Have you thought about publishing yet?

If you want to write a book about your business, you might not have given thought much to publishing yet. You’ve got to write the book before you choose between self-publishing and traditional publishing, right?! Wrong. That’s the one mistake most new non-fiction authors make. We’re going to talk about why you should decide how to publish your non-fiction book before you write. 

I'm Liz, the writer behind Green Goose Ghostwriting. I help entrepreneurs who want to write a book to demonstrate authority in their niche and get more speaking engagements. I write their book in their own voice so they can share their message, inspire others, and finally level-up their business.

To understand why you should choose how to publish your non-fiction book before you write it, you need to know a bit about the traditional publishing process.

How does traditionally publishing work for non-fiction?

Here's the step-by-step run-down...

  1. You look for an agent
    Since publishers generally won't talk to you without an agent, you'll start by finding an agent. They act almost like a realtor does when you sell your house.

    So before you write the book, you’ll send a book proposal (details of what your book will be about and its marketing plan) to several—or many!—agents. 
  2. You sign a contract with an agent
    If an agent loves your proposal, they’ll offer to represent you. You’ll sign a contract that says they'll try and find you a publisher and you'll pay them (usually) 15 percent of any book deal.
  3. Your agent will look for a publisher
    Your new agent will send your book proposal to publishers and try to get a book deal.
  4. You sign a book deal
    If a publisher loves your proposal, they’ll offer you a book deal and pay you an advance, which is a chunk of money you get for writing the book.
  5. You write the book
    When the money is in your bank account, you write the book.

Obviously, there are more steps involved in getting the book into the market and this is an outline of the ideal scenario (which unfortunately doesn't happen for many writers).

But this is as much as we need to know right now. It tells us something many first-time writers don't know about book publishing: publishes sign book deals based on proposals, not full book manuscripts.

Are you wasting your time?

So if you want a traditional book deal, it's a waste of time to write your book first. Of course, you have to do it at some point but, at this stage, your energy is better spent on writing a book proposal.

What is a book proposal?

Book proposals are marketing documents. They usually about 20 pages long and contain:

  • a synopsis (summary) of your idea;
  • your author bio;
  • details of your target audience;
  • an analysis of competitor books;
  • details of your planned marketing activities;
  • an annotated table of contents; and
  • one or two sample chapters.

These are pretty comprehensive documents which can be challenging and time-consuming to write well.

Traditional publishing or self-publishing?

So should you go the traditional publishing route or self-publish your nonfiction book?

It sounds tempting to get a guaranteed chunk of money before you've even written the book but there are a lot of other considerations. This decision deserves a whole post of its own! In a couple of weeks, I have an amazing editor appearing here on the blog to discuss just that.

To make sure you don't miss that post, stick your email address in the space below this post and I'll let you know when it's available. You also get more cool stuff about writing for your business every week.

What to do right now?

If you're dead set on traditional publishing, read this post by writing legend Jane Friedman to get more familiar with the process before writing your book proposal.

If you suspect you want to self-publish, get cracking on that book.

If you're not sure, let your book ideas percolate, write down notes, outlines, and thoughts, and hang tight for the next post! (Or email me to chat it over.)

See you next time.

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