Columns > Published on April 16th, 2012

Ask The Lit Coach: 'Is It Possible To Find A U.S. Publisher For Your Spanish Language Novel?' and More

Is it possible to find a U.S. publisher for your Spanish language novel? How do authors attract an agent or promote their book if they choose to publish under a nom de plume? Those are the burning questions answered in this issue of Ask The Lit Coach.

Question from Ernesto G.

I am in the process of writing a novel, based on historical facts, it will be done in Spanish, since it will deal with the Salvadoran civil war. What would you advice as the best publishing house for that sort of material? 

Thanks for your question, Ernesto. I asked my colleague Marcela Landres to shed some light on the best solution for you. I met Marcela when I was an agent and she was an editor at Simon and Schuster. Marcela is the author of the e-book How Editors Think: The Real Reason They Rejected You, publishes the award-winning e-zine Latinidad, and is an Editorial Consultant. Marcela is also a member of the Women’s Media Group, and has acted as a judge for the PEN/Beyond Margins Award. I'm convinced Marcela knows everything there is to know about the Spanish book market. Here's what she had to say:

"The good news is the sales of Spanish language books in the U.S. grows exponentially every year. The bad news is Spanish language books remain a tiny fraction of total book sales in the U.S. More to the point, the vast majority of the people who work in book publishing--from agents and editors to bookstore owners--do not read Spanish. While the potential readership for Spanish language books in the U.S. may be large, the professionals whose job it is to get books into the hands of readers for the most part have no idea how to do so for Spanish language books. Given these realities, Spanish language novels are more likely to be published outside the U.S. than in it.

Is your English as strong as your Spanish? Then my best advice is to write your novel in English. If you are not willing or able to write in English, target publishers in Latin America and Spain. Should your novel win a major award and/or appear on bestseller lists abroad, then U.S. publishers may pursue you."

Hope this helps, Ernesto. Good luck to you!

Question from J.B.

In an age where agents are increasingly looking for potential 'celebrity' writers, complete with a rigorous social network regime, how can the anonymous, or nom de plume author get an agent?

I am writing about a certain criminal activity and I can't do the tours and book signings. So, aside from having a great piece of work, how can I convince an agent / publisher that the book can stand on its own two feet?

An agent considers three things before taking on an author:

  • Is the writing great?
  • Does the author have a strong platform? (seriously, you're going to want to click on that link and read what the new author platform looks like)
  • Is there a large enough audience for the book? Is there a market? 

The name you choose to publisher under matters not. You are your platform. And you specifically, J.B., are your online platform. So, if you're blogging, tweeting, contributing material as your nom de plume, then you're off to a great start! That's exactly what you need to be doing.

Have you ever heard of non-bestselling authors totally rocking a book signing or in person event right out of the gate? Not really. It takes several years of really hard work to build that kind of momentum. While in-store signings and events are fun and a great way to meet a very small fraction of your readers, they're not as effective as your online campaign to spread the word about your book - and the only way to do that is to produce as much online and print content as possible that will ultimately draw readers back to your main website. And remember, it's about making lasting connections with your readers, not just about selling your book. Nobody likes a hard sell. 

Because of the nature of your book, there is no reason you couldn't build a very successful online platform. Just allow yourself the time to build it before you approach an agent. Study some of your favorite current authors. What have they done to build their online platform? You'll find that being an author is about more than writing a book. LitReactor columnist and author Richard Thomas is a good example of what today's enterprising author looks like.  

The reality is, especially in our current publishing climate, the lower the advance, the more frugal the publisher's PR budget. Publishers will not pay to send their new author out on a splashy 12 city book signing tour unless they believe they can recoup the advance through major sales. That doesn't mean they don't love you, it just means you're a bit lower on the author totem pole.

Now I'm gonna get all Den Mother on you. Writing about criminal activity isn't unusual, unless you're currently the one doing the criminal activity. So, if YOU are the main character in the criminal activity, you need to ask yourself, is all this worth it if someone finds me out? No, it's not worth it (serious criminal activity against another human or animal is especially never OK). If you're just writing about criminal activity that you have no compliance with (and I really hope this is the case), it's just fiction you don't want your name associated with for whatever reason, then knock yourself out! Just make sure the story is excellent and the writing is even better.

Hope that helps, J.B. Thanks for your question and good luck to you! 

That's all for Ask The Lit Coach, LitReactors. Thanks to all of you who submitted questions.

Now go do something worth writing about! Just, you know, keep it on the up and up.

About the author

ERIN REEL is a Los Angeles based publishing and editorial consultant, writing coach, columnist, blog host of The Lit Coach's Guide to The Writer's Life and outspoken advocate for writers. A former literary agent with nearly 10 years in the industry, Erin has worked with a wide array of writers worldwide. She has contributed to Making The Perfect Pitch: How to Catch a Literary Agent's Eye (Sands, Watson-Guptil, 2004); and Author 101: Bestselling Secrets from Top Agents (Frishman & Spizman, Adams Media, 2005).

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