Getting a publishing deal can seem like an impossible dream, but it’s not out of reach for experienced writers. The demand for books is constant, and publishers need talented authors to keep their presses rolling. Even with thousands of books being published every year, there are many ways to make your work stand out and get the attention of publishers and literary agents. This post can help you know the essentials of how to get a publishing deal and help you make your author’s dreams come true.
10 Steps to getting a publishing deal
Getting a publishing deal is not as hard as it seems. With some planning and strategy, you can be on the path to becoming a published author. It all starts with believing that you have a book in you worth sharing. Here are the steps on how to get a publishing deal.
1. Write a stellar book
The first step of how to get publishing deals is to write a book. If you don’t have a book, you can’t get publishing deals. So before you go chasing agents and publishers, step away from the computer and start writing.
It’s probably best to choose a topic that interests you and then consider who might be interested in reading about it.
Research the market (by asking your friends and family, reading popular blogs in that field, and looking at bookstores or online reviews), and find out what books are already there.
Your goal is to create something new and exciting as well as helpful. If there’s an existing book covering the same topic, figure out how yours will be different. If no one out there does what you want to do, think about why not!
What would make your book stand out? Once you’ve got some ideas percolating, start writing. You’ll probably go through several drafts, editing as you go along until the project feels complete.
Whether this takes months or years is up to you, but you’re ready for the next step once it’s done.
2. Research publishers
After completing your manuscript, your next step how in getting a publishing deal is to find a publisher. You have several options here:
- You can target a large publishing house, which will probably have an established book marketing and publicity department and many first time authors competing for attention.
- Also, you can choose a small, independent press specializing in books like yours.
- You can even self-publish.
You’ll want to research the different publishers’ lists to see who they’ve published in the past, what those books are like, and how well they sell.
A big-name publishing company with a bestseller list is fantastic, but if they’re not publishing books like yours—or if they’ve had better luck with other genres—you might want to look elsewhere.
Smaller presses may be more likely to publish experimental work or first-time writers, but they may lack the marketing resources of a larger house.
They also have smaller lists and thus less money to go around in their budget for each book. If you’re happy with smaller book sales but care about making the best book possible, this could be the ideal fit.
3. Create a platform
The third essential of how to get a traditional publishing deal is a platform.
One of the biggest things you can do to increase your marketability as an author is to create a platform. A platform is your existing audience.
It means you already have built-in people who know, like, and trust you enough to buy your book when released.
Think about it. If you were an editor at a publishing company, wouldn’t you be more likely to take a chance on a new author if they already had an audience?
Of course! That’s why it’s so important that you build a platform well before you ever begin querying literary agents or publishing houses.
How do you build an author platform? There are many ways.
You can write guest posts for other blogs in your niche, build up a social media presence, speak at events, write articles for trade publications, and even get published in smaller magazines.
Some authors will build their platforms through blogging or vlogging.
Others will get noticed for their expertise in other areas. Whatever method works for you, building up your author platform will help boost your chances of getting published.
4. Get an agent
If you want to publish a book, you need an agent. This is the first step in your journey to getting publishing deals. You may think that you can do it yourself—and you can, but it’s not recommended.
Most publishers won’t even look at a manuscript unless it’s coming through an agent. Is having a literary agent a necessary step of how to getting a publishing deal?
A literary agent will be able to help you with the entire process, from editing and formatting your manuscript to negotiating your contract and royalties. If any issues with your work or all the details need to be worked out, they’ll get it done.
They will also be able to advise you on how to improve your manuscript and make sure that it’s as good as possible before sending it off for publication.
Agents know what publishers are looking for—and which ones might like the kind of books you’re writing—so they can send your work to the right places, increasing your chances of getting published quickly and successfully.
5. Draft your book proposal
Another crucial step in getting publishing deals is writing a great book proposal.
A proposal is a blueprint for the book, a document that makes a case for why your book should be published and why you’re the right person to write it. It’s also a contract between you and your editor, agreeing on what you will and won’t deliver.
If you successfully pitch your new book idea, you’ll receive a contract based on your proposal.
And if you keep your end of the deal by writing what you said you would write, there’s no reason they won’t keep their end of the publishing deals by printing it.
Most publishing companies require nonfiction book proposals to include three chapters or twenty-five pages of sample content, while some literary agents prefer that they contain only one chapter.
For fiction, most agents and professional editors want to read the whole manuscript.
However, you’ll save yourself time if you make a decision early on about whether you’d rather have the whole manuscript ready before submitting to any potential agents or whether you’d instead stick with just the book proposal and submit it to several agents at once with hopes of getting a quicker response.
