Getting a Book Contract is Hard Work (But You Can Do It)

I am a big fan of self-publishing. There’s never been a better time for writers to get their words out into the world without waiting for permission from gatekeepers. But what if you still dream about a traditional book deal with a Big Five publisher?

Chad Allen, former Editorial Director for Baker Books, has worked in the publishing industry for more than twenty years. He’s done a little bit of everything — from publishing assistant to indexer; from project editor to acquisitions.

In this episode of The Portfolio Life, publishing professional Chad Allen and I talk about killer book proposals and the fail-proof formula you need to get a book contract.

Listen to the interview

To listen to the show, click the player below (if viewing this in an email, click here).

So what does it take to get a traditional book deal? Here are a few tips from my interview with Chad…

1. Find a great concept

Think your ideas need to be original to be great? Nope. In fact, if your idea has never been talked about it’s probably because people aren’t interested.

So when you are looking to catch the attention of a publisher, aim for different over new. Don’t try to compete in an over-crowded market, but don’t try to enter a non-existent market that has no demand, either.

It isn’t about finding the newest and most original idea. It’s about filling the space you occupy differently from anyone else.

Take something you love, and do something interesting with it. “Creativity” is just the mashing up of ideas and concepts in a unique way – your way. (Tweet That)

2. Build your tribe

Think you need huge numbers of followers to get a book deal? Not exactly. But you do need a tribe.

When you’re building your tribe, you’re connecting to people who are interested in your message or who share the same vision. These are the people who will stick with you as you grow and who will review and recommend your book. These are your true fans.

But don’t let this scare you. It isn’t just about the numbers. It’s about relationships. You can use your blog, social media, and email list to engage with them long before your book hits their shelves. And a small, engaged list is better than huge numbers of people who don’t really care.

Yes, Chad admits that he looks at the numbers when evaluating potential projects, but he also knows there’s time to build. If you are just starting out, you can still catch the attention of a publisher. Include your plan and show how determined you are to grow.

3. Be a terrific writer

What do published authors do to stand out from the crowd? It’s not their impeccable grammar or flowery vocabulary. It’s how they create an amazing experience for their reader. In other words, you’ve got to be good.

Sounds a lot easier said than done, right? You can study your craft to become a better writer, but here’s the thing. There are no shortcuts or secret “get published quick” methods. It all comes down to hard work. You’ve got to be willing to put in the hours.

If you do the work, you will see results. It’s just that simple (and that hard). Good writing and a great attitude can still take you pretty far in this world.

The brass tacks

Hang in there. Keep going for it.

So, what if you don’t have an email list or a huge following on social media? Don’t worry, says Chad. 90 percent of your journey as a writer is going to be about tenacity and your determination to keep going. Hard work is the only thing standing in your way.

Who cares if your list isn’t massive or if someone, somewhere already wrote about your topic? If you create a breath-taking experience for your reader, you can still reach success.

This week, Chad and I have hosted an exclusive workshop just for my readers. Click here to grab your spot.

Do you have questions for Chad about how to get published? Now is your chance! Share it in the comments.