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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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Published on May 20, 2019

How to Prevent Inaction from Leading to Regret

How to Prevent Inaction from Leading to Regret

Time.

When you think of this construct, where do you see your time being spent?

As William Shakespeare famously wrote “I wasted time, and now doth time waste me…”

Have you used your time wisely? Are you where you want to be?

Or do you have unfinished goals to attain… places you want to be, things you still need to do?

The hard truth is, that time once passed cannot be replaced–which is why it is common to hear people say that one should not squander time doing nothing, or delay certain decisions for later. More often than not, the biggest blocker from reaching our goals is often inaction – which is essentially doing nothing, rather than doing something. 

There are many reasons why we may not do something. Most often it boils down to adequate time. We may feel we don’t have enough time, or that it’s never quite the right time to pursue our goals.

Maybe next month, or maybe next year…

And, before you know it, the time has passed and you’re still no where near achieving those goals you dream about. This inaction often leads to strong regret once we look at the situation through hindsight. So, take some time now to reflect on any goal(s) you may have in mind, or hidden at the back of your mind; and, think about how you can truly start working on them now, and not later.

So, how do you start?

Figure Out Your Purpose (Your Main Goal)


The first important step is to figure out your purpose, or your main goal.

What is it that you’re after in life? And, are there any barriers preventing you from reaching your goal? These are good questions to ask when it comes to figuring out how (and for what purpose) you are spending your time.

Your purpose will guide you, and it will ensure your time spent is within the bounds of what you actually want to accomplish.

A good amount of research has been done on how we as humans develop and embrace long-term and highly meaningful goals in our lives. So much so, that having a purpose has connections to reduced stroke, and heart attack. It turns out, our desire to accomplish goals actually has an evolutionary connection–especially goals with a greater purpose to them. This is because a greater purpose often helps both the individual, and our species as a whole, survive.

Knowing why it is you’re doing something is important; and, when you do, it will be easier to budget your time and effort into pursuing after those milestones or tasks that will lead to the accomplishment of your main goal.

Assess Your Current Time Spent

Next comes the actual time usage. Once you know what your main goal is, you’ll want to make the most of the time you have now. It’s good to know how you’re currently spending your time, so that you can start making improvements and easily assess what can stay and what can go in your day to day routine.

For just one day, ideally on a day when you’d like to be more productive, I encourage you to record a time journal, down to the quarter hour if you can manage. You may be quite surprised at how little things—such as checking social media, answering emails that could wait, or idling at the water cooler or office pantry —can add up to a lot of wasted time.

To get you started, I recommend you check out this quick self assessment to assess your current productivity: Want To Know How Much You’re Getting Done In A Day?

Tricks to Tackle Distractions

Once you’ve assessed how you’re currently spending your time, I hope you won’t be in for too big of a shock when you see just how big of an impact distractions and time wasters are in your life.

Every time your mind wanders from your work, it takes an average of 25 minutes and 26 seconds to get into focus again. That’s almost half an hour of precious time every time you entertain a distraction!

Which is why it’s important to learn how to focus, and tackle distractions effectively. Here’s how to do it:

1. Set Time Aside for Focusing

One way to stay focused is to set focused sessions for yourself. During a focused session, you should let people know that you won’t be responding unless it’s a real emergency.

Set your messaging apps and shared calendars as “busy” to reduce interruptions. Think of these sessions as one on one time with yourself so that you can truly focus on what’s important, without external distractions coming your way.

2. Beware of Emails

Emails may sound harmless, but they can come into our inbox continuously throughout the day, and it’s tempting to respond to them as we receive them. Especially if you’re one to check your notifications frequently.

Instead of checking them every time a new notification sounds, set a specific time to deal with your emails at one go. This will no doubt increase your productivity as you’re dealing with emails one after the other, rather than interrupting your focus on another project each time an email comes in.

Besides switching off your email notifications so as not to get distracted, you could also install a Chrome extension called Block Site that helps to stop Gmail notifications coming through at specific times, making it easier for you to manage these subtle daily distractions.

3. Let Technology Help

As much as we are getting increasingly distracted because of technology, we can’t deny it’s many advantages. So instead of feeling controlled by technology, why not make use of disabling options that the devices offer?

Turn off email alerts, app notifications, or set your phone to go straight to voicemail and even create auto-responses to incoming text messages. There are also apps like Forrest that help to increase your productivity by rewarding you each time you focus well, which encourages you to ignore your phone.

4. Schedule Time to Get Distracted

Just as important as scheduling focus time, is scheduling break times. Balance is always key, so when you start scheduling focused sessions, you should also intentionally pen down some break time slots for your mind to relax.

This is because the brain isn’t created to sustain long periods of focus and concentration. The average attention span for an adult is between 15 and 40 minutes. After this time, your likelihood of distractions get stronger and you’ll become less motivated.

So while taking a mental break might seem unproductive, in the long run it makes your brain work more efficiently, and you’ll end up getting more work done overall.

Time is in Your Hands

At the end of the day, we all have a certain amount of time to go all out to pursue our heart’s desires. Whatever your goals are, the time you have now, is in your hands to make them come true.

You simply need to start somewhere, instead of allowing inaction waste your time away, leaving you with regret later on. With a main goal or purpose in mind, you can be on the right track to attaining your desired outcomes.

Being aware of how you spend your time and learning how to tackle common distractions can help boost you forward in completing what’s necessary to reach your most desired goals.

So what are you waiting for? 

Featured photo credit: Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash via unsplash.com

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