I've been asked a lot of questions about this, so I thought I'd put it out there once and for the record. First, I want to tell everyone publishing is not an easy process, but it's not an impossible one either. If you have a great idea, a fair amount of talent, and an enormous amount of tenacity, you can make it happen. Here's how it worked for me. I hope this journey gives you ideas and inspiration to tackle your big ideas too, whatever they may be.
Lesson #1: Fix Your ProductI'm a marketing girl at heart and this is a golden rule of the industry. In short, you can't save a bad product. Period. Not with good marketing, good salesmanship, a lot of money, or even a mountain of tenacity. Especially in our social-media driven world, if you have a bad book (or business idea, widget, whatever), it's not going to get off the ground regardless of what you do. For Effective Immediately, my co-author Skip Lineberg and I wrote the book we wanted to read as young professionals. We knew the content was good, we just needed to…
Lesson #2: Find an AgentOh...the mountain of books I have on this subject. Stacks and stacks. I read everything that had the word “agent" in the title and I became obsessed with finding free teleseminars/webinars with ANYONE from the publishing industry who could tell me how it worked. In fact, I would schedule my days around Rick Frishman's teleseminars (this was a few years ago) and I asked so many questions that – eventually – he came to know my name. And that was the point. When I was confident that Rick a.) knew who I was, and b.) knew I wasn't a dilettante – I sent him an email and requested a personal consultation about our project. In the interest of full disclosure, I did have to pay Rick for his time – and it wasn't cheap! At the end of the call though, he recommended me to Linda Konner, a nonfiction agent interested in career titles. Because she knew Rick (never underestimate the power of a referral!), she agreed to read our proposal. She liked it and signed us. Sounds easy enough right? Here's what happened in the interim:
- Our proposal took 6 months to write and was 40 pages long. (This also includes the time it took me to read a mountain of books with the word “book proposal" in the title.) Tip: In the proposal, I made sure to place a heavy emphasis on research that demonstrated the market need for our book and very detailed plans on how we were going to promote it.
- Skip and I have always had a strong vision for the layout, so we commissioned a designer to create a mock-up of a few sample chapters.
- I traveled to New York multiple times attending author courses and the BEA pre-show writer's conference. Most of these events have a “speed networking with agents" component and I was determined that if I could just meet with the right people, my passion would sell them on this project. Incidentally, I did meet with Linda face-to-face prior to being signed – and after so many speed networking events, I had my elevator pitch d-o-w-n.
- Prior to being accepted by Linda, our proposal had been turned down by about 45 other agents.