How do I get my book published?

“How do I get my book published?” is in the top three questions I get asked.

We live in an unusual time, where self-publishing has opened up a world of opportunity for the wannabe author writing their book, and has provided traditional publishing with a real run for its money.

In fact, more self-published authors are now making a living with their books, compared with traditional published authors.

The issue you’re facing with getting your book published is that the information you’ll find is confusing. This is primarily the case because with things changing so much in the publishing world over the last few years, the advice most people give you isn’t relevant to how publishing works today. They’ll often tell you things which are outdated and incorrect.

Beyond that, the world of fiction and non-fiction are completely different, and the journey and potential for success for novelists looks completely different than that of a coach, speaker or entrepreneur wanting to write a book to raise their profile and grow their business. What works for one may not work for the other.

To make things more complicated, getting published is not as easy as you may think, and there are many obstacles in the way for the unknown, first time author.

So if you are a coach, consultant, speaker, or entrepreneur and have been wondering how to find a publisher to publish your non-fiction book, let’s explore your primary options for writing and publishing your book.

In this blog, I am referring to the process and options available for non-fiction, not fiction.

In this article, we will cover:


What are your options when it comes to having your book published?

self-publish a bookIf you want to have your book published, you really have three options:

1. Traditional publishing

When people talk about “getting my book published”, this is what they’re normally referring to. It means that you have secured a book contract with a traditional publisher.

The publisher purchases the ownership of the print license from the author in return for an advance on royalties. The author does not need to pay this back.

The author writes the book (normally without help from the publisher) and the publisher may include editing, and always manages and controls the publishing and distribution process.

The ‘big five’ publishers in the USA are in New York City, and they are Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster.

In Australia, the main publishers are Allen & Unwin, Pan Macmillan Australia, Penguin Random House Australia, Text Publishing Australia, and Hachette Australia. Between them, they publish thousands of books a year.

Many people in my book writing community want to be published by Hay House, which is a boutique publisher primarily in the self-help space.

Particularly in the USA, getting traditionally published often means the author must find an agent, who in turns pitches book publishing companies. Something different in Australia is that there are still book publishers who are theoretically willing to read ‘unsolicited’ manuscripts from first-time writers without an agent or other representatives. Later in this article, I will link to a radio interview with various publishers, and an interview with a publishing professional who discusses this. It’s not all good news… Read on!

2. Self-publishing

Self-publishing means that the author fully manages and controls the whole process of publishing, and also retains ownership of their book. Within the self-publishing model, you can choose to DIY, outsource or get support for all the different tasks involved along the way.

One of the major benefits of this model is that you are in full control of everything, including the timeline, and of course that you don’t need to be ‘chosen’ by anyone or have any other party in control of your book’s rights. Most of my clients self-publish because of these reasons.

When your book is a tool in your business, rather than something you are doing with the hope of achieving a lifelong dream for bestselling stardom, self-publishing makes the most sense.

3. Hybrid publishing

Hybrid publishing is a blend of both the above options. A hybrid publisher is basically a company which acts like a traditional publisher in a few ways (like judging if your manuscript is good enough for them), but they don’t pay you an advance, they maintain ownership of your rights, and they take a majority of any royalties. I don’t see hybrid publishing as an attractive option and won’t be covering it in this blog.

Which one is right for you?

As a non-fiction author, it’s important to realise you cannot just “decide” to be traditionally published. It doesn’t work that way. While you may wish or hope to be published, it’s a long road of hoop-jumping, submitting work to agents and publishers, waiting around for responses (and often not getting any response at all), rejection and potentially, never getting representation or a publishing deal.

The good news is that self-publishing has provided a range of options for you, and you can still create great success with a self-published book, particularly if you have a business already running and generating income – and a quality book is a great tool to create new opportunities as part of this business.

Still, for many people, the perceived perks of being traditionally published are very attractive, and so let’s look at the factors which will help you decide which option to pursue.


If you’d rather watch a video, I interviewed ex-Literary Agent and Publishing Mentor, Virginia Lloyd about the publishing industry. Virginia helps people get their manuscript published and is a wealth of information. It’s a long interview (45 mins), so settle down with a cuppa for this one! (We had some technical issues at the start, so it starts at nearly 6 mins in).

How do you decide on the best method to publish your book?

time to publish bookThere are multiple factors to consider when you’re looking at publishing options.

