How to convince a publisher that your book will sell?
1. Be known.
Publishers are looking for authors whose name people will recognize—or who at least has enough friends and relatives to buy up 10,000 copies of her book. But even if you're not famous, you can convince an editor that your book (and your name) has a built-in audience by proving that you are a Known Expert on your subject.
"How can I be known," you say, "when I am completely unknown? A mere nobody, a nobody with a manuscript and a bad case of asthma?"
If you're unknown, THE INTERN probably doesn't want to hear from you—yet. BEFORE sending in your manuscript, do a little hustling and GET YOUR ASS KNOWN.
And I don't mean carnally.
Let's say you're an unknown author, who has written a book of relationship advice. Before you try to get your book published, spend a couple months building up some credentials for yourself. Write a relationship advice column for your local paper, get an article published in a magazine, keep up an awesome Relationship Advice blog, then get your blog blogged about in other blogs. Then, by the time you send in your manuscript proposal, you'll have all sorts of nice things to list about yourself: "My column, Mandy's Marriage Musings, is syndicated in three newspapers. My blog gets 1,000 unique visitors a day." etc. etc.
Not only will THE INTERN have more faith in your authority as a writer, she'll also respect the fact that you know how to hustle—which brings me to:
2. Show you know how to hustle.
The more work you're willing to do, the better. But don't just say "If published, I'm willing to go on a speaking tour, appear on television, and launch a website to promote my book." This kind of statement rings of inexperience and flakery. Who's going to hire you to speak to them? What TV show wants your ugly self on it? Don't make unsubstantiated promises about future hustling. Instead, show us you already 'bin hustling. If you want to sell a book about the catacombs of San Francisco, you should already be giving walking tours of the catacombs—not promise to begin doing so upon publication.
Most of what THE INTERN is saying boils down to this:
Publishers aren't just looking at your book, they're lookin' at YOU, kid. If you've worked your ass off on your book to no avail, it's time to work on yourself. Nobody wants to buy a book from a slacker nobody. But if you can make yourself into a slacker nobody with some kind of authority, some kind of following—then you can go places. Then your proposal screams money.
OK, kids, last point:
3. Demonstrate why your book will sell.
-Check out sales figures for other books on your subject, and show how your book will cash in.
-Identify any promotional outlets you have at your disposal...if you've been doing your homework and Getting Known, you should have at least 2 or 3.
-Whatever you do, don't bore THE INTERN with your pipe dreams about discussing your book on Oprah or branching out into merchandise like calendars and those hideous boxed gift sets. If you do this, THE INTERN will take a blowtorch to your face (metaphorically).