6. Write a powerful query letter
When you’re ready to submit your novel to a literary agent or publishing house, one of the most important parts of your book proposal is your query letter—the concise and attention grabbing description you send along with your manuscript.
Though it may seem like a small detail, this letter is a vital part of your package because it gives an editor a sense of who you are and what kind of hard work you do.
You want to make sure to send your submission to the right place, so start by looking at books similar in style and subject matter to see which publishing houses and agents worked on those projects.
Once you’ve got a list ready, it’s time to look into the people who work there. This step of how to get publishing deals can help you customize your letter.
You want to personalize each submission to stand out from the crowd, so be sure that you’re genuinely interested in the person who will be reading your letter.
All writing should be as clean as possible, especially when submitting something for publication. Sloppy writing reflects poorly on you as a writer, and it may be enough to make an editor turn away without even reading further.
7. Send the proposal to potential publishers
What’s the next step of how to get a publishing deal? Once you have your proposal ready, it’s time to send it out. This is where your research comes in handy.
The agents and publishing companies on your list will have all the information you need to know about getting in touch with them. If a publisher/literary agent requests that you send a query letter first, follow their instructions exactly.
If not, follow the submission guidelines found on their website or in their writers’ guidelines. For example, some agents and traditional publishers prefer to receive proposals via email, while others request that they be sent via post.
Do not submit your proposal until you have all the information to do so correctly. You don’t want to risk being rejected because you didn’t follow their guidelines!
One thing you should keep in mind before sending out your proposal is that many agents and publishing companies are very picky about what they accept.
They may also take a long time to get back to you. As such, it would be a good book idea to continue researching other agents and publishing companies and working on other aspects of your book while waiting for responses from those on your initial list.
8. Prepare for rejection
Nobody likes rejection. But when you’re trying to get a publishing deal, you must learn to deal with it. You’ll be getting “no” s a lot. Most people’s first response is “no.” That’s just how the industry works.
There are many rules and requirements involved in making a book happen, and two different people might have very different ideas about achieving those goals.
So it’s essential to accept this inevitability and keep your cool. Getting defensive or snippy with an editor or publishing company will be bad for your future collaboration.
And if you don’t know how to take rejection, knowing how to get a publishing deal will only go to waste!
This goes double if you want to self-publish your book.
You’ll have to make many decisions on your own, and you’ll need the confidence that comes from knowing that even if one thing doesn’t work out, another option will always be waiting for you.
9. Sign the contract
You’ll be presented with a contract when you’ve finally signed a deal. This can be an intimidating and complicated document, but you must read it carefully before putting your signature on the dotted line.
You don’t have to understand every last detail, but as long as you have a general sense of what the contract covers and obligates you to do, you’ll be ready to sign.
Make sure that the terms are clearly set out in ways you can understand. A literary agent is typically on hand to help shepherd the process and clarify any questions for you. They want you to feel comfortable and confident about the deal before signing.
And if any terms concern you, or if there’s some part of your book idea that might become a problem down the road, now is the time to bring up those concerns with your agent before inking the deal.
Once all parties have read through and signed the contract, your book project will officially move into development! Finishing this step brings you closer to the end of how to get a publishing deal.
10. Keep writing and revising after getting a publisher
The first thing to remember is that you’ll still need to do a lot of work after getting a publisher. You’ll have to go through multiple rounds of editing and revisions before your manuscript is ready for publication.
It’s normal for the revisions to be somewhat painful, so make sure you know what to expect in advance.
That way, you’ll have an idea of whether the charges are reasonable or if they’re going too far. If they are, talk to your editor and see if there’s room to compromise on certain points.
However, it’s also important to keep in mind that the person who will ultimately decide what changes should be made is not only the editor.
This last step of how to get a publishing deal also involves the publisher, who is also responsible for selling books. Remember that both parties want your book to be as successful as possible and will do everything to make sure it does well in the marketplace.
Five common publishing mistakes
Deciding to pursue publication is one of the most gratifying and exciting experiences a writer can have, but it can also be equally nerve-wracking.
Even if you’ve written some of the best work you’ve ever produced, you’re still bound to make some mistakes, even after a publishing company has acquired your book. Here are some of the most common errors authors make when first learning how to get a publishing deal.
1. Trying to sell an unsellable book
If you’re an aspiring author, it’s natural to want to sell your own book. But not everything is sellable. A story that hasn’t been written well and won’t sell has the same chances of success as selling a novel in a foreign language. It’s not just about the writing.
