In 2005, I stumbled upon “author” status, simply by chance. At that time, I was writing for my website, Mommysavers.com. I was not actively seeking out a book deal. But, I had actually been in the process of writing my book for over five years (unwittingly) when an agent contacted me. My story is an example of how an author does things backwards, but my experience can help you reverse-engineer your plans to get your work published.
What Publishers Look For
I was one of the lucky ones. The majority of authors write their book (or a portion of it) first then spend months or years trying to get it published. For many of them, that goal is never realized. Not because their writing is inferior, but because of the reasons below. My experience gave me insight as to what publishers are actually looking for and how you can reverse engineer the process.
1. The importance of platform
Digital media has radically changed the nature of traditional publishing and who gets book deals. These days, publishers look for authors that have an existing substantial social media following. It makes the sales team’s job much easier, and it’s a good indication as to who will be marketable as authors. But it’s not just enough to have a following, it has be be a robust following with a
large massive number of engaged readers. Think about it this way. Yes, you may have tens of thousands of Facebook fans, but what percentage of your followers will actually buy your book? (And no, you can’t include your friends and family.) It’s all about who will generate the most sales.
2. Is your topic marketable?
You can write awesome content for your niche market, but if publishers don’t think it’s in demand, they’ll never take you on as an author. Does your book have information your audience wants, is hungry for, and will spend their money to get? For your existing platform, it should be something they can’t get from your website, or that they would benefit from having all in one place. If your book were on the shelves of Target or Walmart, what would prompt your reader to buy it? In today’s internet age, it needs to be something they can’t get for free elsewhere. The cost of your book should not exceed the value your audience gets from reading it. This is your value proposition.
Thinking about your value proposition will help you expand beyond your current platform and attract other readers. What problems does your book solve for your readers? Doing some basic research to see which nonfiction books are hot on Amazon can help steer you in the right direction. These are books that have proven themselves as valuable to their target audience. How will your book cater to these markets, but be different and add value the others don’t?
Blog to Book
Back in 2005 when I got my first book deal, I already had my platform in place and my topic was (and still is) extremely marketable. However, they are both things you can work on as you develop your blog, content, and build your platform. You can use the process to make both your blog better and build your platform.
1. Create a basic proposal and working outline for your book
A book proposal at the most basic level includes the following: Why your readers will want to buy it, why your publisher will benefit from selling it, and a chapter outline. A Google search on how to write a book proposal will help provide you with more specifics and guide you through this process. Create a proposal and keep these things in the back of your mind as you work on your blog content. Use it to help inspire you.
2. Use your platform as a focus group
Your book proposal and outline is just the start of the process. The benefit of having a blog is that you can test your content before it gets published. Use your blog to see which topics resonate with your current audience and attracts more followers. Bacially, you’re using your blog as a focus group for book content. Ask questions, engage. What do they want more of? Expand on those topics. What topics are flops? Cross them off your list. Which topics get more shares, likes, re-tweets and re-pins? You can build your platform at the same time you hone your writing and proposal over time.