So, you’re ready to try to sell your book to a publisher or an agent… but how? First things first, you need to work a perfect pitch to get their attention. It’s not an easy process, but there’s a few things you can do to make it easier on you (and your prospective publisher or agent).
First, tailor your book proposal. I spent five years slogging through the pitches at a small, university-style press. Our focus was military history and we cautioned people in our guidelines that we weren’t accepting fiction of any variety – even if it did have a military flare. Yet, probably 40% of what we received on a daily basis was fiction – often without any connection to the military or history. While the writers really only wasted paper and a stamp, I grew increasingly frustrated that people clearly didn’t even take the time to read our guidelines.
If you want to land a publisher or agent, take the time to carefully review the submission guidelines. Casting a wide net does very little good in these circumstances. Instead, laser-focus your search on presses and agents who will be interested in your work.
Second, fine-tune your book description. Your book description needs to be succinct and well-researched. Open your pitch with a short, juicy summary that gives the reader an idea of what your book is about without inflating its importance. This is a great place to deploy the KISS protocol: Keep It Simple, Stupid. Be brief, but compelling. Bring in friends or colleagues to help you craft the perfect summary – as readers, they’ll pick up on things you might not have thought of as selling points.
Third, present compelling reasons to publish your book. This starts by presenting available sales numbers for books in the same genre – and doing so without drawing too many comparisons to your book and similar books. It’s a fine line, but it’s one of the first things that most agents and presses will look at to determine whether or not your book is something that makes financial sense.
Fourth, sell your connections. Are you a regular at a local bookstore? Have friends who work in news media? Know someone who runs a really popular blog? These are all factors that can contribute to the perceived sell-ability of your book. Including a list of possible publicity options shows that you’re thinking – not just about how great your book is – but how you can strategically start selling them (making money for your publisher and yourself).
Have you successfully pitched your book? What tips do you have for people following in your footsteps?