So, you want to write a book.
I’ve had five books published.
I feel so blessed to have been given the opportunity to have these books published. I am so grateful that God opened up this avenue of ministry for me and I’m always eager to help other writers who long to be published. I’ve learned so much in the past three years of this journey.
That’s why the following statistics from Dan Poynter on www.parapub.com caught my attention. Here are some cold hard facts:
81% of the population feels they have a book inside them.
- 27% would write fiction
- 28% would write on personal development
- 27% would write history, biography, etc.
- 20% would do a picture book, cookbook, etc.
- 6 million have written a manuscript
- 6 million manuscripts are making the rounds
- Out of every 10,000 children’s books, 3 get published.
Since the moment I did my first book-signing I’ve met countless people who dream of one day writing a book and having it published. I always try to be as encouraging and helpful as possible. I wouldn’t be a published author if not for the help and encouragement of a couple of my friends who were already published authors. But the reality is (based on how few books actually get published each year) that very few of those people I speak with will actually write a book and even fewer will have a book published, which I think is an absolute shame because so many of the people with whom I’ve spoken over the past few years have great book ideas.
So, I thought I’d write down some random thoughts, ideas, advice, guidance, and wisdom that I think is important to consider if you are considering publishing a book.
1. Write . . . like the wind! Practice makes perfect. If you want to be a good writer then you have to practice writing. Start a blog, submit articles to magazines, journals, newspapers, Reader’s Digest, or your church newsletter. Max Lucado’s first book,On the Anvil, was a collection of articles he wrote for his church newsletter. Seek out opportunities to get published, start writing a book proposal (I’ll give you more advice on this in the coming days), start writing a manuscript–it may not be any good, but that’s o.k. At least you’re writing. I couldn’t hit the rim the first time I picked up a basketball, but now I can shoot pretty well.
2. Get Used to Rejection. Just because you want to write (and practice) does not guarantee that you’re a good writer and even if you’re a good writer . . . you will be rejected many times in your career. Every author I’ve ever met, or read about, has been rejected many, many times. One of my best friends was rejected for 18 years, but he refused to quit and he is now on his 5th or 6th book with a major publisher, which leads me to my last bit of advice for today . . .
3. Don’t quit. If you are serious about writing, if you have something to say, and if you have even basic writing talent . . . don’t quit until you get something published somewhere. Even if you have to self-publish (I’ll cover this, too.) don’t quit until you’ve done all you can do to fulfill your writing goals. You may not ever write a best-seller, but, if you refuse to quit, you may write a book, a story, or even an article for your church newsletter that blesses someone somewhere.
4. Prepare a Proposal–A proposal is a marketing plan for your book which includes your biographical information, a market analysis, target audience, detailed table of contents, and at least one sample chapter. I write non-fiction and–from what I’ve experienced and been told–with non-fiction books the publishers don’t want to see the entire book. They most likely won’t read it. What they want to see is that you have something to say, that you can say it well, that it hasn’t already been said, and that there is a market (either intrinsic based on your profession or one that exists already) for your book.
Publishers don’t want to spend a lot of money marketing books; they want to produce books and collect money. They have limited resources and a lot of books to market so publishers have to spend marketing money carefully. Like throwing spaghetti at a wall . . . if a book finds a market then they will invest more money into marketing that book. If a book finds no market then they must move on to the next project. My first publisher puts out over 150 books a year. I was told that they spend $5,000-$10,000 on each book with a basic marketing plan, but only books that find an audience (i.e. sell) get more funds.
A well-written proposal by an author who has an existing (or potentially large) audience is what acquisitions editors are looking for.
Your proposal is your best–and probably only–shot to get the attention of an acquisitions editor. The following links will take you to examples of proposals. You’d be safe using these as templates for your proposal.
From Alive Communications–http://alivecom.com/queryguidelines.asp
This webpage has sample Fiction and Non-Fiction proposals.
For almost 20 years, Alive Communications has served a select group of authors who represent the best of the best.
From O’Reilly Media–http://oreilly.com/oreilly/author/ch02.html
O’Reilly Media was originally a technical writing consulting company named O’Reilly & Associates. In 1984, we started retaining rights to manuals we created for Unix vendors. Our books were grounded in our hands-on experience with the technology, and we wrote them in a straightforward, conversational voice. We weren’t afraid to say in print that a vendor’s technology didn’t work as advertised. While our publishing program has expanded to include everything from digital photography to desktop applications to software engineering, those early principles still guide our editorial approach.
Most reputable publishers rarely receive or read unsolicited proposals and most legitimate publishers will only receive proposals from literary agents.
This excerpt is from Thomas Nelson’s Website (note that it directs authors to a great marketing book):
Q: How do I submit my manuscript?
A: Thomas Nelson, Inc. and its publishing groups no longer accept or review any unsolicited queries, proposals, or manuscripts. If you are interested in having your stories published by another Christian publisher, we recommend a book called The Christian Writer’s Market Guide by Sally E. Stuart. This book includes writer’s guidelines and submission procedures for all Christian publishing houses that do accept unsolicited manuscripts. You may be interested in having someone read and review your work. The Editorial Services section of Literary Market Place (LMP), published by R.R. Bowker, New Providence, New Jersey, lists over 500 entries, many of which provide some kind of critique service.
The Ministry Services division of Thomas Nelson Publishers offers aspiring Christian authors publishing services including editorial support, cover and interior page design, packaging, and manufacturing. Retail distribution may also be offered. To learn more, please contact Randy Elliott, Vice President of Ministry Services.
5. Read Books on Writing and Marketing Books–The book that Thomas Nelson mentions (The Christian Writer’s Market Guide) is a must-read for any Christian writer who is serious about getting published.
This is a great resource: How to Write a Winning Book Proposal
By Michael S. Hyatt, President and Chief Executive Officer of Thomas Nelson, Inc. Michael S. Hyatt was installed as the new chief executive officer of Thomas Nelson in August 2005. He began his publishing career at Word Publishing while a student at Baylor University. He started his own publishing company, Wolgemuth & Hyatt, with his partner Robert Wolgemuth in 1986. The company was eventually acquired by Word in 1992. Hyatt was a successful literary agent from 1992 until early 1998. He is also the author of four books, one of which landed on the New York Times bestseller list where it stayed for seven months.
6. Don’t work with a publisher or an agent who expects to be paid in advance of a signed book contract–
I did a Google search for “We’ll publish your book.” Here was one of the first websites that came up: Want to Publish a Book? Publish for $395 in 4 – 6 weeks!
Don’t pay a single $1 until all of your other options are gone and then only spend your money with a legitimate company who will help you self-publish your book. Self-publishing is a great option for first-time authors who are “unknowns.”
I’ve written three books and I’ve not paid a dime out of my pockets to get those books published. I have an agent (I’ll discuss that in Part 3) and she gets paid when I get paid (actually before I get paid). My publisher sends my checks to my agent, the agency takes its percentage (for representing me), and the agency pays me the rest.
I’ve heard countless horror stories of authors who paid hundreds of dollars to some internet company who promised to post their book ideas so that acquisitions editors could find them and read them. Trust me . . .acquisitions editors at reputable publishers are not surfing the net looking for book proposals. They throw away–or delete without reading–hundreds of unsolicited book proposals each week.
The rule of thumb is: If you have to pay for it (getting published)–and you’re not self-publishing with a reputable company–then it’s not the real deal.