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Room in the marketplace for your book

by Mary Yuhas

One of the first questions a literary agent asks when considering whether or not to represent an author’s book is, are there similar books out there? Some literary agents say they have had to pass on a beautifully written manuscript because there is no room for it in the marketplace.

My book, Quit and be Quiet, is a memoir about growing up with a severely mentally ill mother. I knew it would be hard for an agent to sell it to a traditional publishing house because typically, they only take celebrity memoirs.

That inspired me to check the marketplace myself so I published a synopsis and the first three chapters of my book on Scribd.com (Back then, Scribd was a reading and publishing website.)

My chapters received well over 40,000 reads and convinced me there is a place for my book. I also published a short story about my father, which is included in the back of the book. It received over 1,000 reads in less than 24 hours − respectable by anyone’s standards.

The one caveat is everything I published on Scribd was free, and that is different from people actually plunking down their hard earned cash to buy my book. Still, when I next approach an agent, I can say with certainty, there is an audience for it, and I have 40,000 reasons to say that.

Other invaluable information I gleaned from Scribd was the online comments, the reviews and downloads. I wanted to know that it wasn’t just family and friends who liked my writing.

Without question, the biggest and most unexpected perk from Scribd was the online friends I made. I got to know people that I otherwise would never have known. And while we no longer chat almost daily the way we used to, we do stay in touch and root for one another and lend a shoulder when needed.

Scribd is now the largest online library in the world and no longer the venue for new authors that it once was. But today, there are an even greater number of websites for aspiring authors to test-market their books: Amazon, Good Reads and Smashwords to name a few. All provide online reviews and downloads.

So whether you are looking for an agent or writing an e-Book, posting a few chapters of your book online is a great way to get started. It’s free, and you’ll quickly see whether you are striking a chord with readers or if you need to go back and do some revising.

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