If you are a writer, then you know just how difficult it is to write a good book and then find a publisher for your work. So I thought I would share my book writing experience here to help you with the process. Here’s how I got a book deal with Penguin Random House:
First, I built an audience.
This is what I spent ten years doing before I wrote my first book. Many times this is the work that people want to skip, but to get a good book deal, it is work you must not ignore. I chose to build my audience online, but what publishers want to know is that you have a group of people who want to buy your book. Whether you choose to build your audience via online, public speaking, through your business, or all of these things is up to you. But most of all, never stop creating work that matters and impacting people along the way.Never stop creating work that matters and impacting people along the way. Click To Tweet
Second, I came up with an idea that resonates with others.
It isn’t enough for you to like your idea; you must create ideas that other people enjoy if you have any chance of selling it. The idea for my new book took about six months to create, which included a bunch of research, drawing out my idea, tweaking it repeatedly, and staring at a whiteboard night after night. Once I was done with my idea, I brought in five people to look at it to make sure I was on the right track. You don’t want to release your big idea to too many people early in the process, but you do need the perspective of others to help you think of all possible angles, and you also need to make sure that people are inspired by the idea you come up with before you embark on the journey of writing a good book. It took two years of writing to complete my book, using every spare moment I had, so I had to make sure that I had the greatest possible chance of success, given the time I was putting into this project.
Third, I wrote a book proposal.
I downloaded every resource I could find on how to build a good book proposal, read through all of them, talked with other authors about the process, and then sat down to write a proposal. Although these resources were advertised as being all that you need to write a perfect proposal, my first book proposal didn’t find a home. That’s right, The Bravest You is actually my second book idea, but that’s because my first wasn’t edited enough before I submitted it.
I am now more familiar with rejection than success, but that’s a huge reason why I am where I’m at today. If you haven’t seen success with your book yet, please don’t give up. Writers, whether you self-publish or go the traditional publisher route, the rest of us need to hear your idea.The rest of us need to hear your idea. Click To Tweet
Fourth, I hired a knowledgeable editor to create a remarkable book proposal.
Since my first proposal flopped, I didn’t want to waste any more time and decided to pay for an editor’s help. I am so glad I did this, as she was the difference maker with my second proposal. I found her by asking other authors who their favorite editor was, and reached out to her for assistance. Not only had she worked for Penguin Random House previously, so she knew exactly what editors were looking for, but she was honest about my proposal. If something was terrible, she would tell me that a certain section needed work, which in editor terms means, “you should rethink this whole writing thing.” And if something was great, she was quick to point that out as well. She taught me so much about writing and putting together a proposal that no other book proposal resources cover, and now I can see why so many writers love her and her work. If you ever have the chance to work closely with a great editor, their guidance is invaluable, and I’d recommend you listen to every word of advice they give you.
Fifth, I found a literary agent who championed my work.
I was turned down by thirty agents before I found the one who I work with now, but I knew that all I needed was one “yes,” so I didn’t give up. (The same advice applies to finding a publisher.) I eventually found an agent who believed in my work and would champion it until we found a publisher who believed in it as well.
Are you looking for an agent? Agentquery.com and PublishersMarketplace are great resources. Make sure to look at the books they have released and see if they have anything in common with yours. This will let you know if they are familiar with your genre of work and will also let you know if they are accustomed to giving good feedback to authors on the writing and direction of a similar book. But the best way to find an agent is to ask those who have an agent and have seen success with them.
Sixth, we submitted my proposal to publishers and waited.
At this point in the process, I was glad to be done with writing the proposal, but patience was key in waiting to hear from publishers. In the meantime, I worked on all the stuff I had missed out on over the previous year, new blog posts, and more content. But little did I know how much work was still ahead of me. I guess that’s the biggest learning experience from writing my first book. People told me that writing a good book would be difficult, but I didn’t understand just how hard it truly is. I know writers who can put out books in six months, but rarely are they good books. When you think you’re done writing, you have only just begun. When you understand this you are well on your way to writing a great book.People told me that writing a book would be difficult, but I didn't understand just how hard it was. Click To Tweet
Seventh, we found an editor who deeply believed in my message.
