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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 13, 2020

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed and exhausted.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm; leaving you calmer, in control and a lot less stressed.

1. Write Everything down to Offload Your Mind

The first thing you can do when you begin to feel overwhelmed is to write everything down that is on your mind.

Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s on your mind.

For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind”.

The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will begin the process of removing your feeling of overwhelm. Writing things down can really change your life.

2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

Once you have ‘emptied your head,’ go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. Here’s How to Cultivate a More Meaningful To Do List.

3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

Now here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and us humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take:((Odhable: Genesis of Parkinson’s Law))

    This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad but they stick to the belief it will only take thirty minutes. It’s more wishful thinking than good judgment.

    We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage. If you have estimated that to write five emails that desperately need a reply to be ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

    Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is you put yourself under a little time pressure and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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    When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time and so it plays tricks on us and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our colleagues to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

    Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening and we get more focused and more work done.

    4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

    Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos. Go through your to-dos and schedule time on your calendar for doing those tasks. Group tasks up into similar tasks.

    For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

    Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

    5. Make Decisions

    For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

    If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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    If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss, a colleague and get advice.

    Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. You need to make a decision to deal with it and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved. (You can take a look at this guide on How To Make Good Decisions All The Time.)

    I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend of mine of the problem. He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I paid a smaller amount for a couple of months.

    This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

    The first, don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second, there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

    6. Take Some Form of Action

    Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we feel overwhelmed (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

    The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

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    It also means rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible and you can make decisions easier about what to do about them. Often it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be you see you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

    Overwhelm is not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work, it can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

    The Bottom Line

    Make a decision, even if it is to just talk to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something on its own will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution one way or another.

    When you follow these strategies to can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

    More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

    Featured photo credit: Andrei Lazarev via unsplash.com

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