Book deals and high hopes. I can’t tell you how many aspiring authors contact me with mile-high aspirations, all hinging on their manuscripts. They want to publish a bestseller. They want to retire and write novels for the rest of their lives. They want to earn fame and fortune in the literary world.
Lightning does strike for some first-time authors. Fate, luck, a good manuscript, the right literary agent, a great publishing house, connections, social media know-how, and a generous marketing budget can do wonders for a writer’s career.
But… (and there’s always a but), it’s more likely an uphill climb. In fact, it’s almost always an uphill climb for new and emerging authors. I’ll be honest — most authors pull out all the stops to break even on their first book. Some call that “paying your dues” in an extremely competitive literary realm and learning how it all works. The goal is to attain some acclaim and build on that. It takes perseverance and an unshakable belief in your concepts to push on and create new works.
Before we talk about the money end of book deals, there is a lot of preliminary information for authors to absorb.
First, you must have a book — a good book, carefully edited. Perhaps it needs more than editing, such as development or even a substantive overhaul. Each level of editing has a cost, the lowest being copyediting (much like proofreading) and the highest being the overhaul.
What you are able to afford can affect the quality and marketability of the book and the book deals you are offered. Yes, editing is an investment, and (fortunately) this investment increases your odds of success.
Social Media and Free Platforms
While you are writing your book or having it edited, really focus on pre-publicity. Please, please, don’t say that you don’t like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Learn to love these free platforms. Practice your marketing and increase your online footprint. Readers cannot buy your book if they don’t know it exists.
You should be talking up your project, teasing it, and developing a fan base well before your book is finished. Even a small fan base is helpful because you’ll soon be looking for a literary agent who will likely care very much about your social outreach capabilities.
The Next Step
After your manuscript is edited and ready to submit, you’ll want to publish. You can self-publish, but this blog post is geared toward traditional publishing. To be traditionally published by a notable publisher, you’ll need a literary agent.
Why? Because with book deals, you cannot submit manuscripts directly to top publishers. They generally do not accept unagented books and insist on dealing with literary agents instead.
To obtain a literary agent, you’ll need a query letter. Check out this blog post for some GREAT tips on what literary agents look for in a query letter.
I suggest you hop on Twitter and find literary agents to follow. They often tweet calls for submissions. Same for Facebook. Use the search engines, too, and get familiar with names and agencies. This is your new normal as a member of the writing world.
Before you submit your query letter and synopsis, do a TON of research. The key is to look at each agent’s website and see what he or she is asking for. Follow the instructions precisely. Only submit what is requested. Do not deviate. You’ll probably need a synopsis, maybe both a long and short synopsis, depending on what the literary agent requires.
I can walk you through the ins and outs of both synopsis and query writing. Customize your query letter to include something “personal” about the agent and the agency, maybe something about an author they represent who you happen to adore. Then pitch your book.
The Next Phase of Book Deals
Expect rejections. Sometimes it takes a while to find a literary agent who is willing to represent you. The agent must believe in your book in order to accept you as a client.
Here’s the low-down. You don’t pay the agent. The agent earns a commission (usually 15%) from your advance on sales (more on advances below). Therefore, the agent will only sign authors who have a high possibility of attracting a top publisher.
Note that part of your pitch should be your social media following. Yes, we are circling back to the free social media that you should be exploiting well before you query an agent. When you demonstrate that you can help market your own book, that checks a box on most agents’ lists.
Many authors assume that the publisher will handle all the publicity, and it’s true that publishers will handle some of it. But even with traditional publishing, the lion’s share of promotion falls on your shoulders.
$$$ — Information about Book Deals From Actual Literary Agents and Organizations
Once you sign with an agent, the agent will pitch the book to numerous publishers in hopes that one will bite. Once a publisher is interested, we can talk about what to expect after you sign — the nuts and bolts of advances, royalties and money. I’m pointing you to some excellent articles from professional literary agents themselves, as well as some organizations, explaining book deals. You may as well hear it straight from the horse’s mouth!
An Agent Explains the Ins and Outs of Book Deals
Author’s Guild — An Author’s Guide to Agency Agreements
Publishers Weekly Book Deals (industry talk)
Literary Agent Tells All: 5 Things You Don’t Know About Book Publishing
Check out These Articles Too
The Query Letter — How-To Tips
Bestseller? Here’s What You Need to Know
Jane Friedman’s Blog on Traditional Publishing (multiple articles)
Please Contact Me to Consult About Your Writing Project!
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