Get Your Book Published: How to Make It Happen

When I go to writing conferences, whether I’m speaking on the topic or not, I’m invariably asked the same question, “How do I get my book published?”

It’s a good question, but the answer changes based off a number of factors, including goals for the book, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction (or poetry), platform, quality, and other considerations. So let’s take a look at the question factor-by-factor.

Goals

Why are you trying to get your book published? Is it for the fame or prestige? Is it to share your story? To help other people? Are you just in it for the money?

There’s no wrong answer, and it’s okay if you have multiple reasons. However, think about your primary goals, and that will help you decide which publishers you want to target. Knowing which publishers you wish to target will help you answer the question: Do I need a literary agent?

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For instance, writers do NOT typically need an agent to submit to a university or small press. But you would need an agent to publish with most of the big publishers and their imprints (that is, the Random Houses and Simon & Schusters of the publishing world).

Also, if your goal is to just have something you can sell on the lecture circuit or at your place of business, you may even decide that self-publishing serves you better than navigating the submission process. Knowing your goals can save you a lot of time and anxiety.

Fiction vs. Nonfiction vs. Poetry

Essentially, this question answers whether you need to write the entire manuscript before securing publication, or if you can get by with a well-defined idea. Prospective authors of fiction, poetry, and memoir will need to write the entire manuscript before submitting.

Here’s why: A publisher and/or agent needs to see the finished product to make an informed decision on whether the book will sell (and continue selling) after publication. The execution is all important.

For nonfiction that’s not memoir, most editors actually prefer that prospective authors only put together a few chapters, because they may love the idea but have their own take on how to execute the concept.

In all cases, the query letter and book proposal are important tools for writing success. The query letter is used to help whet the appetite of the agent or editor for more material, whether that’s requesting the full manuscript or the book proposal, which is a document containing all the essential information about the project and its spot in the current publishing marketplace.

Platform

A writer platform quantifies what type of reach you already have with your target audience. Surely, publishing a book will help increase your authority and expertise, but what do you bring to the table in advance of publication that will help publishers sell your books?

Your writer platform may include online stats, such as connections on social media sites and unique visitors to your blog or website, in addition to other variables, such as number of people who hear you speak at events each year or read your articles in magazines. Anything that already exists that you can quantify.

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Quality

Let’s face it. If you want to get published, we need to consider the most important issue: that is, the quality of your writing.

Whether you write novels or how-to instruction, your writing skills need to at least be solid. If they’re exceptional, that’s even better, because there’s no shortage of competition for getting published.

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Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer

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