Book Authors Want To Get Published? 3 Experts Spill What You Need To Know

Book Authors Want To Get Published?Are you a book author who wants to get published?

Of course you ARE!

The next question isn’t as obvious as it seems:
Have you written the book yet?

There’s a large universe of people who fall into this category. A smaller, but still large group of individuals have outlined their concept and ideas for a book. A few may have even taken the next step to write a chapter and a book proposal.

Yet, putting the words onto paper in a format required by publishers is accomplished by a very small portion of these people.

The first and biggest problem to becoming a book author according to Literary Agent and author of Getting Signed Lucinda Halpern:

  • Only 3% of people who want to write a book actually get the words out of their heads and onto paper or screen. 

If you’ve written at least the first ugly draft (or TFUD as Everybody Writes author Ann Handley calls it), then congratulations for getting this far! Give yourself a pat on the back. Please understand that this is a real achievement ,even if you never let anyone ever see your work during your lifetime.

So let’s examine what you need to do to become a published book author.

► How To Get The Major Book Publishers To Look At Your Book

To get your book published requires understanding the perspectives of the author, the literary agent and the editor at the publishing house.

Get Signed event

On Tuesday, February 20, 2024, Housing Works Bookstore in Soho hosted a discussion about how to get your book published. The event celebrated Lucinda Halperin’s new new Amazon bestselling book, Get Signed: Find an Agent, Land a Book Deal, and Become a Published Author.

Translation:
What do you do once you finish writing to become a book author
(or, at least, the proposal.)

The speakers included:

  • New York Times bestselling author Chris Guillebeau. He has written 8 books published by different major publishers using the same literary agent.  Guillebeau’s biggest take-aways for new authors:
    • Have a great outline.
    • Don’t expect an agent or publisher to fix your manuscript for you.

    Chris Guillebeau's Main Instagram Account
    Chris Guillebeau Hashtag Reveals 5,000+ Posts

  • Senior Editor at Crown and Currency (Random House) Leah Trouwborst, While Leah also does freelance editing, she hasn’t built her online presence out. Leah Trouwborst’s major piece of advice was to be prepared to work closely with the publisher’s editor.  In addition, I recommend that you follow best practices when you create your website and social media profiles. Notice how Trouwborst’s site is difficult to read the small white type on gray.

Leah Trouwborst, Literary Agent

  • Lucinda Halpern is a literary agent and a first time book author.
    Lucinda Literary Agency promotes book authors

    Halpern promotes being a published book author on her company’s website

    Lucinda Halpern's Agency and Book Author promotion on Instagram

    Lucinda Halpern promotes being a book author on Instagram

► Why Don’t Book Authors Self-Publish?

Many first time book authors stick their noses in the air and insist that they need a traditional publisher for their “baby”. They don’t realize the amount of time and effort it takes to find and secure an agent and then a publisher. Then, meeting a publisher’s deadline can be a grueling experience, especially if you can’t devote fill time to your writing.

Oh, and it will take them about 2 to 3 years before the book appears in print. Once that happens, they have to market it themselves!

My guess is that they don’t realize whether they’ve read any self-published books nor do they know any self published book authors. Self-publishing your own book is popular among my friends and colleagues.

Amazon has made self publishing books easier and cheaper. It allows authors to publish faster than with traditional publishers. Even better, they get to retain more of the revenue from the book, even with small sales numbers. The downside is you don’t get a cash advance.

Further, Amazon allows book authors to publish in a variety of formats including print, ebook and audiobook. This builds a broader readership for the book and the author.

Smart authors including those who have used traditional publishers in the past, can successfully self-publish. In fact many of them earn more revenue in the process like my friend and colleague, Mark W. Schaefer. This includes the #1 marketing and advertising book on Amazon, The Most Amazing Marketing Book Ever. Schaefer wrote this book with 35 members of his RISE Community. [Editor’s Disclosure: My husband was one of the co-authors.]

