An audience of 120 authors and writers at the Tucson Festival of Books were the first to learn the results of our recent industry survey to determine What Publishers Want.

In the company of Toni Lopopolo, long-time literary agent and writing instructor; Todd Berger, publisher for the Western National Parks Association; moderator, Sam Henrie, founder of Wheatmark Publishing, I revealed the results of our informal survey.  I’m recapping the presentation here.  If you’d like to read the full report, follow the link at the bottom of this article.

In a nutshell, here are the 9 Things Publishers Want:

The first three things on the list of what publishers want have to do with the way they receive submissions from authors.  All publishers want:

  • Manuscripts or proposals that fall within their mission or business focus.  So don’t send your steam punk novel to Todd Berger.
  • Submissions that meet their specific requirements, i.e. send it as a PDF if that’s what they ask for, or query first, if that’s the requirement.  Follow each publisher’s rules, not your own.
  • Clean manuscripts – if you haven’t proofread it, don’t send it!

The next three things that publishers want have to do with the quality of the manuscript or proposal and your position as author.

  • Nonfiction publishers want to know that you are knowledgeable about the topic and that your work is well researched. They need to know you are an authority.
  • Fiction publishers want to see well-crafted manuscripts.  If you’re going to approach a publisher, be sure that you have done as much as you can to perfect your writing capability.
  • Publishers want authors who are willing to be edited.  No publisher wants a prima donna who thinks his or her work is perfect as submitted.

The final group of three things publishers want has to do with the sales potential for your book.

  • Publishers want to be able to define the audience for your work.  Anything you can do to help the publisher understand who will buy your book will enhance your prospects for a publishing deal.
  • Publishers want authors who are willing to tirelessly promote their book.  Yup, even if you get a publishing deal from a traditional publisher, you will be expected to promote your book vigorously.
  • Publishers like to see a strong author platform.  They want to know that you have a built-in audience for your book.

If you’d like the full report, you can request it here.

Something that’s important for every author to understand is that, even if you decide to self-publish, you’re going to want these same 9 things from yourself!  After all, if you self-publish, you are a publisher.  And these 9 Things Publishers Want are basics for successful book publishing today no matter what publishing path you follow.