Can I Get Published?
Here I’m going to give a short list of things that will help your chances, or at least give you some direction.
Writing Talent — While every good publisher has a respectable team of editors, if the author’s writing is non-coherent, his or her book, however good it could be, will never make it to print. One of the biggest difficulties for frum writers is the ability to write in a non-yeshivish way — their language may be understood by their friends and family, but will not be appreciated by the average English-speaking customer.
Some books, however, have such potential for Kiddush Hashem, that even poor writing may be overlooked by publishers willing to invest in editing such manuscripts. As a case in point, I recently read a completely self-published book sold locally. It was a unique book with topics never covered before in English and it had tremendous potential. I saw that this book could help so many people, but it was not well-written. Since I knew a friend of the author, I suggested that he speak with the author to suggest that I edit his book and republish it. The answer I received back was, “It doesn’t need editing, it has sold thousands so far.”
I couldn’t believe it. How could such a poorly written book be so popular? Then my friend, after having done his research told me the answer: The book was sold very cheaply, and while many yeshiva students had bought it, no one had actually been able to read through it. This is a huge shame because if it had been properly edited, not only would so many people have bought the book, they would have gained from it too!
Find Your Niche — The Torah is infinite and there are limitless angles that one can approach any topic, but that doesn’t mean that your divrei Torah book will sell in the stores. In fact, with small exception, if you are not already a rabbi with a following, it is unlikely that your Parsha book will be accepted by a publisher (at least when it comes to them paying all the costs).
This is simply because of the oversaturated market, together with the wide availability of great divrei Torah on the weekly Parsha delivered to your inbox from world-renowned rabbis every week. Here there is a bit of a Catch-22; on the one hand, random topics won’t sell, on the other hand, major topics are already over-covered. You need to be creative. Think outside the box, while not being too outside the box.
Know Your Audience —Who are you writing for? I had an author approach me asking me to publish his book. I asked him what the topic was and he told me that it’s in-depth shiurim on melicha — in English. I asked him a simple question that he should have asked himself (perhaps before starting his project).
Who would buy it?
If the potential reader is at the level of understanding such deep subjects, surely they would prefer a sefer in Hebrew; if they’re not capable of grasping the concepts altogether, then why would they be interested in in-depth shiurim on melicha in the first place? Ask yourself, who would buy your book, then think — are there enough of these people to purchase 500 books? As a general rule, you should be aiming to sell a minimum of 2000 books, with an absoluteminimum of 500 books within the first four months.
Garner an Audience — Give your book the greatest chance of being sold. Develop an audience before you release your book. You can do this via a blog, a weekly email or just getting your name out. This will help a publisher recognize that your books should sell well, and it can even help in getting your book sponsored! A great example: The writing career of one of my authors began on my website, www.shortvort.com.
The website allows people to write their (short) divrei Torah for the tens of thousands of visitors to enjoy. That was about seven years ago. Fast forward seven years and this author has just finished his third book — the third one Adir Press published — and it sold out in three weeks!
So, you can post on ShortVort.com, you can write articles for Aish.com and Ner LeElef; you can blitz social media, but you need to gain an audience who believes in what you’re doing. Perhaps in a future article I will explain how best to do this. Meanwhile, your first step is to set up an email list. (I recommend Mailchimp, which is easy to use and free to manage up to 2000 subscribers to your email, blog, and/or website, etc. The program enables you to know who opened your email and allows subscribers to unsubscribe with ease.)
OK. You’ve got a manuscript which you’re happy about. You think it will sell well. Now what? So, if you aren’t a fundraiser (perhaps it’s a novel which is hard to get sponsorship for) and your funds are limited, then it’s well worth submitting your manuscript and hoping for the best. Don’t send to more than one publisher at a time, and make sure you follow their submission guidelines, if they have any.
For instance, many ask for a cover letter telling them a little about the author with a book summary. You should receive an acknowledgment within a day or two after your submission was received. After that, allow a couple of weeks for them to get back to you; don’t be scared to email a gentle reminder if you haven’t heard back.
With the growing number of companies encouraging the author to pay for the book’s production, you may be told that they want to publish your book, but would like you to pay for it. Don’t be alarmed. It’s a good sign; it’s just a sign of the times. At that point, don’t be afraid to investigate other companies. Be honest with the publisher and tell them that you will come back to them after looking into all of your options.
They will respect you for it. Production prices between companies can vary enormously, as well as the time it will take them to complete the book. Another major factor to consider is the relationship between you and the company.
Who will you work with?
How busy are they – will they be available for you?
Can you speak to them on the phone or just via email?
Also, if you know any authors who have worked with the publishers, find out based on their experience about how well the process went and whether they were paid on time. Do your research and don’t be afraid to ask straight questions.
Rabbi Moshe Kormornick is the CEO and Chief Editor of Adir Press. He is also an alumnus of Rav Yitzchak Berkovits’ Jerusalem Kollel, and Ner LeElef.
To see what some of Adir Press’ authors have had to say about their experience, click here.
To submit your manuscript to Adir Press, click here.
To contact Rabbi Kormornick: email: firstname.lastname@example.org.