform second.

The Panelists

Joshua Robertson for Crimson Edge: We are a small press specializing in Fantasy, Dystopian Fiction, and Historical Fiction. Please note that we are not a vanity press or a self-publishing company. At Crimson Edge, our mission is to publish quality, progressive fiction to meet the literary needs of readers. The market for reading books has changed drastically and the competition in the publishing world cannot be ignored. As an author, you will find a familial group of writers with an appreciation for creative collaboration. And, readers will discover books that are written with prestige that contends with your favorite bestsellers. Edd Sowder for Burning Willow Press: BWC is an independent publisher of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. We are here to tantalize your thoughts, spark your imagination, and tap into your most primal fears. We pride ourselves in being a home to authors of other worlds. We saw an industry that grossly profited off of the creativity of others. We wanted to do something different. By cultivating and caring for our authors in a way no other publishing company does, we hope to produce a better quality story for our loyal customers. Nikki Yager for Dragon's Rocketship Publishing TDR Pubishing is an indie publishing company run by sister-in-laws out of Florida and Texas. The company started in February 2016, and publishes fantasy, science fiction, horror, thriller, and paranormal. Monique Lewis Happy for Winlock Press: In just a few years, Winlock Press has introduced over a dozen new writers and debuted even more stories and series, professionally edited and beautifully made. We are at the leading edge of multi-format, independent publishing. Think you’ve read the best of Zombie, Vampire, and Post-Apocalypse fiction? Winlock believes there are an infinite number of amazing new stories waiting to be told in these solid and popular genres, and we’ve recruited great writers, both new and well-seasoned — to bring their unique perspectives to the horror we love. Winlock Press: