How to Land a Deal for Your Non-Fiction Book: A Marketing Guide for Authors
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: A book’s commercial success comes down to good marketing, and good marketing comes down to thorough research. In order to land a traditional book deal, especially if you’re an emerging author writing non-fiction, you need to know your target audience.
The traditional publishing industry is first and foremost a business—a multi-billion-dollar industry that wants to keep growing—and it’s not interested in wasting time with a book that might not sell. So, you should do your research well in advance, before you even start writing, so you can have a better idea of what readers want. If you’ve already finished your manuscript, it’s not too late—do some extensive research and tweak your book as necessary.
Don’t overlook the importance of this research. Many first-time authors jump straight into querying literary agents and publishers without understanding where their book fits in the current market, which is the main reason many of them get rejected. After all, it’s not just about pitching to publishers—you have to pitch to the right publishers.
If you’re ready to start pitching your manuscript to literary agents and traditional publishing houses, check out our targeted lists of agents and publishers, which are tailor-made for individual manuscripts. If you’re still struggling to understand who your audience is, keep reading for a few tips and tricks.
Identify and get to know your audience
One of the pillars of marketing is identifying and getting to know your audience. For non-fiction books especially, it’s important to know that there are people out there who would be interested in your story, even if they don’t know your name. This is particularly significant for publishers that might hesitate to give a book deal to someone who isn’t already a celebrity or at least a well-known public figure. Therefore, before you pitch your manuscript to a literary agent or a publisher, you should have a solid idea of your prospective audience. Be specific about it, particularly if you’re dealing with a niche subject: The publisher may question whether enough people will be keen to read your book, so show them you have an interested demographic.
Start by looking for books with themes or subject matter similar to yours and identify who’s reading them. A political memoir and a biography of a famous child actor will have different audiences, and you want to demonstrate that you know yours. Are they young or old? Are they mostly male or female, or does it even matter? Are they single, parents, or members of a minority? Do they live in a specific part of the world? Where do they work? What do they do for fun?
From education to occupation, knowing such details about your target audience is key to understanding how to market your book, and agents and publishers want to be certain that you did the work. For them, this information is important not only as an indication that there’s an eager audience for the manuscript but also as a basis for the marketing strategy. For you as an author, it can also be empowering to know that there are people out there interested in your story, and learning about them will motivate you during the long journey that is selling and promoting a book.
However, simply identifying your audience isn’t enough.
Build your platform
Since an author’s public persona is key to selling a non-fiction book, your platform becomes a means of gauging your connection to your audience. Does it interact with you? Does it care about what you think, what you have to say, and what you’re working on?
You don’t need to have influencer status on social media to make a good impression on an agent or a publisher, but you do have to prove that you not only understand your audience but also have open and direct communication with it. It can take some time to build a strong online following, so get started on your social media marketing long before you send off your first query letter.
Big publishers want to know that a non-fiction work already has a captive audience waiting for its release because it assures them of likely success once the book is published. Whether you review other books on YouTube, have a podcast about writing, send out updates to your email list, share your research and progress on Twitter or Instagram, or have an active community on Facebook, there are seemingly infinite ways to connect to an audience these days. As an independent author looking for a book deal, it’s your job to find what works and to be consistent about growing and communicating with your fanbase. Ideally, you’re active on multiple platforms to maximize your reach. For the best results, stay active and engaged with your audience—perhaps consider a regular posting schedule.
Make your pitch
Querying a prospective literary agent or a publisher can be a daunting task, but you’ll be far more prepared to make your pitch if you’ve already figured out your target audience and how to connect and interact with it. Being able to show that there are people eager to read your non-fiction book is a must when pitching your manuscript as it also proves that you know what the industry wants and expects from a writer; that will definitely score you some points with the agents and publishers you’re querying. Since many first-time authors fail to do this, it will definitely distinguish you from the crowd and get you that much closer to a published book.
To hook an agent with your manuscript and your understanding of the industry and the market, you first have to dedicate some time to doing your research and getting a good grasp of who you’re writing for. After making any appropriate tweaks to your manuscript, it’s time to write the query letter. If you would like some help with this, check out our query packages for traditional publishers and take the first step towards landing that traditional book deal you’ve been dreaming of.