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How to Get Your Book Published By the World’s Top Publishers

How to Get Your Book Published By the World’s Top Publishers

For the past 10 years, I have worked with some of the world’s top publishing houses. I’ve worked as an editor, writer, project manager, and business analyst. I’ve worked on print and digital titles, and on publishing and commercial strategy, and am lucky enough to have worked with the teams behind some of the world’s best-loved authors.

Along the way, I’ve picked up a whole bunch of experience about how to get a book published, and as several people have asked me recently how to find good editors or publishers, or if I could read their manuscript, I thought these notes would be of interest to any aspiring authors out there.

Right now, I’m going to share some insights about how to get your book published by a traditional publishing house, but please bear in mind that that’s just one possibility. Today, there are many options for publishing your work, including self-publishing. I’ll cover those in future posts – watch this space.

1. Write a proposal

For the biggest publishers out there, a proposal is essential to get an editor’s attention. You should write this before you start contacting any editors, as it will be the first thing they ask you for. If you have one ready and waiting, and it looks professional, they’re more likely to take you seriously.

The proposal should be around 10-20 pages, and should say something about you. It should include details of your book concept, a chapter breakdown, perhaps a full chapter or introduction, information on your blog (assuming you have one), your audience, any stats on existing readership, and plans for the future of your brand. It will also be important to include information on how your proposed book compares to other books on the market; how it’s different from what’s out there and what it competes with.

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Even if you’ve already written in its entirety the book you want to publish, you should still create a formal proposal document so that the editor or publisher has a clear overview of what it is you’re aiming to achieve with your book, and why you’ve written it. There’s no harm in submitting the full manuscript if you choose to do so, but you shouldn’t expect a publisher to have time to read every manuscript that crosses their desk. That’s why the proposal document is important.

Big publishers will only be looking to take on authors who have already created a personal ‘brand’ for themselves, and who are on a mission to change the world. The bigger the ambition, the better. Smaller publishers will be looking for niche ideas that follow existing trends or pick up on new ones.

2. Decide whether you need an agent

A lot of big publishers say on their company websites that you need an agent for your manuscript to be considered. I know for a fact that this isn’t always true; I’ve had editors tell me that they actually prefer a personal approach or recommendation from someone in their network. Personal recommendations from inside the company carry a lot of weight, even if people don’t work in the same department.

Having said that, agents are incredibly well-connected in the publishing world and know how to get the attention of publishing houses and negotiate publishing contacts to maximize the benefit to the author. Often, they negotiate hard for things like film rights, which, if you’re a first-time author, although exciting, can be a little scary, and may not be something you’d consider important at that point in time. An agent can help you to stand your ground when you might not realize that something is important. They may also secure a higher fee and royalty with a major publisher. The downside to this is, of course, is that you’ll have to pay them, often a percentage of your earnings. You’ll need to figure out whether you think their input is worth the fee.

3. Research your publishers

Before ever approaching a publisher, make sure you thoroughly understand their ‘list.’ A ‘list’ is the word publishers and editors use to refer to their back catalog, i.e. all the books they publish in a particular category or imprint.

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Make sure you know exactly which publishing house an imprint belongs to. You should be able to find this out through looking at their company website. Look at which books they have on their list.

Think hard about whether or not your book is a good match for a particular imprint. If you’re writing a business book, and the imprint you’re looking at is to do with personal development and spirituality, chances are it won’t be a good match. Similarly, if you notice a book on a publisher’s list that is very similar to the one you are writing, they may decide it’s too similar to go with, or may in fact specialize in that niche area, meaning your title will fit perfectly. Either way, make sure you have made an attempt to understand their publishing strategy before you approach them.

4. Research your contacts

Once you’ve figured out which imprints/publishers your book best fits with, reach out to your network and see if anyone you know has any contacts at all at those companies. It doesn’t matter whether that person works in Technology, Facilities or Management; the fact that they’re in the building is sometimes enough to get you the introduction you need. Ask them for their help, whether it be in contacting an editor, or finding out the process for new authors. You’ll be surprised how much people will want to help.

If you can’t find a contact within the company, try searching on Twitter and LinkedIn for contacts at the company. If you find a relevant contact, ask anyone connected to them who is already in your network for a warm introduction. If you don’t have any direct or indirect connections, write a tailored introduction asking them if they’d be prepared to connect. Make sure you show awareness of their work.

5. Make contact, and be personal

Once you’ve fully researched your publisher and their imprint, and have your proposal ready to send to them, the initial approach you make is important. When sharing your proposal for the first time – whether that be in writing or in conversation – make sure you make the approach as personal, and as tailored for your audience (i.e. your publisher) as possible. I’m not suggesting you stalk them on Facebook and find out the name of their dog, in order to drop it into casual conversation! I mean be aware of who you are talking to and imagine how your approach will appear from their perspective, with all their expertise, prejudice and experience. Editors and publishers will remember you if they believe you have a good understanding of their company and their list, and are more likely to take you seriously.

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6. Hustle

Don’t be afraid to pitch your idea to multiple publishers, or even to different imprints within the same publishing house. Follow the advice above and don’t send out scattergun or unresearched proposals to any editor you can find. The more good approaches to relevant and high quality publishers you make, the better your chances of success.

7. Practice rejection therapy

As we all know, JK Rowling’s Harry Potter manuscript was rejected by numerous publishing houses before it was accepted. And even after she became mega-famous, her manuscript written under the name of R Galbraith was rejected 12 times.

Of course, all of these points are guidelines for how to proceed and no guarantee of success. Even if you’ve written a great book, found a great agent and pitched your awesome proposal to the perfect publisher, and they love the manuscript, it doesn’t mean your book will be published. There are all kinds of things that are out of your – and sometimes even their – control. Here are a few examples:

  • The publisher may have used up all of their budget for the year
  • They may have already reached their commissioning targets
  • The in-house team may not have capacity to take anything else on right now
  • Their priorities may be changing due to a company restructure
  • The publisher may be be overhauling their strategy
  • They may have just signed another author with a very similar title
  • They may be ‘concentrating on their backlist’ this year (you can often understand this as ‘their budget has been cut’)
  • There may be a different team within the same company that is better suited to publishing their manuscript
  • The publisher may simply be too busy to follow up with you properly.

All of these things can mean that publishers miss out on great books, and authors miss out on publishing deals.

So you need to get used to rejection. It isn’t personal, and you mustn’t allow yourself to get disheartened by it. You may very well have a great book on your hands. You just have to keep on looking until you find the best publisher for it.

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The difference between a good book getting published and not getting published is very often dependent on the tenacity of the author.

Be tenacious.

Featured photo credit: https://pixabay.com via pixabay.com

More by this author

Claire Ransom

Founder of Wizzbox, Freelance Writer and Editor

How to Get Your Book Published By the World’s Top Publishers

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

More About Goals Setting

Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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