Mark Schaefer is a self-published book author and promotes it on his own website

Self-published book author, Mark Schaefer, promotes all of his books on his business website

Many authors who self publish find that having a published book helps them to expand their revenue sources beyond sales of the actual book. Often, these authors make more money from these other sources such as consulting, teaching and speaking.

Actionable Book Marketing Tips

  • Assess both the traditional and non-traditional publisher options before deciding to use a traditional publisher.
  • Test other methods of  book publishing. For example, Ella Griffin uses Substack to publish her novella, Oblivion, in chapters. BTW, Charles Dickens first published his book chapters in magazines before they became books.

    Ella Griffin Publishes her fiction on Substack

    Book AUthor Ella Griiffin self-publishes her novels and novellas in chapters on Substack like Charles Dickens


► 4 Types of Authors Who Get Book Deals

Lucinda Halpern describes 4 types of authors who get book deals with traditional publishers. Each of these 4 types brings at least one strength to support promoting and selling lots of books.

1. Ideator

The Ideator has a concept that can fit under a major umbrella topic. Possessing a a strong personality and a natural energy that sells, this author convinces an agent and/or publisher that their big thought is a game changer. These writers are often entrepreneurs.

Published Author Case Study

This approach resembles Content Entrepreneur Joe Pulizzi’s idea of “The Pivot”. In his book Content, Inc. Revised, Pulizzi outlines his journey from content startup to the sale of Content Marketing Institute.

Content Inc. model

Book Author Joe Pulizzi’s Content, Inc. Model

2. Data Collector

By doing their homework on similar books, the data collector proves that their book will sell based on comparable books in print. They have gained a deep understanding of what readers want and why. In the process, they show that their book fills an unmet need or niche so that it will sell. Data collectors tend to be introverts who are academics, scientists, journalists and/or novelists.

Published Author Case Study

For the revised edition of Content, Inc. Pulizzi also falls under the category of Data Collector since he decided to rewrite his book based on the uptick in sales of the initial version along with increased downloads of his podcast with Robert Rose of This Old Marketing Podcast in April 2020.

In addition, Pulizzi has a personal weekly email entitled, “Random Thoughts,” as well as established followings on several social media platforms.

Beyond these factors, Pulizzi was able to add a section discussing the sale of Content Marketing Institute which didn’t appear in the initial edition of the book. This gave book owners a reason to purchase the new edition since it gave them the conclusion to Pulizzi’s journey of building and selling his business.

3. Crusader

Crusaders relentlessly pursue their goal of getting their book sold. Tenaciously, they will stop at nothing to get their book sold and have answers for any potential objections. Crusaders continue to find new reasons to contact agents with a different approach. They prove that they’re  worth working with by showing past experience and connections. Frequently, they are people with strong sales and marketing skills such as CEOs, entrepreneurs, marketers, salespeople, and publicists.

Published Author Case Study

Chris Guillebeau is a Crusader type of author who believes deeply in each of his 8 books. While each books represents a significant change in his thinking, Guillebeau has brought his extensive audience along with him on his journey across social media.

4. Everywhereist

This highly visible writer has at least one strong platform with an audience that is attached to them. Their ideas matter and their followers help get the word out. These authors are influencers, bloggers, and content creators.

Published Author Case Study

The best example of this type of author is Geraldine DeRuiter who happens to publish The “Everywhereist blog.” It won the James Beard Award for Blogging and many other awards. (Read the Best of The Everywhereist.)

One of the biggest factors going for her blog is consistency over time. As this chart from her blog shows, DeRuiter kept blogging past the point where many other bloggers give up. (BTW, this point was made by her SEO and Content expert husband, Rand Fishkin back in 2013.)

