Book Deals. Publishing.

All book deals are NOT created equal.  This is the first of a 2-part blog post on publishing deals.  One will offer my perspective as a published author, who received a 6-figure book deal from Random House for my first book.  The second, will be my perspective as an attorney, who represents authors.
There are many factors, which went into me getting such an amazing publishing deal, despite the fact that I am not a celebrity, and had never been published before.   People will often try to discourage you by saying, “it’s so hard to get a book deal, so don’t even try.”   My two cents is, while the publishing industry has definitely changed with the increasing presence and power of the Internet, there are still opportunities to get published by a main stream, New York publisher.
By the way, despite what people told me, not only did I get a deal, but my book went to auction, where 4 publishers entered into a bidding war for Esteemable Acts.

While getting published by a Random House or Penguin is not guaranteed, here are 6 of the most important factors that worked in my favor:

  1. Understanding that Publishing is a Business — Like it or not, it’s the BUSINESS of publishing.  Publishers are not in it to hold your hand or make you a star, they are in it to make $$$ for themselves.  In most case, your interests are diametrically opposed to theirs.  So in looking at any contract that a publisher gives you,  just know that it is in their favor from the get-go!
  2. Get a great agent. Some people like working with agents, and some don’t.  For me, the smartest move I made was to get an agent.  My definition of a good is someone who is skilled, connected in the industry, passionate about your project, and hungry–willing to work hard for you. It’s also important that you find someone who is willing to make time for you.  I’ve known of, too many, situations where an author had a big named agent, whom they never saw or spoke with.
  3. Have a large platform.  Publishers want someone who is willing to do the work to promote their book. Some say it’s a partnership, but in truth, you are expected to do the work. Therefore, the larger your platform, the greater your chances of getting a book deal, because you can demonstrate that you are willing and able to sell your book.  As well as a lawyer, I’m a professional speaker and could prove it, by the size of my platform.  A speaking calendar, which consisted of 40-50 talks a year, made me a bankable commodity.   In this age of the Internet, a platform could come from a large database, a Blog, speaking, writing articles, or being a media personality.  The key is you must show that you have a ready-made audience in which to sell your book.
  4. Write a good book proposal. There are many great books on how to write a book proposal, such as “How to Write a Book Proposal”, by Michael Larsen, “10 Book Proposals that Sold”, by Jeff Herman, and many others that you’ll find on www.amazon.com. Check them out. Most, if not all, nonfiction book agents will require a book proposal. Learn how to draft a good one!
  5. Have a Marketable Expertise.  All that means is know what you are talking about.  Other than celebrities, you will be expected to have some knowledge about your topic.   There are any number of ways you can get it: education, degrees, licenses, certifications, through business experience, and/or through a personal experience.  I’m not a therapist, so before I got a deal, I was rejected by countless agents.  It was perceived that anyone writing about self esteem had to be a therapist.  Fortunately for me I didn’t give up, and eventually found an agent who understood what gave me the credibility to write Esteemable Acts was my personal story of change and redemption.
  6. Which takes me to the last point I’d like to share–DON’T GIVE UP, especially in the face of rejection.  Not everyone gets what they want right away.  But in my experience, if you stay the course, and figure out what your next right action is to be, you can get to that finish line that you desire.

Okay, that’s it from the author perspective.  While there are many other factors that went into me getting that book deal, these 6 stand out.  Let’s turn our attention to the contract itself, and what provisions you should pay close attention to.

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