How to Sell Your Book to a Big Publisher

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If you’re hoping to have your book picked up by one of the “Big 5” publishers (Penguin Random House, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan), you might be wondering where to start. Do you just send them your manuscript and hope for the best?


Top publishers receive loads of submissions and simply don’t have the time to read through every manuscript. You’ll need to put together a proposal so they can determine whether your book is a good fit for them. This may seem overwhelming, but by doing the proper research, you will be well on your way to crafting a brilliant book proposal!

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Research first

To write a killer proposal, you need to prepare. Research book trends (especially in your genre), find out if there are any gaps in the market, and be clear about who your audience is. You’ll need to know these things to sell your book to a top publishing company. You want to promote your work and show publishers why they should get behind it. Don’t put your book on the back burner just because it doesn’t deal with a “hot topic”: Though the mainstream may want to read post-apocalyptic fiction, there will still be a niche for whatever story you’re telling. 

Publishers will also want to know about you, so pull up your business plan and some analytics from your website and social media.  

Put together a proposal

There are many ways to write a book proposal, so check with the publisher to see if it has its own guidelines. That said, here are some common things to include:

  1. A pitch or concept: You’ll need a “hook” that publishers can sell.
  2. A synopsis (2-3 pages): This will give the publishing house an overview of the story so it can gauge the fit with its brand or audience.
  3. The target audience: Don’t go claiming that your book appeals to everyone. Publishers need to know exactly who is going to buy it. Is your book for young adults? Will it draw middle-aged women? Be specific about who you think will buy it as this will show a publisher that you have done your research.
  4. Market insights: Are there any comparable titles that would help sell your book? Have you read an article discussing increased demand for your genre? Cite some sources to demonstrate it. This will show that you are aware of the current market, which will appeal to publishers.
  5. Your business plan: Explain how you plan to promote your book. (New authors don’t get much marketing help from publishers.) A publisher will want to see if you have a readership, so include website traffic, newsletter subscriptions, social media following, any self-published works, etc.
  6. A sample chapter: They’ll want to evaluate your writing. Choose the first chapter or a chapter near the start of your book so they can follow the story (and determine if the beginning will grab the reader).

Hire an agent

You don’t require a literary agent to publish a book (you can submit a proposal without one), but they are pretty much obligatory if you want to bag an offer from a big publishing house. These companies get the vast majority of their manuscripts through agents, so unless you have a connection working at a publisher, an agent is the way to go. You will want to do your proper research to ensure that you are querying the right agents for your work.

One last thing: Keep in mind that rejection is part of the process. Pitch to a lot of publishers and don’t get discouraged by a “no.” Even the best writers have had their books rejected at some point.

Not sure where to start? We can help you find an agent or a publisher to pitch to.

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