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What will a publisher want?

When the phone rang and it was one of the UK’s leading non-fiction publishers I was bouncing around for joy. And that evening as I told my family even my teenage son was impressed because of the name of the publisher. He said it was the make of most of their books at school! I knew that it was the opportunity of a life time, thus I may not be an expert, however, I do know what a publisher is looking for. And you need to work out if you have those skills and attributes and if not are you prepared to get them, learn them, and strive for them.

The reason the publishers say they called me is that they had found me on LinkedIn, followed the link to my website, watched a couple of my youtube videos and liked what they saw and so read my articles. They liked my style of writing and felt I was someone who spoke jargon-free, passionately in a way that you could really take action on the courses of action I was suggesting.

And if you check out many of the reviews on Amazon many people say that they felt like they were talking to a friend who wanted them to succeed. Reviews also say that the book is jargon free and easy to take real action on. This means that my goal from day one was being honoured and achieved. Can you see why this is so important? (Therefore think about this for a moment and we will help you in greater detail in Lesson 7 to hone your skill.)

ACTION; Read the below list and tick all the ones that you feel you can deliver. A publisher wants;

(And as you read this list if you feel you can’t tick these boxes don’t panic and we will work on this in Lesson 7 to help you hone your skills.)

  • Someone with a following across social media – not just Facebook or Instagram, but across all of the platforms that are relevant for the target audiences of the book (We look at that in greater detail in Lesson 6).
  • Someone who is engaging effectively on social media. (That’s not just likes, that’s conversion, conversations and new connections.)
  • Someone with a clear message.
  • Someone with passion.
  • Someone who stands out as a thought leader.
  • Someone with original ideas or ideas that are not expressed in that way.
  • Someone who is good at getting in the press.
  • Someone who writes a blog that is enjoyed, read and shared.
  • Someone that is an effective public speaker.
  • Someone who is good at marketing.
  • Someone who fits their publishing house’s genre and content.
  • Someone who is prepared to stand out and speak up.

So how many did you tick?

An assumption is often made that the publisher will get the book sold for you. While they will do all they can to support you in that, the author still has to do the majority of the promotion of their book. So in many ways, you will have the same responsibilities and actions to carry out as the self-published route. The difference is that having a publisher adds kudos to your book. It say’s that you are not proclaiming to be the expert on this subject (self-praise is no recommendation as the saying goes) however that someone else has recognised your expert status.

This is very good for business, brand promotion and raising your status as a thought leader in your field. Without a publisher, I would not have had the opportunity to speak for WH Smith’s, which has led to more high profile speaking engagements. And it would also have meant that my book would not have been WH Smith’s book of the month January 2017. And sold across the world in their stores and now stocked in UK airports. This has had so many benefits for me. So ultimately if you are looking for similar results to my own goal, a publisher is a powerful opportunity in anyone’s book!

So now ask yourself considering lesson 4 and what is needed from me in this lesson to get to work with a publisher, can I learn those skills (see Lesson 7) or do I have those skills already?

Showcasing those to a publisher will be imperative.

As exciting as that initial phone call was, it took 3 months to create a book proposal that was put before the board of directors on the 23rd of December and approved. I will look at elements of this in Lesson 7)

The elements to be aware of here are;

They will want a clear proposal from you on how you intend to market the book?

They will want to know in writing what your marketing strategy is?

How will you engage with your target audience?

They won’t want a copy of the manuscript, however, they are likely to want a brief overview of the book and possibly the first 3 chapters. (Different publishers have different preferences and it is imperative that you use their structure.)

Who is aimed at?

What is it about?

Why should someone read it?

What are the results you will get from reading this book?

etc, etc.

They will then want a more detailed proposal that includes the details on the above overview.

What will the title of each chapter be?

What layout will the book have?

How will you research the book?

How many words will each chapter be?

How long will the book be?

The list is long and you will need to know how to answer every question in detail the way they want it. My own proposal for Fight the Fear was 10,000 words. (As you can see deciding to put 3 months of effort and that level of work into my proposal is something you are also going to have to schedule the time to achieving too. Thus we are back to lesson 3 when I ask “what are you prepared to sacrifice to get my book picked up by a publisher?”

The above questions are really important to answer now because it will help with Lesson 9 – how to structure your book.

A useful book for you could be The Writers and Artists yearbook. It’s published every year and it could help you work out who you send your proposal too. Click here to learn more


  • July 25, 2017