Many writers dream of getting a book published by a major publishing company. In fact, it’s how some define success. Just the other day I had lunch with a potential editing client who felt getting published—complete with lucrative publishing contract—was more important that writing a great book. But as aspiring authors, how can we help it? We’ve all heard stories of six-figure advances and national exposure. And for those lucky authors, the commercial publishing contract is the fastest path to success.
So how do you get a book published? Is it even possible?
Well, anything’s possible, right? I could win the lottery if I bought a ticket. And luck has a lot to do with getting a book published, I think. Persistence probably pays off. But to get one of those high-profile contracts, or a publishing contract at all, you have to rise above everyone else and prove you have what it takes to write and sell a profitable book. Thankfully, there are ways to improve your chances.
If you want to get a book published, consider the following secrets I’ve heard to attracting editors’ and agents’ attention.
1. Write Your Absolute Best Book
Although this may seem obvious, you might be surprised at how many writers send off manuscripts that aren’t ready. But when agents and editors are swamped with manuscripts, you may only have one shot to make a professional impression. If you want to be taken seriously and get a book published, then do everything you can to make sure your book is the best it can absolutely be. It must reflect your authentic voice; it must be compelling; and it must capture and hold the reader’s attention.
2. Build a Platform
You can’t come from out of nowhere if you want a publisher to risk thousands of dollars buying your book. Establishing a record of experience and expertise will put you in a better position to get a book published. For creative writers, this means publishing smaller pieces in magazines and journals. For self-help, business, and how-to authors, you must promote yourself and your ideas through speaking engagements, publishing articles, and publicity.
Other ways to build a platform include selling 5,000 or more self-published books and building a big e-mail list of fans. A platform lets editors and agents know that people like you and you’ll probably be able to sell a lot of books.
3. Make Connections
If you don’t live in the city, then making connections in New York can seem impossible. It’s not; and knowing someone in the business (or with connections in the business) can be the break you need to stand out and sell your book to a major publisher. What can you do to make connections? Attend writing conferences and publishing events; network with other writers; and tell everyone you meet that you’re a writer. And you never know when a friend of a friend will work in the publishing world.
4. Consider the Scenic Route
Many popular authors, from Walt Whitman to E.L. James, started as self-publishers. The New York publishing route isn’t best for every first-time author—it depends on your situation, your topic, and your goals. And sometimes the better way to attract their attention is by proving yourself through self-publishing. You may even learn that you’re happier (and more profitable) on your own.
5. Learn Everything You Can to Get a Book Published
Perhaps the most important piece of advice I’ve received in my writing career is to learn and follow the rules of the game. Part of being taken seriously as an author is following the established industry culture. If your query letter isn’t formatted correctly or runs on for three pages, agents won’t bother looking at your book manuscript. And mistakes can be detrimental if you’re self-publishing too.
Where can you get reliable information about publishing? If you’re a nonfiction author, I can’t think of a better person to offer publishing advice than Stephanie Chandler of the Nonfiction Authors Association’s. She has published both through a traditional house and as a self-publisher. And she has two awesome courses for nonfiction authors starting August 23, 2016: Traditional Publishing De-Mystified; How to Get a Book Deal and Self-Publishing De-Mystified; How to Publish Your Book.
Whatever your questions or concerns about publishing your book, these courses are sure to answer them. And they’re not paying me to say that; I’m just a long-time fan who seriously wouldn’t recommend anyone else. Check out these publishing courses by clicking here.