I often get asked questions from wanna-be authors about how to get a book published. If you aren’t wanting to self-publish your book (which isn’t always a bad idea, by the way) then here are a few things I tell people about what they need to be able to provide a publisher when they send a query letter or start a conversation about a book … or if they simply ask, “would you publish a book if I write it?”
1. Write a 500-750 word synopsis of your project. (If you aren’t clear enough to be succinct about your project, get clear. If you can’t write a synopsis, you might want to reconsider if you can really write a book).
2. Consider how long it will take you to realistically finish the project. If the project is several years from completion, don’t even start talking to publishers just yet. Make sure you have something to say and to show.
3. Think through a working Table of Contents, or a working Outline of the book. (Be able to write at least one sentence per chapter).
4. Be prepared to share at least one sample chapter or section to a publisher. (You don’t need to send the entire manuscript in your first query. Usually, if an author isn’t able to grab the interest in the first sample, then the publisher won’t bother reading the rest of the manuscript or submitted materials).
5. Work on writing a 350 – 500 word biography of yourself. Be sure to include organizations or networks with which you are involved. Be sure to mention previous publications. Be sure to state why you are an expert on your topic. With this, a publisher is looking for what networks you are a part of, why you are the expert on your subject, and how big your reach or fanbase might already be.
6. Put together a bullet-pointed list of marketing opportunities YOU can bring to a project. (For example, be sure to list large networks with which you are connected, articles or blogs or other venues where you have a following or readership, media connections, upcoming events with which you will participate and have a leadership role or large presence).
7. Research and be able to list at least 3 titles in bookstores today that either compete or compare or contrast well with your project. Name the title, the author, and a comment about why you are mentioning it.
8. Research the publisher and make sure that they fit your audience and your project and you.
9. Don’t expect advances. For most publishers, advances are a thing of the past. Publishers prefer giving authors higher royalties. The author then shares some of the risks, and the author is more motivated to help market the book.
10. Be able to sell yourself and the project, but be honest and realistic. (No, you are probably not going to get on Oprah and your book is not going to sell as well as Harry Potter or The DaVinci Code).