How to be traditionally published

You have a dream of being traditionally published. I get it. If this is what you want to pursue, I encourage you to do it. However, you need to be prepared and have some understanding of a few things.

First of all, there are thousands of different publishers and types of publishers. You can go with a major house, a smaller house, a micropublisher, and there are also many wonderful hybrid publishers.

** It’s worth noting that even if you’re looking to be traditionally published, you should be working on building your following (growing your platform) and marketing yourself. It’s still going to be a lot of work to sell your book, no matter how it publishes. Even the largest of publishers still expect you to market and do the bulk of the “selling” of your book.

Here’s what you need to do to pursue the traditional route. 

If you’re going to try to get into a major publisher, you’ll need an agent. Many smaller publishers don’t require them, so it’s good to do a little research and find out what they want in terms of how you approach them and submit information for consideration. Your approach WILL vary depending on whether you’re pitching a fiction or a non-fiction book. For example, most agents/publishers like to see a full manuscript for a fiction, but only want to receive a proposal for a nonfiction book. But you’ll want to do your research to know what they expect you to send and how.

**Please note this article is directed largely to nonfiction authors, although the strategy generally applies to all authors

For a major publisher, you’ll also need to show that you’ll be able to sell over 10,000 books. It costs a lot of money to publish a book and if they take your project on, they need to know they’ll recoup the investment. This means you need a network of over 50,000 people – because statistically, only a small percentage of your followers will actually buy your book. In fact, in the guidelines for submission for one of the agents I researched, they list out ways for your submission to stand out. One of those is to demonstrate: ” the ability to sell large quantities of your book through your company, your speaking engagements, and/or companies you’re affiliated with;”

So again, I reiterate, while you’re looking for agents or publishers, keep doing what you can to build that audience.

How do you find an agent?

Google to find agents that publish books of your content. For example, you can google “agents that represent women’s self-help books”. Find a few, read about them, and pick a handful to contact.
When I ran this google search, I came across the agent Linda Konner. Her website is very clear on the types of books they represent and their submission process. If you want in, please follow the submissions process!
Look at the books they represent and make sure you feel it’s a good fit. Be sure you know a little bit about them so that you can write a personalized message. and start sending them letters. Be SURE you have read their guidelines. Some agents want EXCLUSIVE submissions – ie, you only submit to them and no one else until you know if they will take you.
Here’s a great article on how to find an agent: https://www.janefriedman.com/find-literary-agent/

The Query Letter

You’ll need to write a great, personalized query letter. For nonfiction books, don’t send your full manuscript. (Unless they request this – which you can find on their submissions guidelines.) They don’t usually want full manuscripts for the query/pitch process.

Here are some good articles on writing the query letter:

https://www.jerryjenkins.com/query-letter/

http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/the-10-dos-and-donts-of-writing-a-query-letter

https://nybookeditors.com/2015/12/how-to-write-a-darn-good-query-letter/

The Book Proposal (for nonfiction)

This is a major difference between fiction and nonfiction. You’ll need to prepare a non-fiction book proposal.

What’s in a book proposal? The book proposal includes a summary of the book, key info, and a detailed chapter by chapter synopsis. It includes market research on comparable titles and what makes yours different, how your book fills a gap, who might endorse your book, your (brief) marketing strategy and plan to sell the book, and so forth. You’ll need to include a sample of your two strongest chapters, so make sure those edits are up to par.

Then What?

Once you find an agent, if it’s required, they will pitch you to publishers, using the book proposal, not the full manuscript. If you’ve gone directly to a publisher, they will provide an offer, a contract, and guidance for the next steps.

What you need to consider

Your cover will be designed, likely without your input, your book will be re-edited, and you will lose most artistic control over the way your book looks and feels

The traditional process can take up to a year or longer. And this is AFTER the time you’ve spent trying to find a publisher.

If picked up by a larger house, you may receive an advance. This is not always the case with smaller publishers. Once your book is for sale, you will receive royalties based on your contract. Most first-time authors, per industry standard, receive about 8-10% net retail.

You will likely receive a publicist to help you with some of the promo, but the lions share of marketing will be up to you, for the life of the book. Gone are the days when you hand your book over and they do the rest. Which is why most first-time authors are not picked up by the larger publishing houses. No matter how good the book.

If traditional publishing is a dream of yours, by all means, go for it! I hope these tips help you find great success.

If you need help with the author branding, platform building, and marketing, I highly encourage you to check out our Write|Publish|Sell Academy – where we work with authors to grow their base to sell more books!

Register Now for the Free Conference!