Over the last ten years of seriously pursuing writing, I’ve learned just a few insider secrets to writing and getting published.
During this span of time, I’ve written thousands of pages, landed a great literary agent, built a thriving online platform, broke away from my great literary agent, watched in amazement as various articles I’ve written went viral and were viewed millions of times, saw my debut book released and do really well, and now comes the release of my newest book All Groan Up: Searching For Self, Faith, and a Freaking Job! (Zondervan). I consider this new book the most inspiring, vulnerable, and important thing I’ve ever written, especially for fellow writers as I tell my honest journey with all the twists and turns on the way to getting published.
I write all this humblebrag to say I’ve learned a thing or two along the way, but also to let you know that none of this came easy for me.
I had to scrap, hustle, break, and start-over more times than I want to remember. There were long nights wondering if any of this was worth it.
There was the afternoon I’ll always remember when my wife, who had supported me for more years than any sane person should, looked at me and said “When is enough, enough?”
3 Publishing Secrets I’ve Learned in 10 Years
If you want to be published like I did, I want to save you some pain. Here are some insider secrets that will help you go into this with eyes wide open and some serious strategy that I’ve never really heard other people talk about.
1. Editorial Can, and Will Be, Out-Voted
Let’s peel back the curtain on what happens when you submit your book proposal and sample chapters to a publishing house.
If you have an agent, or an inside connection, you’re typically sending your baby first to an acquisitions editor. That editor’s job is finding great content, an amazing voice, and that story that needs to be told. Then let’s say that lo-and-behold they think you got the stuff!! Congrats! You sit back and soak in the email that says they love your manuscript and they are excited to present it to their publishing board.
You call your mom. You pop the champagne. And then a month later, your bubble pops when the acquisitions editor emails you to say that unfortunately the publishing board said no and they wish you the best of luck on your journey to find the best home for this “life-changing” piece of work.
Wait, what happened?! Gosh, I know this question and frustration all too well.
Well, the editor made an impassioned pitch for your book, but you see the editor is outnumbered. Because on that publishing board is most likely a VP/Director of Sales, a VP/Director of Marketing, the head publisher overseeing it all, and then the head of editorial. And sales and marketing are pretty much asking the same question — how are we going to sell this book and who are we going to sell it to? They are looking at your manuscript and proposal asking questions about target audience, platform, similar writers they already have, and where does this book fit within their publishing world.
Editorial is not king. Beautiful, life-changing content is simply not the most important factor to getting a book deal. Great content is a given, but it’s not enough.
Publishers are looking at your proposal with the end in mind.
You have to do the same. Now this is not as simple as it sounds and there’s some intricacies here that sales and marketing are looking for, but one simple exercise is—In thirty seconds can you tell me what your credibility is, what your book idea is about, and why there is a need for it? And then, when I ask you more about that “dramatic need”, can you prove it?
Honestly, that’s why blogging is so crucial to getting a book deal because it’s your way of proving the need and the audience in a tangible way.
2. When You Blog, You’re Writing Your Book
Blogging is crucial for so many different reasons as you keep the end in mind, building an audience, platform, and powerful home base, full of credibility that publishers will be gushing over.
But even cooler than that: Blogging is beta-testing book ideas. You release a stripped down version of your book and then you see how the market responds.
You’re getting the chance to market test your book ideas before you actually spend the countless hours it’s going to take to write that book! Then, when you have different articles and ideas that really work well with your target audience, you can pick out the best stuff and literally put it in your book. I think the industry standard is that half of your book could possibly be re-purposed content that you’ve pulled from your blog and is now in your book.
Social media shares aren’t always an indication of good content as Buzzfeed lists about cats wearing super hero costumes rule the Internet. But if certain themes or topics play better for you than others, you might want to think how that becomes your book focus.
It’s the same thing as going to see your favorite comedian or musician in concert. Yeah they’re going to play some of their new stuff, but how bummed would you be if they didn’t do their classics. I watched an interview with Jerry Seinfield where he talked about using some of his same hits for 20 years.
And sales and marketing are going to love you using what works! Because they know it sells!
Simple BONUS Trick: Screenshots, screenshots, screenshots!!
Take lots of them! Screenshots might be the most powerful and persuasive tool you have in showing, not telling, that your book idea is going to sell. What do I mean?
When I got my first book deal for 101 Secrets For Your Twenties, I compiled hundreds of screen shots from Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook and put them all into a gigantic JPEG using Photoshop, while also including many of them in my book proposal. I then sent that to the publisher to “show, not tell them” who my target is and what they are literally saying about my work.
As people share your articles on social media, especially when it’s articles that really tie into your book topic, start collecting screen shots of those shares.
And you don’t need a high-powered, costly social media tracking system to start doing this. Twitter is easy to track as people are tagging you, favorite those tweets and then screen shot each one.
Another trick is to screen shot Pins on Pinterest coming from your site. The way to find Pins coming from your site is by putting in the url field: https://www.pinterest.com/source/yourwebsiteHERE.com/.
For example, if I search my website https://www.pinterest.com/source/allgroanup.com/ I can find the various articles people have been pinning the most like The Top 21 Books for Twentysomethings and 25 Signs You’re Having a Quarterlife Crisis.
If you search https://www.pinterest.com/source/thewritepractice.com/, you’ll see Joe Bunting’s 3 Tips to “Show, Not Tell” Emotions and Words still sharing like Pinterest wildfire. And what, that article was written three years ago! Joe struck gold there and it’s still paying off.
3. Building Relationships With Publishing Professionals and Fellow Writers Might Be More Important Than a Literary Agent
My first book deal came because a fellow blogger/author who I’d become friends with over the years, respected my work and was willing to vouch for me to his acquisitions editor.
My second book deal for my newest book All Groan Up happened through a relationship I was able to make with the VP of Marketing, at a conference
Building relationships and networking with authors and publishing professionals might help push you through the back doors while the bouncers push away everyone at the front.
Sounds nice. But how in the heck do I connect with these kind of people?! you might be asking.
Well, this post is already way too long, so I’ll share more tips on the easiest way to meet and build meaningful and lasting connections with authors and publishing professionals, plus answering any other questions you might have, in a free conference call Joe Bunting here at The Write Practice and myself will be putting on.
Joe here: I just want to say, if you are a millennial, or are close to someone who is, you need to get Paul’s wise/hilarious/amazing book All Groan Up. I read it myself, laughing and crying all the way, and I think you’ll love it. If you aren’t a millennial, make sure to get it for someone who is. Click here to order the book.
Do you want to get published? What would you like to learn about getting published? Let us know in the comments section below.
Let’s put this to practice in the comments below. In three sentences describe what your credibility is, what your book idea is about, and why there is a need for it.