Geraldine DeRuiter’s blog results for The Everywherist before she became a book author

 

Actionable Book Marketing Tip

  • Be prepared to market your own book even if you have a traditional publisher. DeRuiter published this promotion for her book back in November 2023 and the book won’t appear until March 2024.
Early Promotion of Geraldine DeRuiter's New Book

Book Author DeRuiter promotes her new book on Instagram

► Book Author Publishing Marketing Tips: What You Need To Know

Regardless of how you publish your book, don’t expect to get marketing help from a traditional publisher. You’re on your own in the marketing and PR department. To get the maximum exposure, start thinking about and working on your marketing as soon as you start writing your book.

1. Examine the book marketplace

Learn what type of books and categories are popular. Spend time examining Amazon. Watch which books rise to the top of their lists and use this to choose the categories where you place your book.

Buy similar books to the book you want to publish. Examine the cover, inside materials, how it’s printed, indexed and other factors. Does it look like a quality piece of work or is it just a bunch of articles that someone slammed together?

Then figure out how to contact the authors whose books you want to emulate. When you reach out to them, give them a reason to invest their time in a phone call.

Also, visit bookstores in your neighborhood. Yes, I realize that there aren’t as many as there used to be. Look at how they arrange different categories of books and which new books they spotlight (Keep in mind that publishers often pay for special placement.) Do they offer author readings? If so, attend them.

2. Build your community, especially an email newsletter list over time.

Where possible continue to bring your audience along on your journey with you. For example,  Guillebeau moved his newsletter from his previous email provider to Substack, a newsletter platform, that allows him to generate income from subscribers, and changed his focus to Mental Health.

Chris Guillebeau's A Year of Mental Health

Book Author Guillebbeau takes his audience along with him on his new book journey using Substack.

Give email subscribers a reason to join your list in order to develop your community for the long term.

Examples:

Halpern offers a mini-course on publishing.

Build Your Author List With A Quality Give-Away

Halpern attracts book authors to her list by offering a free training course.


Julie B. Hughes built a community of 300 writers using her “Run To Write” substack newsletter.
It meets every Friday at 11:00 (New York Time). In addition, she spotlights the Zoom attendees in her newsletter. It also includes a poem of hers.

Julie B. Hughe's Run To Write Substack Newsletter Builds A Writing Community

Julie B. Hughes builds a community of writers on her Substack newsletter

Chris Guillebeau spotlights his community in regular columns called Notes From The Community”

Book Author Chris Guillebeau's A year of mental health – Notes from the community

Author Guillebeau has a conversation with his Substack readers for his next book.

3. Create an author website to support your book.

Alternatively, like Schaefer, extend your existing website to include a special landing page focused on your books.

Here’s an example of a self-published author website by my friend and colleague, Steve Rayson. (BTW–It’s chock full of tips for self publishing!)

Steve Rayson Author Website

Book Author Steve Rayson created a website to promote his self published books and offers book publishing advice.

► How Book Authors Get Published

To get your book published, by an established publisher, be prepared to work hard before, during and after you get an agent and a publisher. If you take the self publishing route, make sure to hire a professional editor, cover designer and indexer.

Regardless of who publishes your book, know that you will be responsible for all of the marketing and PR whether you do it yourself or hire an agency to help you. The most important piece of this work is developing a following across one or more platforms, either owned media, third party media and/or social media.

A Cautionary Tale

Herman Melville published the allegorical classic Moby Dick in October 1851 in London. Despite the help and edits from Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of The Scarlet Letter,  the book sold a mere 3,000 copies at the time. So it wasn’t much different from most books published today.

Depressed by the low number of purchases, Melville never published Billy Budd, Sailor (An Inside Narrative), before he died on September 28, 1891. Fortunately, his wife hid a copy in the breadbox. It remained unpublished until the 1920s when critics recognized the importance of Moby Dick.

Herman Melville's DeskHerman Melville’s Desk at Arrowhead

The biggest piece of advice:
Keep going and working on your book and your potential audience because most people who want to be authors don’t do this!

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies.
You can find Heidi on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

 

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Photo Credit:  Herman Melville’s Desk photo by Heidi Cohen. 

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