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How Do You Get a Book Deal?

For experts and thought leaders, writing a book can be a powerful way to share your knowledge, build your brand, and establish yourself as an authority in your field. But once you’ve got the idea and maybe even poured your insights onto the page, the real challenge begins: how to get a book deal that will bring your work to the widest possible audience.

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While the idea of landing a traditional book publishing deal may seem like the ultimate goal, the reality of securing a book deal is more complex than many aspiring authors realize. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what it really takes to get a book deal for your prescriptive nonfiction work.

We’ll explore how to get a book deal, the different publishing paths available, the key steps involved in the traditional publishing process, and the gritty realities of what publishers expect from authors. 

By the end, you’ll have a clearer understanding of how to approach your publishing journey and determine whether a traditional book deal aligns with your goals.

Before we dive into the six steps for how to get a book deal, let’s explore what a book deal is, and what you should look out for.

Typical Book Deal

Traditional book publishers take your manuscript, review it, and edit it to make it viable for distribution. They have the industry knowledge to understand what will sell and how to sell. Publishers also support you in marketing and reaching your target audience so you can get the word out about your book.

Book Deal Clauses

For all this to be possible, you need to sign a book publishing deal. But what does the contract entail? What are book deal clauses? Publishing deals typically have the major sections listed below.

Granting of Rights

Located at the beginning of book deals, it explains the rights or licenses you’ll be granting your publisher and how long they’ll be valid. Licenses can be granted for the entire term of the copyright (author’s life plus 70 years) or for a shorter, specific timeframe such as 10 years. 

These rights may encompass all types of formats (paperback, hardback, ebook). It can also include translated volumes, television, film, and audio rights as well as a variety of other rights.


An advance is a payment that a publisher will give you based on how they think the book might sell. Contrary to popular belief, authors don’t always get an advanced payment. Sometimes, publishers choose to not give one or only give a small amount as an advance.

The contract will clearly state the amount of your advance. It will also include a sales figure that will be the basis of your royalties. Typically, once you reach the specified amount in book sales, only then will you be entitled to receive royalties.


Every time a book is sold, the author receives a portion of the sale. These portions will initially be used to pay off the advance. However, if the book “earns out,”’ the author will begin receiving royalties at intervals that are specified in the book deal which is usually every six months.


Hard copies of books entail physical distribution in retail outlets. To know where your manuscripts will be sold, how many languages they will be translated to, and other similar details, look at the clauses under “territory.”

While some contracts allow worldwide distribution across major languages, the author or publisher can also limit this clause to certain territories and languages.


Reversion is when the rights for distribution and publication are reversed by the publisher and given back to the author or the author’s estate. This usually happens when a book has been out of print for a long time.

How Do Book Deals Work?

Once all the terms of a book deals have been reviewed and agreed upon by the author and the publisher, it is signed by both parties.

The contract then becomes a legal, binding document of the rights given to the publisher by the author so that the publisher can sell the book.

So, how do book deals work? Once signed, the contract is enforced and the publisher begins their work.

Types of Book Deals

There are many ways to publish your book nowadays. Here are some options for getting your work out there:

Traditional Publishing and Publishing Houses

Traditional publishing means that there are two parties involved in the distribution of the book: the author and the publishing company. The author grants rights, copyrights, subsidiary rights, distribution, and sales rights to the publishing company.

In turn, the publisher takes on the responsibility of getting the book printed, published, designed, edited, distributed, and marketed to as many people as possible. 

It may sound straightforward but it can be difficult to approach traditional publishers, especially if they’re the “big five.” Namely, these are Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Macmillan, and the Hachette Book Group.

Over the years, writers have submitted synopses of their books to traditional publishing houses like these for consideration.

A traditional publishing house may already have an audience base and preferred categories/niches where they publish content. 

Usually, manuscripts for publishing are selected based on what the publishing house feels is okay to give their audiences or even the world at large.

The publishing house is solely responsible for distribution and sales after publishing the book. An author earns between five and fifteen percent of sales.

Hybrid Book Deals

Hybrid publishing is a mix between traditional publishing and self-publishing. This type of contract is customizable and gives the author more control over the editing process, distribution, marketing, and printing.

Unlike traditional publishing, authors own 100% of publishing rights. Hybrid publishing means that the author makes the initial commitment rather than being paid upfront by a traditional publisher.

Since the author has greater influence over the editing of their work, there is greater dialogue and back-and-forth between the author and publisher.

The publisher will handle the marketing and distribution based on the publishing plan chosen by the author. This usually depends on the writer’s budget and how much of their capital they’re willing to spend.

Different from traditional publishing, an author can also distribute and market their book.


Self-publishing has become the new trend for authors, even among more established ones. The advent of social media marketing has given even unknown authors the power to create a name for themselves and create a following by posting content regularly. 

With so many people having access to self-publishing, marketing, and selling platforms, they are less reliant on publishers for their services.

Many writers choose self-publishing because they want complete control over the publishing process and the ability to keep all the profits from book sales. While this sounds like a great and profitable way to eliminate the middleman, it has its own set of challenges.

