How to Use the Publisher’s Marketplace to Your Advantage

There are some subscriptions that make me cringe when I see ads for them–you know the ones I’m talking about. I don’t care to pay money for someone to mail me food, style me, or send me makeup every month. That’s just not something I need. However, there are also valuable services out there which seem like secrets. Amazon’s baby diaper subscriptions, for example, or publisher’s marketplace. As a writer, I understand this industry doesn’t pay much so anything you can do to save money is important. Even agents have multiple jobs because they don’t get a payday until they sell something; it’s rough. I grew up with very little money though, and what stuck with me isn’t how much something is but rather how much something is worth. That’s why, I think anyone who can afford to pay for a service like Publisher’s Marketplace (max $25 monthly) should. Here’s why.

You can find out what’s selling.

When you’re querying your book, and getting rejected left and right, it can be frustrating to not know why your particular story didn’t impress. Sure, it could be the writing, but often you’ll see authors commenting and posting about how the agent actually complimented their writing skills. The agent ended up passing, because they didn’t feel the story was right for them. Why? There are several reasons this could be the case. For example, maybe your story touches on things that have been overdone; the agent didn’t feel they could sell the manuscript; or the agent didn’t feel they were the right fit. Everyone says not to take it personally when you’re rejected, because this industry is subjective, but at least by peaking at Publisher’s Marketplace you can figure out what’s doing welll (i.e. vampires, young adult, political, etc.), and if your work is marketable. Paula Munier said in her book, The Writer’s Guide to Beginnings, if your writing is strong, and your story is good, the only other thing you need to think about is if your plot is marketable. Indie authors will say write what you want and then handle the marketing yourself, but if you want to be traditionally published, you need to understand that this is how the game works. Nobody wants to represent something they know they won’t be able to sell–and that’s a benefit to you, because you want someone who can sell your work, but at the same time you have to try that much harder to understand your audience (the readers).

You can see how books are being pitched.

There are many times I’ve looked at a publishing deal that was posted on Publisher’s Marketplace and thought to myself, “Wow, that’s a good log line.” On the other hand, I also see some books described vaguely. The pitch may have been purposefully not as detailed so no one copies the authors work, or so that people are surprised when the book is actually published. Whatever the case may be, there’s so much to learn about pitching and what editors and publishers respond to. What some people don’t understand is that obtaining an agent is only part of the battle. Your agent then has to “query” editors, so to speak, by pitching them your novel, and if the pitch isn’t strong, you could lose an opportunity. When I get on Publisher’s Marketplace, I can practically diagram and analyze all the sentences to see what makes a good pitch effective. Action words, specifics, and hooks are typically part of the formula, but others can describe a common trope with just one little thing that makes this particular story different, and boom…someone’s sold. Of course there is lots that goes on in the background before a deal is published, and the pitch was likely more detailed, but it’s cool to see what makes it to Publisher’s Marketplace nonetheless. Can you comp to movies and songs? Yep, agents have done it. Can you compare yourself to a big name even if you’re a debut author? Yep, agents have done it. Can you include a tiny bit of your bio in the post? Yep.

You can see which editors are buying.

Sometimes I hop on Publisher’s Marketplace and it seems quiet for a few weeks, then all of a sudden I log back in and see there’s been a deal posted for everyday in February or March for my genre. This alerts me that editors have worked through some of their backlog from the holidays and are now actively purchasing. Sure, there may be exceptions. Patterns are difficult to identify (and predict), but an editor who only purchases something awesome every six months may be on a budget and is likely to not purchase something the very next day. Writing speaks for itself, so you never know, but I find that I learn a lot by keeping myself updated on what’s being purchased in my genre. You can look around the website and click on all genres, but I focus on mine. Sometimes even just seeing that an agency has already purchased six books for the year lets me know they’re likely to slow down if they have on their website how their goal is to purchase only ten a year. Little details like this help me become more confident in how me and my agent pitch my submissions and allow me to be okay knowing that this is all a process. Perhaps a rejection came from pitching something good at the wrong time of the year to an editor, or maybe it was because they’ve already purchased enough titles in a particular genre (editorial calendars are sometimes structured this way for a publishing house). Regardless of the reason, the more I understand what’s happening, the more empowered I feel. Knowledge is power, and you can gather a lot from Publisher’s Marketplace if you’re smart about it and use filters as needed.

