How To Get A Book Deal - What to Look For and What to Avoid

BY Sarah Rexford | Aug 23, 2022 | Business, Publishing

Have you ever wondered how to get a book deal or if you need an agent to secure one? These are important questions to consider as you start your writing journey.

Whether you are in the process of writing your first book or have an entire series you want to publish, knowing how to get a book deal is an integral part of your publishing process.

However, depending on what type of publishing journey your take, your book deal can take a myriad of forms. In this article, we discuss:

Should You Get A Book Deal?

The first question to answer is whether or not you should even consider a book deal. Let’s start by laying the groundwork.

If you want to strictly focus on writing, building your platform, and leave creative liberties to someone else, you should pursue securing a book deal. In traditional publishing, receiving an offer usually follows the following process:

  • Draft Your Novel*
  • Edit Your Novel
  • Create A Compelling Book Proposal
  • Querry Agents
  • Sign With An Agent
  • Let Your Agent Shop Your Manuscript To Publishers
  • Receive Rejections
  • Receive An Offer From A Publisher
  • Negotiate The Contract
  • Sign The Contract

*Nonfiction follows a very similar path, but usually, you only need to write the first three chapters to secure an agent or a book deal.

Getting a book deal is quite a process and can take months, if not years to secure. There are stories of writers who break the mold, obtain a book deal quickly, and reach success, but this is not the norm.

If you are prepared to put this kind of time and effort into traditional publication, then yes, you should pursue getting a traditional book deal.

What To Look For

When looking to secure a book deal, several critical questions must be considered. Obtaining a book deal is quite the accomplishment and can often make or break the start of your career. Finding the right publisher and allowing your agent to negotiate your contract are two factors, but there are other steps you can take on your way.

#1 – Decide What Size Publisher Is Right For You

Some authors are prepared to take any offer to get their book out there. A small publisher can help your first book do very well, as can a more prominent, more well-known publisher. Either way, it’s important to understand what type of marketing reach the publisher has prior to signing.

#2 – Consider At Past Sales And Branding

Before signing a contract, look at how well previous books did with this publisher. Also, look at book covers to make sure your book’s branding aligns with your author brand. Look for the big picture, and see where your book fits.

#3 – Look At The Contract

While your agent should handle the negotiations for you, it’s important to take control of your publishing journey and understand what you are signing. Look through your rights, what the publisher will take control of, and all other relevant details.

One of the major things to look for in traditional publishing deals is the rights to ebooks and audiobooks. The most experienced, highest caliber authors take the ebook and audiobook out of the contract and publish those separately or even independently.

Now that you know what to look for, avoiding the wrong options is important.

What To Avoid

Writers are passionate about putting their work out into the world, and with this passion driving them forward, sometimes it can be simple to make a mistake early on.

Be leery of any publisher who asks you to pay to publish with their company, without offering any services, coaching, or support in return. In traditional publishing, publishers pay you, the author, for the privilege of publishing your book. This payment comes in various ways, but two primary payments are your advance and your royalties.

It’s important to also avoid ambiguity from publishers. Seek clarity and hard facts when deciding whether or not to publish with a particular house.

Again, your agent should know which publishers are credible and what will likely produce the best for your career, but be aware of what’s happening and what you’re getting into. Any traditional publisher who asks you for money should be avoided.

Why Self-Publishing May Be The Better Option

If you have a solid grasp on marketing, can hire a professional editor, and want full creative liberties with your book, self-publishing may be a better alternative for you. Additionally, while self-publishing a book can be a long process, you do not need to wait on a publisher to offer you a book deal.

Turnaround Time And Creative Liberties

Self-publishing is also a great option for those who want a faster turnaround time from rough draft to publication. When you self-publish, you can take matters into your own hands a bit more proactively.

  • You decide the speed you publish
  • You choose your editor
  • You choose your book design
  • You create and execute your marketing plan

Of course, the privilege of full creative liberties comes with more responsibility, but if you have the capacity for it, self-publishing can be a fantastic option.

Onbrand Book, Specific Marketing Plan

Let’s say you started an entrepreneur who is fully self-employed and making waves in the small business world. You had an incredible journey to where you are today—highs and lows—and want to share your story.

Due to building your business, you have a large email list, a strong brand people resonate with, and speak on branding and business at conferences around the nation.

Now you have the itch to publish a book that aligns with your brand and you can point your audiences too after you present. Self-publishing may be the better option for you because you:

If you chose to publish traditionally, you would need to follow the steps listened earlier and presenting your book to your audience would likely take quite a bit longer.

Options For More Books, Faster

If you choose to self-publish, you can also write more books on-demand. For instance, if your first book does well and you sell thousands of copies in the first several months, you may want to put a follow-up book out.

When you choose to self-publish, you can use the existing buzz of your first book to create expectations and readership for your next book. Self-publishing allows you the option to put books into your readers’ hands at your own pace.

What’s Right For You?

The answer to this question is subjective and depends on your personal writing and career goals. If you are not a confident marketer and are still working to build your platform, or perhaps don’t have the means right now to hire a professional editor, consider traditional publishing.

That said, if you already have a built-in audience, are building a solid brand, and are pretty comfortable with marketing, you may want to consider self-publishing. While it will take investment up front and you will not receive an advance, your royalty rates will be higher and you will keep all your book rights.

Remember, the fun of being a writer is you get to make the right choice for your book! Do your research and then move forward boldly.

Related posts
Author Book Signings And Appearances: Our Top 7 Tips 

Author Book Signings And Appearances: Our Top 7 Tips 

Author book signings are great events not just for the fans they draw in, but for the authors themselves. There’s nothing quite like standing in a line of people who are all excited about the same book, same characters, and same story.  At author book signings...

How to Start a Book Business (2023 Guide)

How to Start a Book Business (2023 Guide)

Are you looking to make money from something you’re passionate about? For many of us, making a living related to books is truly the dream life.  Too many people have a disconnect between the things they care about most and how they make enough money to get by....

Best Self-Publishing Companies [2023 Update]

Best Self-Publishing Companies [2023 Update]

Know the best self-publishing companies of 2023 to stay ahead of the curve as an aspiring author. No two self-publishing companies are the same, so don't rely on trial and error when it comes to working with publishing companies as an author. In a world of scammy...

See Behind The Scenes of Our Proprietary Process for FREE!

We want to ship you a copy of our new book for free (just pay shipping and handling). This book will help you make progress with YOUR book while also giving you a behind the scenes look at our process.

Check Out Our Podcast!

New episodes out every Wednesday!

Available on: