I often receive questions from friends, family, and fans about how I approach the book publishing process. Honestly, I can admit that there is no clear-cut method on how to traditionally publish your work; every author has his or her own "secret sauce." Today, I would like to share the recipe for my secret sauce with you. It has worked 100% of the time in helping me get my books traditionally published. I want to pass this success onwards.
Before going any further, however, I think it is important to point out that there are two main strategies around how authors can traditionally publish books. The first strategy, which is the most selective and hardest to execute, is working with an agent. Agents receive 10,000 to 15,000 manuscript submissions every year…and on average, they only choose to represent four or five new authors from all those submissions. This translates into an acceptance rate of approximately .04%, which is 135x lower than the acceptance rate for Harvard University. An agent is quite valuable, though, because he or she will leverage existing connections to pitch your manuscript to some of the largest and most prestigious publishing houses in the world.
The second strategy for publishing a book is to cut out the agent altogether. Contrary to what most authors believe, agents are not required in the process. There may even be some value in avoiding them, as they usually expect at least 15% royalties from all book sales. This strategy is the road that I have taken with all my books to date.
So, what is my secret recipe on traditionally publishing a book without an agent? Simple. Instead of having an agent represent you and reach out to publishing houses on your behalf, you reach out yourself (once you have a completed manuscript). It is true that some of the larger publishing houses will only accept manuscript submissions from agents. But, many of the smaller to mid-size publishing houses will in fact accept queries directly from authors. My advice to uncover these publishers is to do a search on Amazon by the same genre of book as you have written. Go through at least the first 20 pages of results, and make a list of which publishing house each book is published by.
For example, if you are aiming to publish a nonfiction cookbook, search for cookbooks on Amazon and make a list of which publishers have published each cookbook. Doing this will allow you to target only the most relevant publishers for your future book. Once you have compiled a list of 30 to 40 publishers, research each one and look on their websites to see if the publishing house editors accept unsolicited manuscripts directly from authors. If so, then send a pitch email (I will write an upcoming blog post on the perfect pitch email) with the first three chapters of your manuscript attached. It is extremely important that your manuscript is edited and in final-draft form. The publishing house editors will decide whether they want to read your entire manuscript based on just those three chapters. If they are interested, they will reach out to you within a month (or a little longer) asking you for your entire manuscript. Finally, if they like your entire manuscript, they will offer you a publishing deal!
Negotiating the publishing deal is another tricky part of the process, which I will also write a future blog post on. For now, if you are looking to break into the world of traditional book publishing, start by finishing your manuscript and compiling a list of publishing houses that have published books in a similar genre to the one you hope to release. I can promise you that with some perseverance, this strategy is guaranteed to land you a traditional book publishing deal. If you have any comments or questions on my process, feel free to post them below!