You have to be realistic about how you present your work. If you go into the struggle of trying to traditionally publish a story that isn’t going anywhere, you’ll lose money instead of making it.
2. Not identifying your target audience
When writing your book, it’s easy to get carried away with the topic and take for granted that the reader knows what you’re talking about.
But if you haven’t identified your target audience already, or if you’re not sticking to a specific group of readers that your book will appeal to, you can’t assume they’ll be able to follow along.
When you self-publish, you have more control over your product and its distribution. You also have more responsibilities. It includes the responsibility to market your book to the right audience.
If you don’t know who will read your book, you might as well not write it at all. Before you start publishing, take the time to figure out who you’re writing for.
Do some research on your target audience to find out what they are interested in, where they hang out online, and what types of books they like to read.
Find other authors who write for the same audience and see how they market their books. When your book is finished, you can make sure it reaches the right people.
3. Submitting to publishers without research
Sending your manuscript to any publishers without knowing their specific interests and requirements is a surefire way to lose credibility. If the publishing company you’re submitting to doesn’t have the resources to release your work, it’s not worth their time to read through your submission.
Even worse, if you submit your work without following the guidelines specific to that publisher, they might not even consider it.
Don’t send reams of paper unnecessarily or skip required parts of the submission process. Take the time to familiarize yourself with each publisher’s process and follow it exactly.
It might be tempting to save some time by sending out mass submissions, but it will show the quality of your overall product.
Take the time to tailor each submission for its intended recipient, and you’ll have a much better chance of getting noticed.
4. Not seeking others’ help
One of the most common mistakes most people make when publishing is the tendency to work on their projects in isolation. Friends and family are great resources to have along the way.
If you can enlist a friend or two to read over your manuscript, they may be able to catch mistakes that you may not have seen before.
It’s also helpful to get feedback from others who aren’t familiar with the content of your book because if something isn’t clear, it won’t be clear to your beta readers either.
A fresh set of eyes can help you see what needs to be clarified or explained more clearly.
5. Not following submission guidelines
Many publishers have submission guidelines that they provide to nonfiction and fiction writers. These are generally designed to provide you with the best chance of having your work accepted by the publication.
However, some writers don’t take the time to read and follow those guidelines, which can harm their chances of having their book published.
It’s important to read and follow all submission guidelines for any publishing company you’d like to work with.
When you don’t follow submission guidelines, you’re showing the publishing company that you’re probably not a good fit for their publication.
Not following submission guidelines is one of the easiest ways to get your pitch rejected before anyone reads it!
Frequently asked questions
Here are the answers to some of your questions on how to get a publishing deal.
What’s a good publishing deal?
Most publishing companies pay authors an advance on royalties, which means they pay a set amount before the book is even released. The size of the advance depends on many factors, including the publishing company and the author’s track record. Here are some typical advance amounts:
|A new author with no track record:||$1,000-$5,000|
|A new author with a platform (i.e., a large social media following):||$5,000-$10,000|
|Established authors with multiple books under their belt:||$10,000-$50,000+|
What are the advantages of traditional publishing?
Traditional publishing is when a publishing company offers an author a contract for a percentage of the profits from book sales.
The publishing company pays the author an advance on those profits, usually a few thousand dollars, and then they cover the costs of editing, book marketing, and distributing the book.
There is no single path to traditional publishing. Some writers start independent publishing, while others go straight to traditional publishing. But traditional publishing has many advantages that make it an attractive option for writers.
|#1||Traditional publishing still offers the best marketing power.|
|#2||It’s easier to get into stores with a traditional publisher.|
|#3||A traditional publishing contract gives you an advance.|
|#4||Traditional publishers pay for editing, cover design, formatting, and book trailers if they do that sort of thing.|
What are the advantages of self-publishing?
Self-publishing is the act of publishing a book on one’s own without the involvement of an established third-party publisher.
The rise of digital technology and online self-publishing platforms has made it possible for anyone to traditionally publish their work.
This ability has brought about a new wave of authors in the literary world. While not every self-published author is successful, it does offer some advantages over traditional publishing.
|#1||You get to decide when your own book comes out.|
|#2||You can self-publish multiple books a year.|
|#3||You get to keep more of your royalties.|
|#4||You have control over your book’s cover design, typesetting, and editing.|
So there you have it: everything you need to know about how to get a publishing deal. Good luck, and don’t get discouraged. Landing publishing deals is about finding that perfect combination of perseverance and patience. If you keep at it and make the right connections, you’ll eventually find the right publishing company for your book.