I read that line on a writer’s board. The publisher in question was discussing questions that board readers had asked. Almost immediately, the responses came flooding in. “I love you!” one crowed. “You are what makes publishing great!” said another. All this because the publisher said he was looking for new voices.
I have no problem with this since most of our authors are also debut. However, I have never said I was actually seeking new voices because I’m not. I’m looking for great books that will sell very well. If the author happens to be previously unpublished, then I definitely take that into consideration because they lack a readership. This means I need to be confident about the book’s ability to break new ground in a very crowded marketplace. Can I sell it? That is my first criteria.
And that should be anyone’s first criteria, yet this is something I think gets lost in translation when new publishers open their doors and authors eagerly rush to query. Who are they? What is their message? What are their abilities to sell your book?
There are new publishers opening their doors every day, and unless you understand the industry, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype of “We’re looking for new authors!” First off, why are they looking for new authors? That statement alone should make you wonder about them.
- Do they want new writers because they pay lousy advances?
- Do they want new writers because they think they know less about the industry and will, therefore, not be in a position to judge a good publishing deal from a bad one?
- Do they want new writers because they’ll be less likely to raise a stink about their books not reaching bookstore shelves?
- Do they want new writers because they won’t complain about the lack of distribution?
You can see where I’m going with this. To me, this “new writers” thing can be a red flag UNLESS the publisher clearly states why he’s looking for new writers. There really needs to be a reason for it. Benevolence is rarely a part of the publishing paradigm. We’re in this wonderful game to get fabulous books to market and make money, and we don’t do that by being altruistic.
Sadly, what I’m used to seeing is the publisher who announces the “looking for new writers” bit, and they get a rush of queries and a lot of excitement about fabulosity of this new publisher. It isn’t until the publisher has been around a couple years that the real picture becomes apparent. They usually run out of money because they don’t have distribution, so they enough sales to remain afloat.
Ask yourself, what does a publisher gain by specializing in new writers if they don’t appear to have the ability to promote and market them? I’m not saying there’s evil afloat. But what I am suggesting is that writers stop and think about the motivation. It’s not enough for them to say, “We market and promote our authors!” They need to back that up with proof.
And, lastly, I heartily recommend you always give a new publisher a couple years to prove themselves. It takes about that much time for them to run out of their startup financing and implode. After all, it’s your book and you worked achingly hard on it – you surely don’t want to publish it badly. Why give it away to someone who appeals to your sense of hope? Just because someone is looking for new voices doesn’t mean they can deliver.