The New Author’s Guide to Getting a Publishing Deal

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These days, small presses and self-published eBooks can turn a budding author into a widely recognized name. Still, there’s much to be said about the prestige and resources of a traditional publishing house. 

The thing is, they’re hard to impress, and the odds of getting traditionally published are low. You’ll need persistence, planning, and astuteness to hire publishing experts who know the industry. Here are some tips to get you started. 

Agents, assemble!

It doesn’t matter if you’re writing the next Gone Girl—it’s your literary agent who’ll almost always get you a publishing contract. Publishers don’t have time to rifle through piles of unsolicited manuscripts to find the proverbial diamond in the rough. Thus, you need to do your research on literary agents and secure one before querying a traditional publisher. Agents can get your book seen—and faster, too. The publisher knows they’ve vetted your work. So, how do you bag an agent? 

  • Have a great book ready

You can’t just send a half-finished, unedited book to a potential agent. With nonfiction work, you need a solid book proposal. A fiction manuscript has to be complete and proofread. You shouldn’t start looking for literary agents until your book is as polished as it can possibly be. If you want it to sparkle, editors will collaborate

  • Do your research

Different agents like different books. Do your homework and find out who’s a good fit for your work. All agents specialize in a particular genre, so don’t query one who represents sci-fi writers with your cookbook. A professional can certainly cut down on search time. Ultimately, you should create a list of potential agents who are more likely to take on your book. While you do your research, make sure the agents you plan on querying are legitimate. What are their sales numbers? How do their current authors feel about working with them? By looking up this information, you will save yourself potential heartbreak down the line. After all, you want your book to land in the best hands possible, so take the time to research the literary agents you want to query.

  • Write an enticing query letter

Once you know who’s who in the agent world, you’ll need to court them with a query letter. It must make them eager to read your book, so it’s a writing challenge in its own right. A query letter must be succinct but informative. Consider hiring an expert on query packages to create your letter, synopsis, and outline, plus a targeted list of agents.

When an offer materializes

If your agent has wrangled a book deal and gotten you a contract with a publishing house, congratulations! However, don’t get so euphoric that you hastily nod and sign. Judiciously study what the terms entail. This legal agreement will include how you’re paid and details on book rights. Make sure you’re happy with it before you sign anything. (Also, make sure that you understand all of its components.) Again, you want your book to be taken care of, so if you are uncomfortable with the contract terms, don’t sign.

You and your publisher

The publishing house didn’t pay for the privilege of printing your book. Its goal is to make it a success. Thus, your new editor will step in. Don’t be floored when they request a myriad of revisions; concessions are normal. You need to approach the editing process with a positive attitude so that you don’t get disheartened.

  • Turn anxiety into excitement

It’s easy to take editorial interventions personally. However, when you work well with others, you’re likely to stay more involved. The publisher liked your book enough to buy it, and a bestselling title means more esteem and royalties for you, too. Plus, you sold it to them.

  • Be respectful to your editing team 

The team working on your book includes people like your layout designer and fact-checker. They have a vision of how to make your book succeed. Be receptive and courteous. They’re not trying to hurt your feelings but help you. When you’re tolerant and positive, you’ll sail through all the stages of book production. 

Be your biggest promoter 

Publishing houses handle marketing and sales, but you’re also a promoter. You probably have some familiarity with your genre’s fandoms. Make the most of Instagram, BookTok, blogs, podcasts, and your sizzling personality. If you don’t have many online buddies when you sign the contract, you’re already playing catch-up, so start earlier. For more promotion ideas, contact a marketing specialist.

The homestretch is always ahead

So much goes into your book, even after all the time you spent writing it. Selling it has its own set of challenges, but that’s where perseverance comes in, along with assembling an experienced editing team to help you. 

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