  • Time – Traditional publishing is a slooooow road. Finding a publishing deal is an unknown and varying timeline, ranging from a few months through to a few years (if you get one at all).

    If you secure a publishing deal, your book release date can range from six months (that’s a quick turnaround you might get in Australia) through to two years.

    With self-publishing, the timeline is totally determined by you. Once your book is written and edited, you can have it available online as a digital copy and print on demand book within a matter of hours.

  • Responsibility – If you are traditionally published, the publisher will take on responsibility for just about everything except marketing in most cases.

    With self-publishing, you are responsible for everything.

  • Control – In return for taking responsibility of the publishing process, publishers assume full control of all decision making and ownership of your book’s rights.

    With self-publishing, a major drawcard for many people is that while you are responsible for all decision making and funding, you also have full control and ownership of everything.

  • Goals – What are your goals for your book? If you want worldwide domination and presence in bookstores because you believe your book will appeal broadly, you probably want to be traditionally published. Publishers can have a far-reaching arm when it comes to book distribution, and this is a major attraction for authors.

    If you want to raise your profile, be seen as an expert in your industry so you can attract opportunities like speaking gigs, new clients and also charge higher rates, this can all be achieved with self-publishing. You just need to do it right!

  • factors to consider when publishing bookBudget – If you are traditionally published, the publisher will take on most of the costs involved (except marketing). They also might pay an advance and/or royalties. This is perceived as an attractive option for many people.

    The bad news is that advances, if you get one, are usually small (unless you are a celebrity) and royalties tend to be low too. Your book has to ‘earn out’ the advance before you get any royalties, and most authors never actually achieve this.

    If you self-publish, you are responsible for all costs. The good news is that your profit margin is higher. Having said this, more self-published authors actually make a living with their book than traditionally published authors, so it’s not quite as clear cut as it may seem.

  • Audience – With either option, you need an audience. A book won’t ‘create’ an audience for you. You need to have the audience first so that you have somebody to sell the book too. A publisher will want you to bring your own audience, or they probably won’t even look at you. We’ll explore this later on in the blog.

    If you self-publish, the bigger the audience you have before you launch your book, the better. However, if you don’t already have an audience, don’t despair. You can just allow your book to build momentum as you grow your audience over time.

Overview of the main points of traditional publishing

  • Rights: The publishing company owns the print license while the author owns the copyright.
  • Royalty Rate: 15% hardcover, 7.5% trade paperback, 5% mass market
  • Advance: Yes, but the amount is dependent on the author.
  • Writing: Little to no assistance, with some editing and proofreading.
  • Publishing Services: Yes, although quality differs
  • Distribution: Yes, they take care of it all
  • Marketing: Very little marketing help (unless you’re a celebrity already)
  • Perception: The most sought-after of the different publishing options, but gradually becoming irrelevant, especially as readers are unlikely to know the difference
  • Publishing Duration: 1-3 years

Advantages of traditional publishing

  • An agent who will support you and the success of your book
  • A team of professional editors, proofreaders, etc, hired and paid by the publisher
  • Being less involved with foreground work and getting the time and peace to write a great book
  • Marketing assistance from publishers through bookstore placement
  • Upfront payment before publishing
  • The feeling of accomplishment

Disadvantages of traditional publishing

  • Poor royalty rates
  • Undetermined pay days: You do not know when to expect to be paid and beyond your advance, may never actually receive further payment
  • Long and complicated process of completion
  • Loss of control over your work as you basically will need to bargain how the book cover should look, how the chapters should flow, etc. with designers and editors provided by the publisher
  • Loss of most rights and total authority: You tend to only have right to the content of the book, and what you do with that content moving forward is very limited.
  • Getting a publishing deal can be difficult to almost impossible as most publishers are either swamped already, or have really high expectations that your pitch may not meet.
  • The process of traditional publishing is quite complex

What is the process of getting a traditional publishing deal?

process of publishing a bookAs a Book Coach, I encounter a lot of people who mistakenly believe getting published is a matter of just picking up the phone and calling a publisher to arrange it.

This couldn’t be further from reality.

Getting traditionally published is a long, and more often than not, fruitless road.

In most situations, a writer doesn’t communicate directly with the publisher. You have to be represented by a literary agent, who secures a publishing deal and then handles most of the communication and deal making.

