I get a lot of requests from folks who are interested in learning more about how to get their non-fiction book published. They have questions about self-publishing vs working with a traditional publisher, whether or not to get an agent, and how to get an agent.
While I enjoy these conversations, and I love helping folks get their books out into the world, I just don’t have time to connect with everyone who is reaching out to me, and to be honest, I don’t have a lot of useful advice to share. But I’d still like to help when I can, so here are my thoughts on some of the most common questions I encounter.
First, while I have been fortunate enough to sell five non-fiction books, I am absolutely not an expert in the publishing industry. I sold my first two books without an agent, and in both cases, the publishing houses reached out to me. I sold my next three books with the help of my amazing agent. And if you’d like to know how I got my agent, the answer is, I didn’t. Years ago, some friends and I wrote a proposal for an anthology. One of my co-authors on the project pitched a number of agents, and one of them agreed to represent us. While the anthology never sold, I was lucky enough to get my foot in the door with an incredible agent, and I still work with her today. So, I’ve been lucky enough to sell all my books without ever actually pitching an agent or an editor, which means I don’t have a lot of advice about how to do it.
Fortunately, there are lots of other folks who do! If you have questions about the nitty-gritty details of self-publishing, traditional publishing, and working with an agent (or not), I highly recommend Jane Friedman’s website. If you’re struggling with the structure and content of your book, go get yourself a copy of Blueprint for a Non-Fiction Book by Jennie Nash.
As for marketing, sign up for Dan Blank’s newsletter. He’s got some seriously good advice there.
Beyond that, here are my best pieces of advice:
- Writing a book is far more work than you think it will be. Getting crystal clear on why you want to write a book — why you want to write this book — will keep you motivated and help you make the best possible choices about your publishing journey.
- Read as much as you can in the genre you want to write and publish in. There’s no substitute for doing the work, and all that reading will improve your writing and pitching in a variety of ways.
- Remember that everyone’s journey is different, and what makes sense for someone else might not make work for you.
- Consider working with a book coach if you can afford it. They have a huge amount of wisdom and expertise that can make the process easier and increase your chances of success. I can recommend Lisa Tener and Jennie Nash’s Author Accelerator coaches – I’ve worked with both, and they’re both fantastic.
- Hang in there. There’s nothing like holding your own book in your hands!