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Seize your literary destiny—watch our publishing secrets webinar!


By opting in, you’re joining our vibrant community! Expect 2-3 weekly newsletters packed with curated content, exclusive updates, and valuable insights to fuel your journey. Welcome to the conversation!

Authors who choose to self-publish need to be entrepreneurial. They also need more well-rounded skills and knowledge such as knowing how the industry works, how to successfully market themselves and their niche, and understanding printing and distribution processes.

How Do You Get a Book Deal

Now that we’ve discussed the different aspects of these deals, let’s finally talk about how to get a book deal.

Step 1: Craft a Compelling Query Letter

One of the most crucial steps to get a book deal is crafting a compelling query letter that will capture the attention of a literary agent and eventually a publishing company. 

A query letter is essentially a pitch that convinces a literary agent that you have a strong book idea and a solid understanding of marketing. 

To create a query letter that will get noticed, it’s essential to invest time and effort into the process. This might mean working with experienced professionals who can guide you in crafting a persuasive pitch. Websites like Query Shark can also provide valuable insights and examples of successful query letters.

Remember, getting a traditional book deal is a business, and as with any business venture, it requires an investment of both time and money. 

Treat your writing career as you would any other professional pursuit, and be willing to allocate the necessary resources to develop your skills and create a polished final product.

When drafting your query letter, focus on conveying your unique idea and demonstrating your expertise in your chosen subject matter. Literary agents and publishing companies are looking for authors who can bring something fresh and compelling to the table, so don’t be afraid to highlight what sets your book apart from others in your genre.

It’s also crucial to showcase your commitment to marketing your book once it’s published. Publishers want to work with authors who are proactive and engaged in promoting their work. Demonstrate that you have a plan in place for reaching your target audience and driving sales.

A Side Note on Literary Agents

You’ll want to work with a literary agent who understands publishing companies and how to craft a compelling book proposal. You want someone who knows how to get a book deal. 

Look out for a literary agent who has a track record of getting authors a publishing deal through publishing companies that publish books like yours. 

Many resources are available to help you find the right literary agent and publishers for your work, such as New York Book Editors and Writer’s Digest. However, these professionals will only respond if your query letter stands out from the crowd.

Step 2: Build a Strong Author Platform

Building a strong author platform is essential when seeking a traditional book deal. Publishers are increasingly looking for writers who come with a built-in audience, as this can significantly boost the chances of a book’s success.

To make yourself an attractive prospect to literary agents and publishing houses, aim to cultivate a substantial following. While the exact numbers may vary, having around 100,000 followers or more can certainly catch the attention of industry professionals.

However, it’s not just about the size of your platform; it’s also about your ability to engage and connect with your audience. Publishers want authors who are mediagenic—those who have a compelling presence and can effectively communicate their ideas through various media channels.

This means you don’t just need to be compelling, but you need to be compelling in relation to your book idea. Traditional publishing companies, in particular, are looking for people who can command a specific book idea because they know those types of ideas sell. Remember, books are businesses. 

Keep Your Skills Sharpened

In addition to crafting a strong online presence, it’s crucial to develop your skills in self-promotion and book marketing. Remember, signing a book deal is not the end of the journey; it’s just the beginning. 

Publishers expect authors to be actively involved in promoting their work, so demonstrating your ability to do so can make you a more appealing candidate.

Consider ways to showcase your expertise and build your reputation within your niche. This might include contributing to popular blogs or publications, speaking at events or conferences, or collaborating with other respected figures in your field.

As you work on growing your platform, don’t neglect the importance of honing your craft. While a large following can open doors, ultimately, the quality of your writing will be the deciding factor in securing a book deal. 

Dedicate time to refining your skills, seeking feedback from beta readers or writing groups, and polishing your manuscript until it truly shines.

By focusing on building a robust author platform, developing your marketing savvy, and consistently producing high-quality content, you’ll be well-positioned to capture the interest of publishers and land that coveted book deal. 

Remember, the publishing industry is a competitive landscape, but with dedication and perseverance, you can make your writing dreams a reality.

Tip 3: Prepare for the Long Haul

When embarking on the journey to secure a traditional book deal, it’s crucial to understand that the process is not a quick or simple one. In fact, it’s best to approach it as a three-year plan that encompasses multiple stages, each requiring dedicated effort and attention.

The first stage, of course, is writing the book proposal itself. Crafting a high-quality, engaging book proposal takes time and patience. 

It’s not just about putting your book idea on the page; it’s about showing how you are the only person who could write this book, why this book idea needs to be published now, and how you will help the publisher make a return on investment. 

Sound a little too capitalistic for you? To be fair, it is, but that’s how nearly all traditional publishers and, to be honest, much of the traditional publishing industry work.

Once you write the book proposal, now it’s off to finding a literary agent and publishing company. Submitting to these places can take an incredibly long time. 

It’s not uncommon for authors to face rejection before finding the right match for their book, so it’s essential to remain persistent and keep submitting until you find success.

