Christmas is nearly upon us and it is the season for giving presents and keeping secrets. This week I am going to reveal some secrets and give some insights that will be helpful to all aspiring authors. As the Publisher for CLC, I am often asked how to get a book published. For many writers, this seems like a very dark and mysterious process. What once was a simple process of writing a great book, submitting it to a plethora of publishers and hoping for a book contract has now become something altogether different. Truthfully, it never was that simple, but the process is very different today. In the face of this complexity, many authors have chosen the route of self-publication for their books and some have had great success. Many have not.
With that in mind, here are 5 keys to getting your book published. They are not comprehensive, nor are they a guarantee that your book will get published. Unfortunately, the process then and now involves a certain degree of good fortune, good timing and downright mystery. I am, however, pulling back the curtain a little this week and offering an early Christmas present to writers young and old.
1. Your Proposal – No I am not talking about a marriage proposal, but there are similarities. If you want your future spouse to say yes, you need to be both creative and confident. A good book proposal will be thorough, convincing and creative. Some may be wondering why I am starting with the book proposal at all. Why not just write a great book and submit it? The first secret that I will let you in on is that many if not most books published today start with an effective proposal and the book has not been written yet. Certainly a sample chapter or two may be included with the proposal, but it is not necessary to have written the whole book.
Key Takeaway – Make sure that your book proposal is the best that it can be. Your writing career or at least your published writing career will depend on it.
2. Your Endorsers – With over 200,000 books being published every year, readers are overwhelmed with the amount of new content that is available. They have to have some way to cut through the clutter and to decide which books to purchase, read and rave about. Publishers know this and have found endorsements to be an effective screening mechanism. If credible people are willing to endorse your writing, doors will open for you. These endorsers do not have to be famous they simply need to be influential. My second secret is that writers can get endorsers on board long before their book is ever published. Endorsers will read and review early manuscripts and galley editions of your book.
Key Takeaway: Begin developing relationships with potential endorsers as early as possible. One way to do this is to be supportive of their writing and don’t be afraid to ask.
3. Your Topic – What you are writing about really does matter. No matter how excited you are about your topic, you must look at the competition in the marketplace for books on your particular subject or in your particular genre. If you are writing on a popular topic, your book needs to stand out. What makes your book so different? What is the hook? Publishing is a risk and reward business and there needs to be a return on the publisher’s investment in you. Help them make this decision easier by writing on a unique issue or writing on a common topic in a unique way. Related to this is the question of your expertise and your credibility. What do you know about the topic that you are writing about and why should the reader care? My third secret is that books written by subject matter experts in less crowded book categories will have more success.
Key Takeaway – become a subject matter expert on a topic. This can be done in lots of ways including research and personal experience.
4. Your Platform – Cultivating a community of people that like your writing and who would be willing to buy your book is more important today than ever before. Getting a book published has never been easier when all the self-publishing options are taken into consideration. Yet getting a book sold and read has never been harder. People have too many choices. In response to this reality publishers are looking for authors who have a built in community of interest in their writing or their content. Secret number four is that platform trumps content in this new publishing era.
Key Takeaway: Begin developing a platform immediately. Determine what you will be a subject matter expert on and start developing a community who cares about your writing. Blogging is often a great first step.
5. Your Content – Many of you may have been surprised that I listed this last and may even wonder if it matters at all based on what I have said above. Writers that want to be published authors need to write well or partner with someone who does. You will not develop a community of interest in your subject matter if your writing is not compelling. While it is true that some individuals with significant platforms will hire ghost writers to make sure that their book is well written, most writers don’t have that kind of platform or the money. Secret number five is that there really is no short cut to becoming a better writer. You will need to hone your craft with practice and feedback.
Key Takeaway: Don’t write in secret. Test your concepts on different audiences, ask for feedback and be willing to take it seriously.
If you have read this far, there is one more thing that I will add as a bonus present for you
Your Personality: You may have done all five things above and still not gotten a book contract and there can be a myriad of reasons why that may be so. That said, one often overlooked issue is the personality of the author themselves. Publishers will be committing to a multi-year process once a book deal is signed. They want to work with authors that have a great work ethic and a flexible, positive, team oriented perspective. Nothing will shut down a book negotiation faster than an author who has a self-inflated view of themselves or their writing. Get to know some published authors and learn what worked for them. If you can, use a literary agent who will give you honest feedback on your personality and what issues you need to work on. The best authors are always learning, always improving and always writing.