I spoke this week with Jackie Haley of Dream to Author, where she helps aspiring writers become published through online training and coaching services. We had a great discussion about how to work with a publisher.

There are three main paths that authors can take to publish their book after it’s written: seeking an agent to land a traditional publishing deal, self-publishing (now more commonly called author-publishing), and assisted publishing, which includes the hybrid publishing path that Top Reads provides. It’s important for each writer to think about their goals when choosing which path to take. It can take years to find an agent, and after that, they may or may not be able to sell your book to a publisher. That is time the author could be spending publishing and selling books on the author-publishing or assisted publishing path.

It may seem obvious, but whether someone is TikTok famous or completely unknown, a writer must write a compelling book. What I look for in a manuscript is something that stands out; an author must have an authentic and unique voice in their writing. This applies to fiction and non-fiction. For non-fiction, it needs to be more than an aggregate of what other authors have published before. This is most apparent in the self-help genre. I want to hear new ideas, something fresh. For fiction, I want to read a story I’ve never read before with a unique voice and writing style that shines through the narrative.

Many authors worry about the query letter. I encourage a very simple letter with the facts, the pitch, and that authentic voice I mentioned. Yes, I want to see that even in the query letter. The query is the first step to getting my attention. Please don’t stress about getting everything perfect; be yourself and tell me about your book.

Once you make it past the query letter, there is more you need to be ready to talk about.

Here are some things to figure out before pitching your book to a publisher:

  • Write a short pitch. This is sometimes called a logline, elevator pitch, or hook.
  • Know who your audience is. Not everyone is your reader. What other authors write books like yours? Who reads their books?
  • Know what your comp titles are. What books are people reading who would also read your book?
  • Be willing to do some outreach to market your book. It’s important to have an online presence of some type, be it social media, a website, a LinkedIn profile, or a blog. You don’t need to have all of them, but your fans need to be able to find you somewhere online. Choose the ones that you feel comfortable with. If you loathe Twitter, you probably won’t enjoy using it to promote yourself and your book.
  • Be realistic about your expectations. Not every book will become a bestseller. That’s just a fact. Are you writing a book to make money? To find an audience for your business? To entertain? Or simply to accomplish a goal?
  • Success has many definitions. Keep your end goal in mind and put in the work to attain that goal. If you want lots of readers, be prepared to give away a lot of free ebooks. If you want a high sales number, be prepared to have a marketing budget. If you want notoriety, enter award competitions.
  • Don’t go it alone. Have a support team! Writing is a lonely job, but getting the book out to the world will be easier and more fun if you have professionals and friends to help you along the way.

Jackie Haley of Dream to Author is one of the friendly professionals out there to help you write your book. Check out her services at dreamtoauthor.com