So, I have no idea How to Get a Book Deal. But, despite that, my third book will be published in May. I’m writing this post because I often get asked “how do you get a book deal?”. Most of the other posts on this subject seem better than this one will be, to be honest. They all know the “secrets” to getting your book published, and I’m afraid I don’t. But I don’t think there are any secrets, there’s no one-size-fits-all plan that will ensure you get a book deal.
Most “secrets” are things you know already anyway, or things that you could figure out for yourself. That doesn’t make them any less valid, but they’re definitely not secrets, and they’re definitely not guarantees of success. So while this isn’t a post that will tell you How to Get a Book Deal, here are a few things that I think will help while you’re trying.
MAKE GOOD (HONEST) WORK AND SHOW IT TO PEOPLE
This is the most important point to me. I was approached by publishers for my first two books, and both books only exist because I made work and put it online. I put the word “honest” in brackets because that part isn’t essential, a lot of bullshit gets published too. But making honest work is important to me, and I think it should be important to you.
BE A PERSON THAT SOME PEOPLE KNOW
This follows on from the first point. Publishers generally want authors who already have some kind of “following”, which makes a lot of sense. It shows there’s a genuine interest in you and your ideas, and it shows there’s probably some kind of market for your book too. The only way to attract that interest is to make good (honest) work and show it to people.
GET AN AGENT, NOW
I didn’t get an agent until after I’d signed my third book deal. I wasn’t sure how it worked, or if an agent would want to sign me. But it’s actually an easy process, you approach agents and ask them to represent you. That’s it. I’ve been signed with my agent for a little while now, and I can’t believe I managed so long without one. As well as dealing with negotiations, money, contracts, and all the other bits I’m really bad at, she provides amazing support and some great ideas that will help to make my books better.
CREATE RATHER THAN WAIT
Always be thinking about — and working on — your next idea(s). It can be so easy to sit around waiting while your idea is being pitched, or your contract is being drawn up, or your book is being printed. But I think it’s really important to keep producing work during those moments. It keeps you excited about creating and sharing, and it limits the chance that you’ll end up worrying or stressing about your book being pulped because nobody will buy it.
BE PREPARED TO SELL YOURSELF
This is something I’ve only recently realised and began to feel comfortable with. As well as being naturally shy and not very self-confident, I assumed that publishers take care of everything promotion related. Publishers do a lot of promotion work, but the person who can sell your book best will always be you. That doesn’t mean you have to relentlessly shout “please buy my book!” at people, although that can sometimes help.
A lot of people assume that writing a book will make them rich, it won’t. Or at least it’s very unlikely that it will. Realising that early on is essential, because making books can be very hard and time consuming — which brings us back to the word “honest”. If you want to make books it should be because you have things to say that you believe in, not because you want to make a ton of money and quit your job. Although that would be nice.
IF YOU DON’T ASK YOU DON’T GET
My mom used to always say this to me, which is probably why I still ask her for sweets every time I see her. But while I was writing my new book I realised the same logic applies. If you want to know how agents work, ask some agents. If you’re not sure if your book cover sucks, ask a person whose opinion you trust. If you think someone would write a great intro for your book, ask them to write it. It’s an old cliché, but the worst that will happen is that they’ll say no, or not respond, or swear at you — The best thing is that they’ll say yes, and they quite often do.
So, with that in mind, please buy my books?