Many people ask for advice in publishing their book(s), and often want me — or anyone they can find in publishing — to read through their work and offer advice, all of which takes valuable time. With the many responsibilities that those of us in publishing have, this, regrettably, is not usually possible. So, with this in mind, I’ve written a short article of publishing advice and ideas for self-help, non-fiction books on the topic of building a platform and finding an agent, and some thoughts about self-publishing and e-publishing. (I don’t have experience with fiction, poetry, or children’s book publishing). Even though this blog is dedicated to the spiritual and prosperity principles I teach, I thought I’d share the article here to help those who are thinking of writing a book.
Some Advice on Getting Published
Since I’m not able to give specific comments and editorial feedback on projects not acquired by our company, or not submitted to our company by an established literary agent, I’ve outlined a couple main suggestions that I believe will be beneficial to most writers, especially those who write non-fiction.
(NOTE: I don’t have any experience in fiction, poetry or children’s books, so I don’t have any specific advice in those areas.)
LITERARY AGENT –
I believe that finding a literary agent is vital for most writers who wish to be published. I recommend this to nearly every person who contacts me, and have taken this advice myself. Most medium- to large-sized publishers accept proposals and projects mainly through established literary agents, including ours.
Agents can offer specific advice, explain the publishing process, brainstorm ideas and career moves, contact targeted editors on your behalf, negotiate book deals and favorable contracts, run interference with publishing companies, and many other functions that are key to an author’s success.
Because we work with so many different agents, I need to refrain over recommending specific ones over others. With that in mind, there are several good ways to finding agents who work in the field that you are writing.
First, you can use the very helpful database of agents who are represented by the Association of Author’s Representatives (AAR) at their website, which is www.aaronline.org (and specifically their key word database at: www.aaronline.org/DirLit).
Secondly, there are several good books that list literary agents, their contact information, and genres they represent. Two excellent books are:
- 2011 Guide to Literary Agentsby Chuck Sambuchino (Writer’s Digest, 2010)
- Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents 2011, 21E: Who They Are! What They Want! How to Win Them Over!by Jeff Herman (Sourcebooks, 2010)
Both of the above are updated yearly, and both are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders, at other retail accounts, or at many libraries. There are other good books on the same subject as well.
A third way that a number of authors I know have found agents is to look in the acknowledgements sections of books in the same category as what you are writing. Often authors will thank their agents in the acknowledgements, and once you find some names in books in the same genre as yours, you can look up their contact information online.
You can send them a query letter, which is a letter that gives a brief overview of your project and who you are. You can also send them sample writing, a longer bio, etc. (Both of the above books have excellent sections on what to send, and what not to send – and also how best to contact the agents). Send your work out to as many agents as you can find – there are literally hundreds (or even thousands) of them. Don’t be discouraged if it takes awhile – anything worthwhile is worth persistence.
(Note, you generally don’t need an agent if you are self-publishing or e-publishing your book. See comments about self-publishing and e-publishing below).
Publishers, agents, and media all look for the same thing in an author: their platform. “Platform” means the community that you speak to directly and have influence in.
Publishers do not create platforms for authors, rather, publishers look for authors who already have a platform. The larger your platform, the more an agent (and then publisher) will be interested in your work.
Some examples of a successful, non-fiction author’s platform might include some or all of the following:
- Speaking Schedule – at least 20-40 speaking engagements a year. The more speaking engagements (with as many different venues or different organizations), the larger your platform.
- Organization Involvement – leadership in a large organization. This means being the CEO or a large nationwide company, or senior minister/founder of a spiritual organization, or heading up a large non-profit charity, etc. The larger the organization, the larger your platform.
- Email addresses – email addresses that are on your specific email list. In this day and age, it is important for authors to have their own email list and send out a consistent e-newsletter or other e-materials. As an example, we typically look for authors who have email address lists (of their own) that run in the tens of thousands. The more email addresses you have, the larger your platform.
- Other Published Works– this includes newspaper/magazine columns, articles by you – or about you – in newspapers or magazines, etc. It could also include e-articles by or about you, from established internet websites. The more articles, the larger your platform.
- Website – an active website maintained by the author or his/her organization. Website traffic can be an indication of an author’s platform – the more “hits” on your website, the larger your platform.
These are just some ways to quantify an author’s platform. Publishers and accounts all ask for reliable data to help publicize and sell a book, so I cannot stress strongly enough how important it is to have a large and growing platform. The more time you devote to enlarging your platform, the more an agent or a publisher will be interested in your work.
These are two important things for every non-fiction writer to consider when wanting to get published, and they are recognized industry-wide as being two of the best “next steps” for authors to pursue.
One final note: Self-publishing and e-publishing are excellent ways to begin your own publishing journey.
For self-publishing, do an internet search for self-publishing websites. There are many self-publishing websites — check out several of them to find the one that best suits your needs and budget (and make sure to read the fine print before signing up!). Unless you have an established audience, it’s probably best to do a print-on-demand type self-publishing — this is where they will print copies based on demand, rather than the author having to buy a large quantity (that more often than not sits in a garage or spare room). Self-publishing a book can help you to increase your platform – having a book is often helpful in setting up speaking engagements, and can also be helpful in getting interest from an agent.
For e-publishing, do an internet search for established e-publishers. It might be worth checking out both Amazon and Barnes & Nobles websites to check out their e-publishing programs (they both have them). These are effective ways to get your book available quickly, easily, and begin to generate income for you.
Good luck on your publishing journey!