The Atlantic: Anatomy of Two Bestsellers

In “How to Make a Bestselling Book” at TheAtlantic.com, literary agent Howard Yoon makes a case for traditional publishing and why it’s still relevant. Yoon cites two authors (both are his clients), and how their book projects became New York Times bestsellers.

Yoon provides the blow-by-blow account of the authors and their paths to the bestseller list, explaining how they “needed the skills of an entire team of publishing professionals to help them on their publishing journey.”

An opening excerpt:

As imperfect as our business is, anyone who wants to write a book of lasting value, a book that can change the way people think about the world, a book that can get national and possibly global distribution in real hard copies, knows that the traditional publishing path is still the best path to take.

Yoon introduces clients Dan Schulman and Dana Goldstein and details their projects.

A closing excerpt:

People always seem surprised when I tell them the publishing business is doing just fine. They expect me to share tales of woe and misery—and incompetence. I remain optimistic. For every forgettable snarky Facebook rant, for every counterintuitive, impermanent let-me-explain-the-world-to-you thought piece, for every formulaic superhero movie or sitcom, there grows a place in the hearts of thoughtful readers out there for works by writers like Dan and Dana.

Advertisements

My Agent Answers: Why Did You Become a Literary Agent?

My literary agent, Rick Broadhead, specializes in non-fiction and works with the top publishing houses in North America. Rick has represented non-fiction books that have appeared on bestseller lists. His clients’ books have also been shortlisted for literary awards, translated into multiple languages and optioned for film and TV development.

By Rick Broadhead

Copyright © Rick Broadhead. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

I’m an entrepreneur at heart and I love the business side of publishing–finding great authors and book ideas, pitching book projects, negotiating deals and being a part of an exciting and dynamic industry.

I became a bestselling author early in my career and eight years later, after several successive bestsellers, I decided to put my business savvy and passion for publishing to work for other authors.

I love what I do, and I love getting excited about a new book project that I can pitch to the editors I work with. There’s something special about holding a book in your hand and realizing you played a part in its creation.

My Agent Answers: How Can a Writer Improve Odds of Landing an Agent?

My literary agent, Rick Broadhead, specializes in non-fiction and works with the top publishing houses in North America. Rick has represented non-fiction books that have appeared on bestseller lists. His clients’ books have also been shortlisted for literary awards, translated into multiple languages and optioned for film and TV development.

By Rick Broadhead

Copyright © Rick Broadhead. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

First of all, you should know what types of books I’m most interested in, as I’m most likely to be receptive to a pitch if the book fits my interests and the subject categories I like to work on.

Second, books rarely sell themselves these days, so I need to look for authors who have a “platform.” This means that, ideally, you have some type of public stature that a publisher can leverage to promote your book.

If you’re a leading expert in your field or you have experience writing for major newspapers or magazines, I’m more likely to have success selling you to a major publisher. If you have a popular blog or Web site or you’re affiliated with a major organization or university/college, publishers are more likely to be interested in your work.

The lack of a decent platform is one of the most frequent reasons for an agent to reject a book proposal. It is very hard to generate publicity for books, even when a major publisher is doing the pitching, so publishers, and hence agents, are very leery about taking books by authors who don’t have a platform.

Third, you need to have a strong proposal and strong writing skills. As good a salesperson as I may be, publishers usually make decisions on the strength of a proposal that outlines the book, the author’s credentials, and the marketing opportunities the author can bring to the table. A strong proposal can make the difference between getting an offer and not getting one.