Getting Published – Tips from Agents & an Author

Linda Konner, top Literary Agent @ LKLA

There are many reasons why people want to become a published author. Maybe you want to establish yourself as an expert in your field, create multiple new revenue streams (from book sales, speaking engagements, webinars, etc.), get exposure & great reviews in print or online media, and get invited to opine on radio and TV, etc.

Like many wannabes, I want all of the above! Unbelievably I’ve been talking about publishing my first book for 6 years; it’s more than time to make it happen.

That’s why last week I attended So You Want to Write a Book, an informative panel discussion about non-fiction book publishing hosted by the Newswomen’s Club of New York, skillfully moderated by NWCNY President, journalist and author, Toni Reinhold.

Leah Spiro, founder of Riverside Creative Management, a “new literary agency focusing on business authors” and Linda Konner, founder of the Linda Konner Literary Agency (LKLA) which “specializes in health, self-help and other practical non-fiction books written by some of the country’s top experts in their fields” – were the two literary agents in attendance. Penny Colman – a “widely published author of books, essays, stories and articles for all ages” – shared her insight on traditional and non-traditional publishing, and the perks and pitfalls of negotiating book deals with and without an agent.

All three women shared smart proposal writing, pitching tips and resources – these are some of the highlights…

Penny Colman on Self -Publishing….

Penny had LOTS of great info to share, and she’s passionate about author wannbes being well-informed about all the choices when it comes to traditional and e-book publishing. She mentioned Smashwords as one e-book publishing outlet, and said that Amazon has a good royalty rate. Click here to see a few of the self-publishing options Amazon recommends/has partnerships with.

She told us about Rebecca Skloot, ASJA member and author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, who organized her own highly successful book tour. So I snooped around and found an excellent article about her work as her own publicist in 2009, when she put together a book tour on her own despite various warnings from other authors and without (apparently) any tangible support or counsel from her publisher.

Click here to read about Rebecca’s experience. This ScienceBlog article cover the gamut: from Skloot’s (brain-damaged) dad’s help in coordinating stops on her tour, to how she naturally engaged her Twitter and facebook communities, along with Google mapping technology and asking for help from friends and colleagues. Don’t read anything else till you read this, because Skloot shares great insight about the mechanics of planning a tour, as well as good resources. In the process of detailing her journey, Skloot shows how much personal involvement a modern day author should have, to boost their book sales (& paid speaking engagements) via a blend of traditional face time and involvement in social online spaces.

Per Penny: “read other books to see their structure, cadence and style”, ” know your demographic markets” and “I write a bigger marketing plan than the book proposal”.

Quotes/Tips from the Literary Agents:

Leah Spiro…

  • A good book proposal should include a Table of Contents
  • Look at other books that inspire you, model your book’s structure on them
  • I take about 2 weeks to look over submitted proposals & get back with a decision
  • to develop an idea to the point of pitching an editor or agent flush out a Table of Contents, figure out if it’s a narrative or if you will include profiles, figure out your approach and the overall landscape of published works of your competition

Linda Konner …

  • I try to get back to people within one day if I’m interested in a proposal
  • I prefer getting fully written proposals, a wonderful sample chapter is important
  • ask ‘what’s your point?’  - this will help you structure (the table of ) contents
  • Re advances: I have no idea (what a particular new project will command). I’ll do my best and (strategically) submit to multiple publishers
  • You do NOT have to write the whole book first to secure a book deal with a major publisher

The best take-away from the evening – do your homework. Go to Barnes & Noble, Borders, etc. and walk the aisles. Google your subject matter and see what’s out there, which books/content are similar to your idea. Identify what makes your book unique. Don’t be afraid to borrow a best seller’s structure. Understand that the ball is in your court when it comes to marketing (i.e. the publishers expect you to be heavily involved) and it’s in your best interest to have a robust platform and active dialogue with your fans and followers in the social networking world.

Best of luck with all your book & proposal writing endeavors! I’m wrapping my proposal by the end of the month and will keep you posted on my progress.

Book Publishing & Writing Resources:

The Author’s Guild

Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents

Literary Marketplace

Writers Market

Profiler built by Brian Lis