This is one I definitely need to do more, and better. Sure, we’re artists. We like to create, in solitude, and share only when we’re ready, which might be approximately once a year. We hate the shallow, commercial, look-at-me marketing side. But, assuming we do want to be published, we need to know something about how the publishing industry works. So, just for a few minutes a week, do some Googling. Read articles and blog posts by those who are savvy about this stuff.
For example, find out what exactly it is that makes professional cover art look cooler than DIY cover art. What should go into a back-cover blurb. What kind of social media persona you’re currently presenting, how much online-marketing time you’re willing to commit to, how you might best reach your target audience. Consider who your target audience actually is. Read about what types of marketing have worked (and haven’t) for other authors. Check out what’s up in the publishing world lately in general.
One of the reasons it’s important to do this, aside from merely not sounding like a noob in your query letters, is that the industry is changing rapidly, and frequently. Ebooks are now a hugely profitable thing when not that many years ago no one thought they’d take off. Self-publishing likewise has become far more respected than it used to be, in a short amount of time. The role of agents and editors has shifted accordingly. Lots of posts and articles out there are discussing these kinds of things, and they’re good to know.
Another reason to do this kind of research is that you might stumble into a fabulous networking moment. Here, I’ll give you an actual useful tip: check out the #MSWL tag on Twitter. MSWL stands for Manuscript Wish List, and it’s what agents and editors sometimes use when posting the kind of books they really want to see submitted to them right now. You might just find someone who sounds perfect for you to work with, who’s looking for exactly what you’ve written. May it be so!