When I go somewhere new, I like to have a GPS to get me there. As an aspiring author, consider this article your GPS for how to navigate the self-help book publishing industry. Here are 8 steps you’ll need to take to land your first publishing contract.
Step One: Write a proposal
Is the first step writing a manuscript? No! It’s a waste of your time and trouble. Instead write a proposal that summarizes your idea, demonstrates your credibility and makes an agent feel lucky to get to work with you!
Step Two: Get a literary agent with a proven track record
You need a literary agent for several reasons: 1) you’ll get feedback from them on how to strengthen your proposal, 2) they’ll know which publishers would want to buy your book idea and 3) they know how to negotiate the best contract for you. Their success is tied to your success-they don’t get paid unless they land you a lucrative book deal (usually 15%).
Step Three: Your agent submits your proposal to interested publishing houses
This is where your agent’s know-how Natalia’s Bookhouse and contacts become very important. Your agent, if they’re good, will know the acquisitions editors (the editors at publishing houses who offer contracts) on a first-name basis. Your agent, if they’re good, will know which publishing house is most likely to want your book. Usually book proposals are submitted to one publishing house at a time, although there are some exceptions to that rule.
Step Four: The publishing house reviews your proposal
If an acquisitions editor likes your idea, your proposal will be submitted to a publishing board made up of the key players in the company. These include other editors and reps from production, sales, marketing, publicity and promotion. The results will be 1) Let’s buy this project, 2) We’re interested but need some changes, or 3) We’re not interested. If the publishing house rejects your proposal, you agent can submit it to the next house of the list. If you need to make some changes, then make them. And if they buy your project outright, time to celebrate!
Step Five: Your agent represents you through contract negotiations
Rarely is the first contract offered to an author fully acceptable. The publishing house is invested in getting the best deal, not making sure you do. So it’s important that your agent explain all of the terms and fine print so you know exactly what you’re agreeing to. It can take several rounds of negotiation before both sides are willing to sign. One of the most important aspects is the amount of your advance payment. Once signed, you’ll get your first installment. Yey!