Having an agent may seem attractive, as it seems to mean you can just focus on writing the book and just sit back and collect royalty checks… but this is also what keeps you a step removed from the journey of publishing your book.

With self-help and business books, you generally don’t actually write the book ahead of getting a publishing deal. You submit a proposal and write the book after it’s accepted. If you have already written it, you still submit a proposal or outline, and can include the first 1-3 chapters.

For a memoir, you do need to have the book fully written at the time of submission.

You also need an audience that will be interested in your book. Although publishers often place your book in bookstores, having an existing fan base that will buy your book can motivate them to accept to publish your book as most publishing houses do little to no marketing (except for the ‘big’ book launches and celebrities).

Here are the steps involved in getting your book published:

  • Determine the category of your work: Not all niches are profitable in the book market. Know your category and what other books are similar or comparable. Don’t say “none” as this is not actually a good thing. Having other books already written in your niche is a good thing because it is more likely to mean yours is a desirable topic.

  • Find appropriate publishers for your work: Some publishing houses are selective of the genre they publish. Ensure that you match your proposed book niche with what a publishing house accepts. Use that to figure out the best publishers for your book.

  • Prepare your proposal: Many authors pay up to $10,000 to have someone to write this. This isn’t essential, as many authors have successfully written one themselves and successfully landed a deal. Proposals have standard inclusions and formats. Ensure to research what you need to include and take your time to get it right. Note that you need to send a proposal for self-help and business books. A memoir will need to be fully written before you approach a publishing house.
  • Decide if you need an agent: Deciding if you need an agent depends on the niche you’re writing on and the kind of publisher you want. Academic or literary works do not really need an agent. However, if you would like to be published by one of the ‘big five’ publishing houses, then you most definitely do need one.

    In Australia, several publishers are open to submissions without an agent. They might have specific days of the month they accept submissions. All un-agented works (referred to as ‘unsolicited manuscripts’) go into what the industry calls the “Slush Pile”. This interview on the ABC is about the Slush Pile. The interviewer talks to representatives from four of Australia’s publishers about how they treat the Slush Pile. The long and short of it is that although the publisher may accept unsolicited manuscripts, the reality is that most of them find it hard to actually get around to reading them all (they get a lot submitted!) and very rarely publish them. 

  • Submitting your proposal to an agent: Agents are mediators between you and the publisher. An agent plays a huge role in the success of your book’s publication, and the majority of acquired books by top New York publishing houses were done through agents. You should not attempt to approach a publisher without an agent to negotiate on your behalf unless you know for sure they accept unsolicited manuscripts.

    Most of the top publishers will not actually read your unsolicited manuscript. In fact, they will return it unopened or just bin it without letting you know at all.

    However, getting an agent is not easy. To submit to an agent, you must send a specifically formatted query letter and a proposal (for self-help and business) or the first 1-3 chapters of your book (for memoirs). If they are interested, they will ask to see the full manuscript.

    To give you an idea of numbers… Agents receive a lot of queries/submissions each week. One agent on my wishlist in London said that they get 15,000 submissions a year and only take on 1-5 authors at the most (they rep fiction and non-fiction). So the competition is high.

    The reason being is that literary agents are only paid for their work through the commission they make when they sell your book and not by directly charging the author(s) they represent. This means that agents are only paid when they get you the publishing deal, and receive 15% of everything you are paid, from advance to royalties.

    Therefore, if they aren’t confident of getting you a deal, they simply can’t afford to take you on. If your project isn’t worth at least 5 figures, you likely won’t find an agent willing to represent you.

    When I shopped my first book, a novel, to agents, I submitted it to about 20 agents on my first ‘round’, and only half of them even responded. One agent did ask to see my full manuscript, but ultimately a deal didn’t happen. The second time I submitted to agents, I think I tried about 30, and I think about 12 of them responded.

    The timeline for getting an agent varies from agency to agency, and most agents will list their average wait time on their website. For many, it’s an “If you don’t hear anything within x months, then assume it’s a pass.” It’s a pretty soul-destroying game!

Process of submitting to an Agent - summary

The submission process differs based on the niche of nonfiction you’ll be submitting.

  1. Memoir
  1. Other nonfiction
  • Query letter
  • Proposal

Before you submit:

  • Research your agents (Use https://www.agentquery.com/)
  • Select an agent with care
  • Write a synopsis
  • Write a letter that sings off the page – in the same way, that you hope your book will.
  • For a memoir, send out the first 3 chapters of your book
  • For a self-help or business book, send a proposal.

