What Authors Need to Know Before Approaching Publishers

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Landing a publishing deal requires more than a good book. A publishing house is a business, and it needs to know that investing in you is a wise business decision. With only the bottom line on its mind, it doesn’t care about how much work you put into your manuscript, how well written it is if it’s not marketable, or how important your message is if it doesn’t rake in the cash.

While the harsh reality of the publishing industry can daunt a new author, you can empower yourself by learning as much as you can. To help you navigate the publishing process, we’ve listed some lesser-known factors publishers consider when assessing a book. This information can help you approach publishers with a clearly defined plan.

Don’t know how to reach out to publishers or literary agents? Get our query letter package—not only will we write your query letter and book synopsis, but we’ll also provide you with a targeted list of agents and publishers. 

Before approaching a publisher…

1. Understand the landscape

Do thorough research on your genre and audience. How many people are buying books like yours, and who are they? Publishers need to know there’s a market for your book and who they should market it to. If your subgenre is popular, make sure you know the sales numbers and comp titles. Prove you’re knowledgeable about the trends and know where you can insert fresh ideas. That’s the sweet spot for publishers—a unique idea firmly situated in the stable landscape of a popular genre.

2. Have an author platform

If you understand the publishing landscape in your genre and what your audience wants, you can build a successful platform as an author. Develop a recognizable brand using what you know about your genre and audience and adding your authentic personality to the mix. You’ll need to prove to a publisher that you can coax readers into buying your book, so present concrete evidence of your following. What kind of engagement do you get on social media? How much traffic does your website see? How many people subscribe to your newsletter?

Yes, this means it’s on you to build an initial fan base, and you have to get started on it long before you submit your query letter to a publisher. The reality of today’s publishing industry is that the author is responsible for most of the marketing, even if they land a publishing deal. Of course, if you don’t have any marketing experience and are intimidated, you can always consult a professional to come up with an effective strategy.

If you’ve self-published a book previously, report the sales numbers. Publishers want any indication that your work will sell. If you’ve self-published multiple books, even better—you have more data to present. This also shows publishers you’re committed to writing books and have numerous ideas, which means if they work with you, they can likely count on more titles in the future.

If you haven’t published anything yet, make sure you have a manuscript or a sample section to prove you can indeed write. While it’s certainly easier to land a publishing deal if you’ve already self-published, it’s far from impossible to get signed if you have no book titles to your name.

3. Understand book marketing

With a decent author platform, you should be able to create a solid marketing plan for your book. Take the time to map out the steps you’ll take to promote your work. Have a timeline for promotional activities such as teasers, newsletters, giveaways, and interviews. Unfortunately, publishers don’t allocate much marketing money for authors publishing with them for the first time, so you’ll need to do a lot—in fact, most—of your own promotion. Publishers want to know you’re up to the task, so come prepared with a plan. If marketing isn’t your strong suit, outsource the task to professionals. Check out our marketing package for help promoting your book.

Preparation begets publication

Landing a book deal isn’t as simple as sending off a query letter to a publisher, wowing it with your brilliant manuscript, and signing over your masterpiece to it for distribution. You need to show that your book will pad the publisher’s bottom line. Build an author platform, do your market research, and prove that you can write. Take some time to create a business plan so that once you’re at the querying stage, you can approach publishers with confidence. You may have to push back your publishing timeline to prepare adequately, but it’ll all be worth it when you bag a deal with a great publisher.

Don’t forget that we can build a querying package for you. Hire us to write a query letter and everything else you need to land a publisher!

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