I regularly get asked questions about how to get published, so decided I would share one of my email responses from a question that was asked of me by an aspiring author. I don’t consider myself a publishing expert, but I’m experienced enough with the publishing world to share some advice from personal experience. If you are an aspiring author, here are a few quick tips to get published.
- Publishing is slow, so patience is needed. A traditional publisher typically takes 12-24 months to get a book in print. Self-publishing can be half that time. My first book took a traditional publisher almost four years to get printed. Think marathon, not sprint when it comes to publishing. Don’t get discouraged by how long it can take to get a book in print.
- Research who publishes books on your subject matter. Every publisher has their area of specialty and interest. Finding the right publisher is key. Pick up books that you’ve read and see who published them. When you’ve identified some publishers, visit their website and look at the titles of their books. The ideal publisher is one that publishes on your subject area, but does not have a book about the topic you are writing.
- Create a killer book proposal. This is your sales tool. It’s purpose is to get a book contract, so it is not the time to be bashful or cut corners. You are trying to persuade them to say “yes.” Give them every reason to do that. Answer the why question thoroughly (why the book is needed). Do your research on what is already in print and be honest. If you say, “Nothing exists on this topic,” you will need to back it up. Otherwise, publishers will know that you have not done your homework. Include as many endorsements in the book proposal as possible. Endorsements equal marketing and marketing equals sales. And for publishers, sales is the end game, so put time in to get a good list of endorsements. Develop a plan to sell copies of the book and communicate this clearly in the proposal. Books won’t sell themselves, so you will need to convince a publisher that you are going to actively work to sell a book. Many publishers have a template for a book proposal and it’s found on their website. If they provide one, follow it exactly. If not, you have the freedom to create your own.
- Submit your book proposal to multiple publishers at the same time. Make sure to include some small and medium sized publishers. If you are not an established name, it’s difficult to get a contract from an A-list book publisher, so manage your expectations. If you submit to one publisher at a time, like many request, you may wait months for a response. If the proposal is rejected, the process begins with another publisher. If there are multiple rejections from multiple publishers, proposals submitted one by one, may result in a very long process.
- While you are waiting for an answer from a traditional publisher, research self-publishing or hybrid options. This is not a bad route in today’s digital world. I self-published my first book and I told the individual I was working with, “I don’t want it to look self-published.” The book was so well done that it led to publishing offers from major publishers. Most of my books are published by a traditional publisher, but I have self-published a few books that I wanted to maintain ownership of the book or needed the material published on a quicker timeline. There are good reasons to consider self-publishing and there are good reasons to consider a traditional publisher. Explore both.
- Take marketing seriously. Publishing a book is not the finish line. It’s the starting point. Once a book is published, it must be marketed, especially if it is self-published, or no one will know it exists. Speaking opportunities, social media, and networking with other people are all helpful marketing avenues. If you’ve ever read a book and it wasn’t very good and wondered, “how did this get published,” it’s because they understood that publishers don’t always publish good writing. They publish what they think can sell. Convince a publisher that your writing can sell and you will get a contract.
Publishing a book is an adventure. It takes determination and usually some thick skin, but it is worth it. Enjoy the journey!