You can learn about what agents want.

Publisher’s Marketplace may seem like it’s only useful if you already have an agent and are preparing to go on submission, but if you’re having a difficult time finding an agent’s manuscript wish list or their agency’s website isn’t as specific about what they want, this is the place to be. Publisher’s Marketplace is updated daily. You can figure out an agent’s taste by seeing their history. Both agents and editors are named in publishing deals, so if you see your favorite agent has been making a lot of deals in the young adult category and their page says they are interested in both young adult and adult, you could be in a strong place to pitch your adult novel. That means that while they’re interested in both, they may have already acquired all the young adult works they can handle (or want to handle) for the year, so they could be more on the hunt for an adult writer now. In the same way, if you’re pitching to an agent who hasn’t updated their manuscript wish list, the deals they’re involved with speak for themselves and are definitely updated. Just keep in mind it could take months to post a publishing deal, so something you see today may have been pitched last year. Tastes change for agents and editors alike. Stay on Publisher’s Marketplace if you want to see what’s “trending.”

You can see how much people are being paid.

This is something a bit interesting, and I try not pay too much mind to it, but if you have a Publisher’s Marketplace subscription, you’ll see in the posts if someone got a good deal, nice deal, significant deal, or major deal. Each term is tied to a dollar range, and when a deal is posted, you will be able to see how much the deal was worth.

 Nice deal$1 to $49,000
Very nice deal$50,000 to $99,000
Good deal$100,000 to $250,000
Significant deal$251,000 to $499,000
Major deal$500,000+
from The Darling Axe
https://darlingaxe.com/blogs/news/deals

The thing to keep in mind is that how the money is distributed among the author, agent, ghostwriter, and others invovled in the author’s contract is not detailed, so don’t make assumptions. If you see a debut author received $100,000 for their first book, it could be that they have to budget $30,000 of it on marketing because that’s how the publishing contract was written. Or perhaps, they have to pay some of it back if they don’t turn in their manuscript on time or the book doesn’t make enough in sales. Each contract can be negotiated differently. However, what you learn from these ranges is how well a publisher thought this particular book would do. Typically the higher numbers are for established authors who have a sales track and are known for doing well. Think Stephen King, Kristin Hannah, Megan Miranda, John Grisham, etc. Deduce what you want, but to me, if I see a book similar to mine was picked up for big dollars (and was written by a debut author), that’s an indication to me that my themes are doing well, and that the market is ripe and ready for what I’m writing. These dollar figures may encourage or discourage you, depending on how you see it, but it may help you negotiate for higher amounts if you see someone who wrote almost the exact thing as you was offered a deal much larger than yours. But we’ll leave the conversation of negotiation for another time.

You can see what your favorite authors are doing.

Another reason to consider Publisher’s Marketplace as a worthwhile investment is to take a peek at what your favorite authors are working on. I’ve been able to check in on a couple of well-known, NYT bestsellers and see that they have something they’re currently drafting. I know that it will take about a year or two for me to see these titles, but it’s exciting to anticipate something new nonetheless. Sometimes they’ll even post about their WIPs on social media, and it’s really cool to see and try to connect how it will relate to the story that was summarized in Publisher’s Marketplace. Authors are very private about what they’re working on, based on their agents’ and editors’ advice, but also because they don’t want it out there until it’s finished and, well, out there. To have a subscription that allows me to have early access to these brilliant authors’ ideas makes me smile.

If you sign up for only the Publisher’s Lunch Newsletter (free) deals, you’ll be able to see deals but not necessarily all their details. You also get to see who’s being promoted at their agency or publishing house, and if there are any other job openings elsewhere. Your access on the website is limited if you get the Quick Pass for $10, but it’s still something. Try the free version first and see how you like it and whether or not you could benefit from the advantages I mentioned above. I don’t know about you, but if it can impact my career as an author in any way, I definitely think it’s worth it. I’ve learn so much, even just what kind of titles some editors are attracted to, that I can evaluate my own work and think, “Does this stand out enough?” or “Is this going to impress that editor if they already have a client who’s working on x, y, z?”

Overall, it’s your choice. Just make sure to consider it. Maybe you didn’t know this resource is out there, and now you do!

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