The Death of Traditional Publishers? Part 10: Why It’s So Hard to GET Published by Jerry Simmons

Kris says: In light of all the changes in publishing, I asked Jerry D. Simmons of Nothing Binding to give us his take.

It’s probably hard for any writer to believe that large New York based trade publishers are constantly on the lookout for new product (books). In fact, it’s crucial to the life of a trade publisher to have a constant influx of new product, i.e. new titles, new authors, possibly even new categories. Publishers need product to keep their seasonal lists fresh and well rounded. This means they cannot simply publish best-selling authors, the kind that everyone sees on the New York Times bestseller list. They need to publish a complete list of books.

And booksellers are always looking for what’s new, too. When a publisher presents their list to a book buyer, the typical first question is: what’s new? Books by John Grisham, Danielle Steele, Stephen King and the other well-known authors are exciting but also very predictable. They will sell a predictable number of copies and that of course is a very good thing for books sellers. They need these authors to bring customers into the stores and to generate a large number of sales. But they also need the next sleeper, the newest and different title that has the potential to rise from the bottom to become the next big book.

Agents, too, are always looking for new books and new authors because their existence depends on it. So if the publishers and agents are on the hunt for new and different, why is it so hard to get published? Certainly the intensely competitive nature of the publishing industry is one answer, but the truth is that your largest trade publishers (Random House, Simon & Schuster, Harper-Collins, Penguin Putnam, Holtzbrink and Hachette) are risk averse!

In other words they want new, but safe. They’re looking for different, but the same. Make sense? Of course not, and this is why getting a contract to have your book published is so hard and why recognizing these titles are so difficult.

Publishers today are not willing to take financial risks on books that are not reasonably predictable. A first time author of a romance or mystery novel for example, depending on the writing, will sell a predictable number of copies. Books on cooking, business or other related non-fiction categories, for example, will sell a predictable number of copies. Manuscripts that are new, different, and predictable, yet offer the slightest possibility of breaking out of the mainstream, are what they want, what they desire, and what they are constantly seeking.

Because of this, every writer should have a thorough grasp of their genre. Who publishes the titles in their category, which are the best-selling authors, how are they packaged, priced, etc. Then you must ask yourself: how is my writing unique? What makes my book new and different? If you’ve read most of the best-selling authors in your category and you can provide a good answer, then you have what publishers and agents need.

Now you must aggressively market yourself to the agents and be confident enough in your work to say, ‘my writing is new and different’. It is also critical that you have a basic understanding of the business side of publishing and a good idea of what is happening in the marketplace. To summarize, you must write something that is new and different, you must be confident, have a basic understanding of the business, and knowledge of the marketplace, all of which are possible! Who said getting a book published was difficult?


Jerry is a 32-year veteran of publishing, 25 in New York with Random House and the former Time Warner Book Group as Vice President, Director Field Sales. His sales division generated hundreds of millions of dollars in book sales across the United States and Canada.

Over the years he has worked on thousands of New York Times bestselling titles and hundreds of New York Times bestselling authors including James Patterson, David Baldacci, Sandra Brown, Nicholas Sparks, Nelson DeMille and Michael Connelly.

Founder of Jerry’s eNewsletter “TIPS for WRITERS from the PUBLISHING INSIDER” is read by thousands of writers in over 24 countries. He is also the founder of the free online marketing platform and resource for writers and authors In 2009 Jerry launched the INDI Publishing Group, establishing a new publishing model for publishing while creating opportunities for writers choosing to publish independently.

His book, WHAT WRITERS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PUBLISHING is described by the #1 New York Times Bestselling author Sandra Brown as “The good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of book publishing, told in a straight-from-the hip manner. New writers take note.” New York Times bestselling author Allison Brennan said “The information was absolutely incredible! I would recommend your book to all aspiring and new authors.”

You can reach Jerry via email or direct to his office via phone 623-556-2751. You may quote from or use this article all or in part, under the condition that the author, Jerry D. Simmons, and this web site, are referenced.


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