7 Book Publishing Basics

Looking for for tips on getting a book published? Here are seven practical steps for starting your journey. Most of this information applies to writers who have never published before, so if you’re already a successful author, feel free to share this with new writers who ask, “How’d you do it?”

  1. Write well!

Regardless of how many poorly written books get published every year, this is still rule #1. Agents, editors, and readers are always looking for well-written books. Anyone can type words on a page, but skillfully crafted messages and stories are a delight.

  1. Attend a writers conference or two or three.

Writers conferences are an opportunity to make connections with writers, editors, and agents. While you’re there, take workshops to learn all you can to hone your writing craft (refer to tip #1).

Google writer’s conferences in your area or check out The Christian Writer’s Market Guide by Jerry Jenkins. The Shaw Guide also provides a detailed list of writers conferences. Know that there are hundreds of writer’s conferences across the world, each with a different audience, niche, and connections. Be sure that the conference you attend fits your requirements for price, distance, timing, and professional goals.

  1. Write a book proposal.

This is like writing a business plan for your book, which may sound like tedious work, but it’s highly beneficial. A book proposal helps you articulate your book’s theme, purpose, audience, and competition (among other things), and it helps you create a marketing plan for when your book comes out.

A book proposal’s form may vary depending on the genre, and most agents have a template they prefer to use for their authors. But if you don’t have an agent, head to the resources tab on this site and download a free PDF book proposal template (choose Fiction or Non-Fiction). It’s a simple, fill-in-the-blanks form that will show you every element an agent or editor looks for in a book proposal.

If you want more in-depth instruction on how to make your proposal shine, author Mary DeMuth offers downloadable tutorials on writing fiction and non-fiction book proposals. How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larsen is also a good resource.

  1. Build your platform.

A platform refers to all of the activities you engage in that make people notice you and your work. It shows how visible you are to your target audience. Building your platform could include social media or blogging, speaking engagements, or teaching — anything that markets you as an author.

Platform by Michael Hyatt provides an informative, step-by-step guide to building your platform. Get Known Before the Book Deal by Christina Katz is another great resource.

  1. Choose to self-publish or look for a traditional publisher.

This short ebook from literary agent Rachelle Gardner gives pros and cons of each option. Before you ever pay anyone to publish your book, know something about the company you choose. There are several different varieties of self-publishing, from eBooks to print books and many that do both. Each type of self-publishing requires different amounts of up-front cash and effort on the part of the author.

  1. If you want traditional publishing, find an agent.

Editor Chuck Sambuchino releases a yearly Guide to Literary Agents. Listen to an interview between Michael Hyatt and Rachelle Gardner on new writers and finding an agent. The Christian Writers Market Guide features a list of literary agents that represent mainly Christian authors. Writers conferences are great places to meet agents in person, which can make a big difference in this relationship-oriented business. Most literary agencies post submission guidelines on their web sites, so be sure and follow those when submitting a query or a proposal.

  1. Plan on a marathon, not a sprint!

Bestselling authors don’t pop up overnight. Most of them worked on their writing and platform for many years before publishing their first book. So give yourself plenty of grace along your publishing path. Also, while you may have big dreams of becoming a bestselling author, God may have other plans. A publishing journey often brings tremendous personal and spiritual growth. “And … after you have suffered a little while, [God] himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10). Smile! Though the road may be long and winding, know that you’re not alone on your journey.

Where are you in this journey?