In 2020, there were over 50,000 authors and writers in the United States. With the emergence of online book sales, there’s been a paradigm shift in the publishing industry creating a growing number of self-publishing authors who are taking advantage of the opportunity to get their book out into the market. That said, while getting your book published is a worthy accomplishment in and of itself, making the right publishing choice can be the difference between having a successful book and not. And by success, I mean avoiding the unfortunate, but the all too common predicament of losing money on your book publishing process.
Whether you are a writer looking to publish your first book, or perhaps, you’re an author working on your next manuscript, understanding the publishing landscape is the first step in the publishing journey. While there are many variations in book publishing, there are three main categories that we can look at to determine which method is right your you. First, is conventional publishing – which means your book is published by a traditional publishing house, most of which are headquartered in New York City. Typically, most of these publishers pay the author an advance on the book before recouping their money back and hopefully making a profit through the book sales arrangement in your contract. They also provide varying levels of promotion and distribution. There are hundreds of conventional publishers, many with big names such a Penguin/Random House, Hachette Book Group, Harper Collins, and Simon and Schuster.
Next, there is self-publishing, where the author handles most of the aspects of the publishing process without the involvement of a conventional publisher. The third method is Independent “Indie” publishing which is similar to self-publishing but involves working through a company that handles the design and printing of your book. But the key is, you, the author makes all of the decisions everything from the cover design to the price. We will explore Indie and Self-publishing in future articles, but for now, we will focus on the conventional publishing option.
We’ve all had dreams of being the next Steven King, putting out books that sell like hotcakes on bookstore shelves and online venues. The fact is, only a hand full of authors experience this level of fame and success, but most are published through conventional publishers. However, most authors that are published through conventional publishers are regular people who work very hard to create content that people want to read. Some of the biggest names are: Simon and Schuester, Penguin, and Berkley, to name a few. To that end, while there is no magic to getting a conventional book deal, allow me to offer a few solid steps and principles that can give you a good shot to get there.
Step 1) Write a “Book Proposal” or “Query”
A book proposal is a long summary of your book (10-25 pages double spaced). In many cases, you can write your book summary and get a book deal before actually writing your book! The main idea is to thoroughly capture the essence of the book so that your agent (which I will get into later), can determine its viability for publishing, (without having to read the entire book). The proposal is the primary tool agents use to pitch books to publishers. It covers a range of topics including; identifying your audience, competitive titles, author credentials, promotion plan, and a chapter-by-chapter overview of the book. There are many different formats and approaches to book proposals, so a quick google search should point you in the right direction. Note, you must edit the proposal to meet the requirements of each prospective agent that you plan to contact. Once an agent agrees to represent you, she will assist you in editing the proposal into the best possible document that she can present to publishers. Now let's discuss acquiring an agent.
Step 2) Find an Agent
Conventional publishers, for the most part, prefer to deal with agents versus working directly with authors. While many will accept direct book queries on their websites, having a good agent gives you far better odds of signing with a publisher than trying on your own. A book agent is a broker of sorts in that they represent authors and pitch book proposals to various publishers with which they have a working relationship. The goal of an agent is to match the author’s book with the right publisher at the right time. While this may be simple, it is not always easy. I had to solicit agents for over three months before landing one ahead of my first book “Expert Selling: A Blueprint to Accelerate Sales Excellence.” The process can be exhaustive but if your writing is good, you have a good topic that can sell, and you have a social network that you can access to assist in the book promotion, you have a decent opportunity to land an agent. While, we’re discussing agents, knowing another author could get you in the door, so look around your network and talk to authors about their agent or publisher, who knows, you could get lucky. Here is a list of literary agents, read through and review the websites of the ones that you think might fit your writing genre. Most will indicate their “submission” process for book proposals. It is very important to read these requirements carefully before submitting them because each agent will have her own rules on how she wants your information to be submitted. Submitters who do not follow the submission specifications will be automatically discarded.
Step 3) Write your Book
Duh? Of course, you have to write a good book to make it to a conventional publisher’s title list. But becoming a good author is like anything else, it takes good practice. I’m always encouraging aspiring authors to write anywhere and as often as possible. Start with blogging, then perhaps move on to submitting magazine articles and so on. Linkedin also has a very powerful publishing platform. The LinkedIn publishing platform allows you to join industry groups and submit articles that not only help you perfect your writing skill, but they can also expose you to potential connections who could help you break through the elusive conventional publishing door.
So there you have it. I hope this article helps you at least feel more informed about the publishing process and your available options. Check back HERE to catch my next article on Self-Publishing very soon.