However, securing a book deal is not the end of the road. In fact, it’s just the beginning of the marketing and promotion phase. Publishers expect authors to be actively involved in promoting their work, which can include everything from book signings and interviews to social media campaigns and speaking engagements.

This three-year plan requires a significant investment of time and energy, but it’s essential for authors who are serious about building a successful career in the publishing industry. B

Tip 4: Invest in Your Writing Career

Pursuing a traditional book deal is not just a creative endeavor; it’s also a significant business investment. As with any professional venture, it requires a willingness to dedicate both time and financial resources to achieve success.

One key aspect of treating your writing career as a business is understanding that it may require a substantial monetary investment. This can include expenses such as hiring professional editors, attending writing conferences or workshops, and even funding your own marketing efforts.

To illustrate this point, consider the example of a hairdresser who invested a staggering $200,000 in her music career while simultaneously working multiple jobs to fund her passion. 

This level of financial commitment may seem daunting, but it underscores the reality that pursuing a creative career often necessitates a significant investment.

Of course, not every aspiring author has the means to pour such a large sum into their writing career. However, the principle remains the same: be prepared to invest in yourself and your work. 

This might mean taking on a side job or freelance work to generate additional income that can be allocated towards your writing expenses.

It’s also essential to recognize that the investment of time is just as crucial as the financial aspect. Writing a book is a time-consuming process that often requires sacrificing other activities or commitments. 

Be prepared to dedicate a significant portion of your time to honing your craft, revising your work, and navigating the publishing industry.

Tip 5: Think Beyond Book Sales

When it comes to making money from your book, it’s important to think beyond just the royalties from sales. As part of your publishing deal, you are expected to help the publisher make a return on investment in your book. 

And while seeing your book on store shelves is undoubtedly a thrilling milestone, the reality is that most authors don’t make a significant income from book sales alone.

However, this doesn’t mean that your book can’t be a profitable venture. Savvy authors understand that there are numerous ways to monetize their work beyond the traditional sales model. One avenue to consider is exploring opportunities in film and television. 

If your book has a compelling story or concept, it could catch the eye of producers looking for new material to adapt for the screen.

Another potential revenue stream is developing courses or workshops related to your book’s subject matter. If you’ve written a non-fiction book that shares your expertise on a particular topic, you can leverage that knowledge to create educational content that complements your book.

Consulting and speaking engagements are also valuable ways to monetize your book. As an author, you have a platform to share your ideas and insights with a wider audience. 

By offering your services as a consultant or speaker, you can generate additional income while also promoting your book.

To navigate these various opportunities, it can be immensely helpful to work with an agent who has experience in these areas. A knowledgeable agent can guide you in exploring different revenue streams and help you maximize the financial potential of your book.

A Word of Caution

If you’re going the traditional publishing route with a publishing deal, developing your own course, workshop, or other ancillary endeavors will be difficult, and your publisher will want a cut. 

If you choose to self-publish or publish with a hybrid or some indie publishers (such as Difference Press), it will be much easier to release the content and retain most of the profit. 

Tip 6: Consider Multiple Paths to Publishing

While the allure of a traditional book publishing deal is undeniable, it’s important to remember that it’s not the only path to publishing success. If you find yourself struggling to secure a contract with a major publisher, don’t be discouraged. 

Self-publishing has emerged as a powerful alternative that can help you build your platform and gain the attention of the publishing industry.

In today’s digital age, self-publishing has shed its former stigma and become a viable option for authors looking to get their work into the hands of readers. 

By taking control of the publishing process, you can ensure that your book meets your creative vision and reaches your target audience on your own terms.

However, self-publishing is not a decision to be taken lightly. It requires a significant investment of time, energy, and resources to ensure your book is professionally edited, designed, and marketed. 

This is where working with a knowledgeable book strategist can be invaluable.

A skilled strategist can help you navigate the complex landscape of self-publishing, from choosing the right distribution channels to developing a compelling marketing plan. They can also provide guidance on crafting a powerful book proposal that will catch the eye of traditional publishers down the line.

Remember, learning how to get a book publishing deal and getting published is rarely a straight line, but with persistence and strategic planning, you can achieve your goals and make your mark in the world of prescriptive nonfiction.

How to Get a Book Deal

We hope this article has given you an overview of a typical book deal, the types of book deals, and the subsequent book publishing deal clauses. With this knowledge, you can start thinking about how to get a book deal and finally write, edit, market, and distribute your book after finishing it.

What is Your Path to Getting Published?

Seize your literary destiny—watch our publishing secrets webinar!


By opting in, you’re joining our vibrant community! Expect 2-3 weekly newsletters packed with curated content, exclusive updates, and valuable insights to fuel your journey. Welcome to the conversation!

What is Your Path to Getting Published?

Seize your literary destiny
Watch our publishing secrets webinar!

By opting in, you’re joining our vibrant community! Expect 2-3 weekly newsletters packed with curated content, exclusive updates, and valuable insights to fuel your journey. Welcome to the conversation!

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