Once we found out that TarcherPerigee–a Penguin Random House imprint–was interested in the book, I really wanted it to happen. They’re the same publisher who has worked with John Miller, Bob Proctor, Donna Eden, Paul Selig, Tama Kieves, Daniel Siegel, Dr. Robert Melillo, Amy McCready, Napoleon Hill, Wallace D. Wattles, Dale Carnegie, and James Allen. And then you have Penguin Random House as a whole, who has published some of the biggest books ever, so of course, I wanted them to publish my book.
After the initial phone call, I felt like it was done deal, given the things we talked about and the excitement that my editor had for the message of the book. Her enthusiasm for the book added to my reasons of wanting to work with PRH. It only took about a week to hear back from her with the good news, and we said “yes.” All I could do was laugh and cry that day, because so much work went into the process of getting to that moment.
Eighth, I gave my editor a realistic timeline for completing my book.
Before receiving the final contract, we had an initial phone call where we talked about the various timelines I would need to meet along the way, the most important one being the timeline for the first draft of the complete manuscript. At that point, I was ready to devote more time to writing the book. You see, I didn’t hire ghostwriters or researchers as some people do. I wanted to do everything myself, as I feel every aspect of writing a book is part of the art. So yes, this prolonged the timeline of writing a book, but every part of it was done by yours truly. And I am proud of that fact. After about two month’s time, my one book contract showed up, and I happily signed it.
Ninth, I wrote twenty-five different drafts.
When you write a book, the only thing keeping you from tweaking it further are deadlines. I wrote and rewrote the book until I felt it was a book that people wouldn’t want to put down. So no, it’s not a book filled with mind-boggling data, but an accessible, easy-to-read book. To me, that’s the sign of a great read, so that’s what I set out to accomplish. I may write a different style of book in the future, but this one took a shape of its own, and I’m happy with the direction that my writing took.
[Sidenote: The most useful tool I used while writing my book was the app, Evernote. Every thought I had for three years would go into a blank document in Evernote, and I would later decide if it was for the book or not when I had time to go back through all of my ideas. If I didn’t use it in the book, I used it later, so nothing was wasted. Use Evernote and thank me later.]
The good news about writing tons of drafts is that no content goes to waste. I have enough extra content that I edited out of The Bravest You for twenty blog post ideas and an idea for a second book. But that’s the thing about writing a book: editing becomes more important than writing. You always want your message to be clear for readers, and taking the time to profusely edit is the only way for this to happen.Editing is the most important part of writing a great book. Click To Tweet
Tenth, we shipped the book out to possible endorsers.
Book sales greatly depend on getting the right endorsements, especially for first-time authors. You want blurbs from names that carry great weight to appeal to readers so that they will give your writing a chance. Because I spent so much time writing my book, my window of time for possible endorsers to review my book was very small. This is probably the only thing I would change with my next book. I should have finished my book earlier to give endorsers more time, but it’s a lesson learned for next time.
Eleventh, a PR person was hired to help the book fly.
If there’s anything I have learned from writing and marketing a book, it’s that it takes an army of people to launch a book, and this includes the need for hiring a PR person. They have previous connections with media that most do not have and they handle the logistics of launching a book so that you can handle everything else. This is important because it requires much more time than you can imagine to follow-up with opportunities while doing the work that you already do.It takes an army of people to launch a book. Click To Tweet
As you have noticed with your own schedule, it’s not like you can say “time-out” and quit your responsibilities for three years while you write and market a book. I added writing a book on top of my other responsibilities and learned to deal with the tension that busyness brings. And I have a wife who supports my dreams, which is massively important as well.To write a book, you'll need the support of others. Click To Tweet
Maybe you want to write a book, but don’t know where or how to start. Do I believe that everyone should write a book? No way. That’s like saying I think everyone should be a singer, or a dancer, or a farmer, or a chef, or a lawyer, but I do think that everyone has ideas worth chasing. And to chase those ideas you have to start somewhere.
Whether you feel like you have the time to write a book or not, take it from me when I say that there’s no perfect time to begin, but the best time to begin is now.