Advice for Self-Help Authors Looking for an Agent or Publisher

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Yesterday, The Cadence Group received an email from an e-book Self Help author who wanted some advice. She says she will soon be looking for an agent and wanted to know where to start. My intrepid partner, Bethany Brown, offered her this great advice:

1. If your plan is to seek a publisher or agent in the near future, you need to start building your platform right away. In particular, if you’re writing nonfiction. It’s important to make sure that you – and your book – stand out in a crowd. A great way to do this is to start blogging, build a website, write articles for newspapers and magazines, and perhaps try to secure some speaking engagements and/or workshops using some of the ideas from your book.

2. Start thinking about your book proposal now. There are a lot of great books out there to guide you through the process. But a good book proposal requires a lot of research and planning. Mapping out the elements now will help you “fill them in” as you do your competitive research, build your platform and think about your marketing plans and strategy.

3. Get to know your category. Your book will only be shelved in one place in the bookstore. Make sure you understand your competition. How do you differentiate yourself? Is there a market for your book? Do you have a unique hook? Does your book “fit” with your category in regard to length, content and packaging.

4. When you’re ready to move on to trying to find an agent or publisher, might I recommend that your first stop be your local bookstores. Pull out books that are similar to yours and/or that you really like. Check the acknowledgement page. A good agent will often be thanked by the author in the acknowledgements. Look at the copyright page. Who published the book? Make a list of your top 10 – 15 agents and publishers and go home and check out their websites. Do they accepted unsolicited proposals? What format do that want to see your proposal in? Do they prefer a query letter as first contact? Pay close attention to their requirements and follow them – you don’t want to be discounted from the outset for a minor mistake.

5. Always make sure you research any agent and/or publisher before agreeing to work with them.

List of books we recommend for authors:

How to Write a Book Proposal, Michael Larsen

Nonfiction Book Proposals Anyone Can Write, Elizabeth Lyon

How to Get a Literary Agent, Michael Larson

Write the Perfect Book Proposal: 10 That Sold and Why, Jeff Herman

Writer’s Market 2008

Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents 2008: Who They Are! What They Want! How to Win Them Over!

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