One of the biggest questions I’ve gotten since I announced that my first was being published is how I was able to get a book deal. It’s a a far-off dream that many people have but the process is daunting to think about. I’d have been saying for nearly my entire life that I wanted to write a book “someday.” So how did my book go from pipe dream to reality?
How long did the book take? About 5 years. I would start it and stop, put it away for months at a time. Then I got inspired to finish writing, which you can read about here.
How long from getting a book deal to getting published? My book agent took me on as a client in like May of 2017, the book deal came through in August of that year and the book was published in June of 2018.
Don’t wait until you have a book deal lined up or all the steps laid out. Just start writing! If you have your book idea, write an outline and just start writing. It doesn’t have to be perfect but you need to get going. Sometimes you can get a book deal first, but for a first-time author? Unlikely. Start writing and do it for the love of your project and for the love of writing it. If you are doing it for money or fame, it’s probably not going to live up to your expectations.
Write a book proposal
This can be a daunting task in and of itself — and it must be done right. I had no idea where to start so I bought this book and followed it to a T. It took me a bit to really understand parts of it but eventually I put together a very thorough proposal. Having the book 3/4th finished really helped make this process easier. However, if you are just starting the writing process, the proposal can actually help you shape the book in a good way. So there are positives and negatives wherever you stand.
Build your platform
Having an online platform and social connections with influencers is really important to getting a book deal. So if you are a personal trainer writing a book related to that subject matter, having online connections or friendships with folks that have larger followings that can help you promote the book matters big time. Having worked in DC politics for years, I had many relationships with influential writers and politician types and this was very important to selling my book proposal. Build your social media followings, blog and try to connect with as many people as possible now. Starting an email list is another great idea, though I did not do that. Having a platform and connection is KEY. If you don’t have these things in the industry you are writing about, it’s nearly impossible to get a deal.
Search for an agent
I don’t have a ton of tips for this one, as I was introduced to an agent by a friend. The first agent I spoke with ended up taking me on as a client. But, I will say, the “friend of a friend” thing can really help so if you have a friend with an agent, or who knows one, it definitely helps with intros! Agents are really important to getting published by a traditional publisher because they really don’t take cold calls. Either way, you want to make sure your proposal is well-done and you sell this agent on why your book matters NOW — and why you are the one that needed to write it. My book was very relevant to the larger, national conversation regarding drugs, abuse, children, working class, etc. and the only person who could write it was me because it was about a specific life story, that of my husband. Here’s some tips.
Sell the book
You really sell the book in the proposal, which is why it has to be so good. Your agent does the hard work of finding a publisher, but you have to make your case. What section will this book go in in the library? What kind of person will buy it? Why does it matter? Let them know if they pass up this book, it will be to their detriment because someone else is going to swoop it up. It’s at this point, you also have to be patient because there are seasons to when publishing houses pick up new titles and you might just be waiting. In my case, I was putting the finishing touches on draft one…not really thinking it was going to work out. But then it did!
Let them take the lead
If you are picked up by a big publishing house, it’s kind of like magic because they take the lead on marketing, sales, etc. but most important, EDITING. Before I got a book deal, I thought I would self-publishing and looked into having my book professionally edited. It was going to be like $5,000 mininum. Yikes! Getting a book deal means they do all the editing for you, and that is just incredible. When it comes to launch time, they also help with media for the book. However, don’t solely count on them because YOU care the most about your book so you should do all YOU can to help yourself with publicity.
What have I learned?
I never dreamed I would actually have my book published by a major company. That being said, the next book I write I will probably write an outline first. Because I just sort of jumped in, it meant we had a LOT of rearranging to do in the text when we were editing. Timelines were off, details and events were repeated because of how disorganized I was putting it together. A simple outline would have helped me keep things in check. I added a lot of journalistic details after the first draft was written and I would have approached it a bit more journalistically from the start if I had a do-over.
Was everything I dreamed?
In ways, yes. It WAS a dream come true, but the subject matter was so sobering and difficult at times, that it was hard to feel celebratory. Also, selling book is hard! I was naive in thinking everyone I’ve ever met would automatically buy the book. But judging from sales numbers today, I can tell you that is definitely not true! Sales have been “okay” but nothing record-breaking that’s for sure. It’s a hard pill to swallow when you get thousands of likes/comments/congrats on the book but then realize that most of those people didn’t buy it. And now here I am, several weeks out, and trying to brainstorm how I keep the momentum going. It felt like the publishing company truly just dropped off planet earth days after launch. They really haven’t given me any info on what to expect now or if they have any further expectations. It’s weird and this is something I’ve heard from other authors as well.
I’m going to work out connecting with more book clubs, groups, organizations, churches, etc. that would be interested in the book and try to keep it going! But really, I’m already thinking about what my next book will be about. There are so many things i could focus on but it was to be something I’m really passionate about in order to dedicate the time. That’s time away from my kids…and I have a full-time job so it’s really tough to carve out the space. A book, for me, MUST be a passion project. It must be about the reasons behind, the creative magic and art of the whole thing. I’m just waiting on God to give me a nudge about something!
Do you have any questions? Tweet me @ErickaAndersen or send me a message on Facebook — or email me firstname.lastname@example.org. I do not get notifications for comments here so I may not see it if you leave a comment.