There is so much involved, I will write a separate blog about how to get an agent another time.

If you’re willing to take the gamble of being in the slush pile, five major Australian Publishers that accept un-agented manuscripts are:

  • Allen & Unwin: They currently publish up to 250 new titles a year and accept submissions every day
  • Pan Macmillan Australia: They accept electronic manuscript submissions directly from writers between 10 am and 4 pm on the first Monday of every month.
  • Text Publishing Australia: They accept fiction and nonfiction. Submissions are by hard copy only. Send the first 3 chapters and a brief (1-page) synopsis.
  • Hachette Australia: They accept work from Australian or New Zealand residents. They do not accept fiction, self-help, screenplays or academic submissions.
  • Penguin Australia: They accept unsolicited manuscripts during the first week of every month. At the time of writing, they only accept children’s literature.

How likely are you to get a traditional publishing deal?

Book PublishedThe odds are very, very low.

Normally, a New York publisher won’t sign a nonfiction book unless they see a potential of it selling at least 10,000–20,000 copies in the early stages of release.

In many ways, the audience you bring is almost more important than the book you’re writing. A publisher expects you to bring the audience. They expect you to sell the book. Therefore, if you are not already a celebrity or have a massive audience, you’re not an attractive prospect.

To give you an idea, Reid Tracy from Hay House said that he gets 10 submissions a week from authors with 100,000+ followers on social media. To them, that’s nothing. Most of the first-time authors they sign have followers of 500,000 to 1 million!

Interestingly, Hay House publishes 48 new books a year. 6 of those are from first-time writers. 2 of those are from Hay House Writers Workshops. That leaves 4 spots a year for unknown first-time authors (all of whom must come through agents).

The odds are super low.

Although you might get excited that some publishers accept non-agented submissions (and therefore you can remove that step from the process), it’s not all good news. Lesley Halm from Scribe said in this interview, “I can only think of three or four books that Scribe has published from the slush pile… within the last five years or so.”

As a side note, works that can be difficult to sell include:

  • Books of over 120,000 words, depending on genre
  • Poetry, short story, or essay collections–unless you’re a popular writer with a huge audience already
  • Nonfiction books by authors who have no strong online presence or aren’t popular at all
  • Memoirs with cliché story lines: Common themes like death that are not unique will be sensed as repetitive and turned down

Reasons you might fail to get published

  • Submitting your work before it is truly ready: Overexcitement can cause you to forget to dot your I’s and cross your t’s. Do a thorough edit before submitting your work.
  • Failure to achieve objectivity: You need to step back and view your work through the eyes of a publisher, not as the writer. Would you publish it? If no, then return to the desk and fix it. This is kind of impossible to do, but there are manuscript assessments available to help.
  • Depending on the inspiring words of family and friends: In the eyes of your loved ones, you can do no wrong. They may tell you that your crappy manuscript is a budding bestseller only because they do not want to hurt your feelings or because they lack the professional vision to spot a bad book. Get validation for people who will tell you as it is and fix your manuscript based on their comments before you submit it to a publisher.

Self-publishing - How it works

When you self-publish, you will be doing (or arranging) everything yourself, from writing to editing to book cover design to marketing.

If this seems overwhelming, there are many services offered on the market so many self-published authors choose to DIY some and outsource others.

Self-publishing has been on the rise for several years, and has certainly evened the playing field in a lot of cases. Assuming your book is of high quality, audiences and readers won’t know if your book is self-published or traditionally published, so the impact of the book and the success it can bring you is equal.

On this note though, please do make sure you self-publish something of high quality. A poorly published book can actually damage your reputation, and you don’t want that!

The beauty of a self-published book is that you are in full control of the timeline for release, and can use it as a tool to raise your profile. When you have written a high-quality book, it automatically makes you an expert in your industry, because audiences assume that you obviously have a good command of the subject level. You have something to say!

