Guest Blog Post – Shennandoah Diaz

Slushpile Secrets: How Social Media Affects Your Chance of Getting Published


Its no secret that its tough for new writers to break into publishing. With so much working against the aspiring writer, its important for an author to do everything she can to improve her chances of attracting an agent and a publisher. First of all, the author needs a great book. Second, the author needs to understand that publishing is a business and businesses need to make money.

Before a publisher will take a chance on a book, they need to know it has a good chance of selling a sufficient amount of copies to turn a profit. One of the best indicators of a book’s ability to sell is the strength of the author’s platform. The author platform is the author’s following; the group of people who view the author as an expert in their field and who, collectively, help to raise the author’s visibility in the marketplace. Building a following takes creativity, hard work, dedication, and a willingness and ability to attract and connect with potential readers.  It’s achieved through speaking engagements, participation in relevant organizations and—thanks to technology—through social media.

With it’s wide reach, variety, and community building properties, social media has become the key method for building an author platform. Publishers know this. This knowledge is influencing how they judge manuscripts (and the authors) that come across their desk. The decision to publish no longer rests on the strength of the manuscript alone. In fact, many publishers go to Google and search for the author’s online presence before they ever read a single page.

These publishers aren’t heartless capitalists focused only on the almighty dollar. They’re literary enthusiasts facing a few harsh truths:

  1. The traditional publishing industry is shrinking. Traditional bookstores are closing across the country, while traditional publishers (those with the distribution muscle to get an author’s books into bookstores and the media) have consolidated into six major outlets. Those six outlets are responsible for almost half of all book sales reported annually.
  2. Most books never break even, much less sell enough to be profitable. In fact, according to Bowker’s, less than 85% of books ever sell more than 2,000 copies—a very unimpressive number when you factor in the cost of printing, shipping, and returns.
  3. E-publishing, Amazon, and social media have made it easy for every Tom, Dick, and Harry to flood the market with their work—creating increased competition for market share.

That’s why it is essential for any writer aspiring toward a career as a nationally known author invest in their social media presence. An author needs to put some skin in the game, show she can work hard, and sometimes even prove the premise of her book or writing style before a publisher will take notice. Social media allows the author to do this, often for just the investment of time, with much greater results than book tours, speaking engagements, and advertisements. In fact, authors with a strong enough web presence and solid blog are often able to by-pass the traditional path to publishing—the ”blog to book” path as it’s often called.

Bottom line, an author needs to not only build her skills as a writer, but also as a self-marketer. The author must invest in social media—not every single social media outlet, mind you. Just those most used by her target audience. She will use them to connect with people who appreciate her style and writing, and build a following that will raise her above the other authors clamoring for a publisher’s attention. Can an author successfully publish a profitable title without social media? Anything is possible, but why take a chance?


Shennandoah Diaz is a marketing and branding expert and seasoned copywriter with almost 20 years of experience in expert positioning and publishing. Her nonfiction articles have appeared on the Big Bad Book Blog, All Things Writing, Selling Books, and Writer’s Digest editor Jane Friedman’s blog There are No Rules. Her fiction work has appeared in Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, Sex and Murder, Elemental Horror, Flesh and Bone Anthology, and she was a finalist in the 2009 Writer’s League of Texas manuscript contest. Learn more by visiting www.shennandoahdiaz.com.


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