By Wendy Keller, Senior Agent, Keller Media, Inc. – Los Angeles

crystal-ballWhether you plan to self-, subsidy or traditionally publish your book, wouldn’t it be nice to have a crystal ball to tell you whether or not it will sell? After over twenty-five years as a literary agent, I happen to keep one here in my desk. It’s not one hundred percent infallible, but it’s far more accurate than the “I hope…” method some authors seem to use. You can call me “Madame Wendy” from here on.

The questions I ask when considering whether to invest my time, talent and connections in an author’s project are similar to the ones you should be asking BEFORE you pursue publication by any means. They are:

  1. Who will buy this book and why? (What solution does it give the reader that makes it worth its price?)
  2. Is it NDBM? (New, Different, Better or offer More than the many competing books out there. If you can’t find competing books, that’s a hint…and not a good one!)
  3. Are those competing books selling? (Look at the Amazon.com sales rank for books numbered between 1-150K. How many are there? Is yours really better? Are there too many? Too few? Why does yours deserve the consumer’s disposable income MORE than those?)
  4. Are you honestly qualified on this topic? So many people writing on weight loss, for instance, have only their own personal story to tell. So many people who want to write general self-help have no credentials, not even an endorsement from a PhD.
  5. What is your marketing plan? Without a marketing plan that makes sense, you’ll have a devil of a time differentiating your book –  no matter how brilliant –  from the approximately 379,000 new titles issued annually in the USA.

This isn’t meant to discourage anyone! It’s meant to offer you a guide to making your book viable. If you put in just a speck more effort now, you can get favorable results. For instance, you can send your manuscript to between six and eight PhDs and see if any of them will endorse it or write the foreword; you can learn marketing from me through my company or other book marketing gurus; you can differentiate your content by revising your content.

This is how the business works. If you ignore this advice, five years from now Madame Wendy predicts you’ll be complaining about what didn’t happen for your book. Follow it, and one year from now I predict you’ll be pleased at your own success.

Wendy Keller of Keller Media, Inc. in Los Angeles has been a literary agent since dinosaurs roamed the Earth. If you’d like her agency to consider your nonfiction book, check out the submission guidelines by clicking here.