Overview of the main points of self-publishing

  • Rights: Author owns all rights.
  • Royalty rate: Mostly between 70% and 100%
  • Advance: No
  • Writing: Author writes, and can get assistance with planning, structure, writing feedback from a coach. Click here to arrange a time to chat with me about this.
  • Publishing services: Author handles everything unless they prefer to hire someone to assist.
  • Distribution: Author handles everything unless they prefer to hire someone to assist.
  • Marketing: Author handles everything unless they prefer to hire someone to assist.
  • Perception: Depends on the quality of the book, but is now embraced and accepted, and most audiences will not know the difference.
  • Time to publish: As soon as you can

Advantages of self-publishing

  • Flexibility and freedom over the entire process
  • Total control
  • Better royalties. You get up to 70%-100% of book sales
  • Full rights and total authority over your book
  • Shorter timeframe to publication
  • Constant availability of your book. No re-printing cost
  • No waiting for agents or publishers to get back to you. No crushed dreams of rejection!

Disadvantages of self-publishing

  • Having to do it all alone can be overwhelming
  • Lack of professional input, unless you to hire professionals to look at your work and give feedback (Click here to arrange a time to chat with me about getting support)
  • Unlikely to get into bookstores (read my blog about how I got my self-published novel into bookstores, although note that this rarely happens)
  • Can get costly, and you are responsible for all expenses

Can you make money from a self-published book?

cathryn-mora-book-coachYes, but it’s probably not achieved in the same way you think it is. Making money from book sales alone is a small piece of the pie when it comes to the money you can make with a book.

Yes, you can make money from book sales, but you will generally need to run ads in Amazon, etc to get ongoing sales. If you do this, it’s also imperative to have reviews of your book so that when a potential buyer clicks on an ad, they see reviews, which are an important part of a social proof.

The money you generally make with books is from the ‘other things’ around the book. For example, if you have a business which is already making money, a book can be a great tool to use as a complement to or expansion of the business.

For example, if you are a coach or speaker, a book will raise your profile to expert status, and once you are seen as an expert, it will open doors of opportunity for things like getting speaking gigs (or going from free to paid gigs; or if you are already getting paid, raising your speaking fee). You could get invited to speak on panels and increase your chances of getting media coverage. You can use the book in a strategy to attract clients or warm up leads. There are multiple ways to use a book as a strategic tool in your growth.

So the real money with books is through attracting new clients/other paid opportunities, and raising your prices, and the impact of these can be significant.

You will always have the book to use at your disposal in the future, positioning you as an expert and commanding those superior prices.

Given that self-published author who makes a living from their book are now a bigger group than traditionally published authors making a living, thanks to their large royalty cut and the flexible sale of their books.

Process of self-publishing – summary

If you decide to self-publish, it can honestly be a little overwhelming, but don’t worry, help is always available.

The first steps in the process are:

Step 1. Get clear on your vision and objective

Step 2. Create a strategy for how you will use the book as a tool to achieve your goals

Step 3. Decide on your genre and book style

Step 4. Create your outline

Step 5. Write the first draft

I wrote a blog about getting started with your book. You can read it here.

It’s somewhat flexible and movable, but I have broken it down to 45 steps. That might seem a bit overwhelming, but I have created a super handy checklist of the steps from start to finish, covering writing, editing, design and publishing. You can access it here or by using the link below.

Self-publishing my book is honestly the best thing I’ve ever done. Finishing writing my first draft gave the biggest sense of achievement I’ve had in my life, and the journey beyond that was full of twists, turns and unexpected bonuses. I highly recommend it!

If you are a coach, consultant, speaker or entrepreneur, it could be one of the best things you will ever do for your business as well.

Ready to write? What now?

how to create a vision bookIf you’re ready to write a book and you think self-publishing seems like your best option, you will find my 45 Step Book Writing and Publishing Checklist very handy. Just click to access and tell me where to send it!

ACCESS CHECKLIST HERE

If you are a bit overwhelmed by the whole thing and think you may need support, please contact me at any time. I have different options available to help you, depending on your goals, your budget, and where you are in the process.

If you’d like to book a free, 10-minute Book Clarity Call with me, we’ll have a quick chat about your book idea and if you could leverage it to raise your profile and make more money in your service business.

If there is good potential, we’ll talk again for longer. If I believe a book isn’t the right option for you right now, or if we’re not the right fit for each other, I’ll let you know. It’s pressure and obligation free, I promise. Use this link to book directly into my diary.

BOOK CLARITY CALL HERE

I can’t wait to work with you and help you finally write that book this year!

Cat


Download your free checklist here!

If you’re keen to get started on writing your book, you will find my 45 Step Book Writing and Publishing Checklist very handy. Just click here to tell me where to send it!


ACCESS CHECKLIST NOW