A friend who is in the process of writing a non-fiction book asked me what it takes to get published. I thought I’d share what I told her. Call it another data point for anyone in the hunt for working with a publisher. I also think most of this applies to self-publishing as well.
1. Join and attend your local writers’ association. This is a great place for networking with other writers, attending workshops and gathering the shared wisdom of your colleagues.
2. If you’re pondering how to get published, you hopefully have a good first draft of a finished manuscript, be it a novel, memoir or self-help. If you’re a fiction writer, hone your synopsis. I’d suggest running it by other accomplished writers (ah, that’s where the networking you’re doing at a writer association comes in!). Get crystal clear about your conflict and stakes, antagonist, protagonist, climax and denouement. Develop a pitch that sells your book. You can find resources on how to write a synopsis and a pitch at your writers’ association (ah, there it is again) and online. If you’re writing non-fiction…
3. Write a book proposal. There’s lots of advice out there on writing one and it looks like there are similarities in the structure and then everyone has their own little twists. A couple of websites to check out as a start are:
Nathan Bransford’s blog on the topic. http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2007/02/how-to-write-nonfiction-book-proposal.html
Ted Weinstein’s concise description at http://www.twliterary.com/bookproposal.html
4. Look for comparables. You want to know your market. You also want to be sure you’re offering a concept with a new twist. If you’ve just finished your manuscript about a teenage girl who takes the place of her sister in a state run game where reps from twelve districts fight to the death in a televised arena — think again. Been there, done that. To find comparables, I’d start by going to Amazon and searching key words associated with your book. Once you find a title that is comparable, scroll down “customers who bought this item also bought” for some other possible titles to check out. You’re looking for anything close to what you are doing, the more recent the better. You can also find lists of “best of” in various genres for com parables. Remember, you want to know the market for your book as well as a potential agent or publisher knows it.
5. Continue to build your platform. You might look for someone out there who is very successfully promoting their book, whether its a fiction or non-fiction. Find out all the paths that writer uses to market and promote. Start a blog. To be honest, I’m still learning about how to be an effective blogger, but my sense is you want to be blogging, inviting guest bloggers to your site and guest blog for others. In other words, network, network, network. When you have a blog, be sure to link to your Facebook and Twitter. A potential agent will like that you do have a social media platform, but if you can demonstrate a large following, now you’ve got their attention. You may be well versed in social media, but if not, a helpful book on the topic is “We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media” by Kristen Lamb. Check out her blog
6. Attend a writer conference. If you’ve joined your local writers’ association, in all likelihood they have an annual conference. Do attend. In Seattle, the Pacific Northwest Writers Association has about 500 attendees and 20-30 agents/publishers, workshops on the craft and business of writing, as well as a good path to start networking in the business. I also attend the Texas Writers League conference (although not making it this year). In addition to all the networking and knowledge you will gain at a conference, this is also an opportunity to…
7. Pitch at a conference. Nothing will sharpen your synopsis and pitch than sitting in front of an agent, pitching to him or her in a two-three minute session. What if your novel book isn’t complete yet? No worries — pitch. Just let the agent know you’re pitching an unfinished manuscript and you’d like feedback on the pitch and especially the book concept. You want to know if they’ve heard this idea a hundred times or if this is a new twist they haven’t heard before.
8. Most importantly, if you want to get published, keep on writing. We all get rejected, but with each rejection gather the information to help you hone your craft, sharpen your story, build your platform, and understand the business side of writing. Anxious about pitching. Write. Bummed about a rejection from an agent?Write. Worried you’re not any good (everyone else on the planet is afraid of speaking in public, but we writers share a fear of not being good enough)? Write. Sensing a common theme? Write.