How to get a non-fiction book published: Q3

Q: How can I get my publisher interested in my idea for a book?

A: The simple answer is to give them exactly what they ask for. This is detailed in the author’s guidelines I mentioned in my last post: authors’ guidelines. However, if the publisher you’re dealing with doesn’t produce these you need to decide yourself what to include in your pitch.

The first thing to prepare yourself for is the length of this pitch document. The one I sent for “How to Grow Your Business for Entrepreneurs” was ten pages and more than 3,000 words long. You’ve got a lot of material to prepare, but look on the bright side: if this was a work of fiction you’d have to write it in full before anyone would even look at it.

I believe that the proposal you send to your prospective publisher should give them confidence in three areas:

1) That people will want to buy it.

You need to detail exactly who will buy it. So, for my first book I was targeting owner-managers of small companies, those that have got off the ground but are struggling to grow for one reason or another. I found some research from BERR which suggested that there are 1.2 million UK companies with between 5 and 30 employees and turnover between £500,000 and £5 million. It was clear evidence that there was a market for this book.

However you need to make your pitch more than the old “if we get just 1% of this billion pound market” theory. You need to provide a compelling argument as to why they will buy your book. What are the problems they face that your book will help them solve? What evidence is there that these people actually do have those problems? How bad a problem is it?

Finally, you need to demonstrate that this fills a gap in the market. Outline its nearest competitors and describe how your book will be better than them.

2) That you can write this book.

First and foremost this is about your ability to write the book, and that involves knowledge of the subject and writing ability. So, let the publisher know about all your relevant experience of the subject in question, and about your credentials as a writer.

You can do even more than describe past experience: you can provide a detailed contents list (don’t worry, about them holding you to it; you can change this as you get into the writing part – this just shows that there’s enough to cover and that youve got to grips with the scope of your topic). Finally, you can include a sample chapter so they can see exactly how well you write.

3) That you will be a useful promotional partner

Sadly, authorship is not simply about writing a book. We writers have to get involved in the murky world of book promotion. Terrible I know – we’re artists after all – but your publisher will want to know what you can contribute to the promotions activity. Will you be able to get media reviews, speak at events to promote the book, or push it out through existing channels such as your own website, training courses, or blog? Your publisher is going into business with you, so wants to see that you are dynamic, innovative, and avbove all else committed to making the book a success.

There is then a great deal to cover. Spend time putting it all together. Make sure you get it right. Then, once your document is ready, attach it to your email, make sure you’ve spelt the publisher’s name right and have made no glaring spelling or grammar errors in your covering email, take a deep breath and fire it off…..

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