If you’re trying to get a book deal for your memoir or other style of nonfiction, you need to learn what authors do to get a book deal BEFORE writing the book. Now – this does come with a caveat – if this is your first book (or first traditionally published book), you DO need to write the manuscript, or a fair whack of it! But if you’ve done that and you’re about to start querying publishers, this is the MOST important thing you need to do to get a book deal for your nonfiction.
What most memoir writers do
The problem is, most unpublished memoir writers that I’ve spoken to leave this LAST on their publishing agenda. They work on the manuscript (and rework it, then rework it again) and it isn’t until they *think* it’s perfect that they start to even consider this important step.
And I get it, because when you’re writing something personal like a memoir, digging up the depths of your memories or working through intense feelings, the thought of positioning yourself in a market (aka ACTUALLY BEING READ) sends you straight into freeze mode (or writer’s block.)
But you’ll notice that people who get book deals without having written the full manuscript ALWAYS do this first.
Because you must remember that book publishing is a business, and fundamental to the business is having buyers (readers) for the work! So if you want to get a traditional book deal, you need to show publishers that you have, in fact, thought about who will read your work (and – hot tip, you can’t just say ‘memoir readers’, it’s way too general, AND it shows you haven’t fully understood this key step).
How do published authors get the book deal before writing the book?
It’s probably going to sound totally counterintuitive when you’re in the headspace of internal work that writing takes, but this is the key thing that published authors do that unpublished writers don’t.
It was something I had to do before I could get a book deal for A Letter From Paris (because I did NOT have a full manuscript when I pitched it, and I’d only drafted about 10 000 words at that time). A client recently got approached by a top 5 publisher without actually having pitched to them (or drafted HER book), and it’s also the reason you’ll see celebrities getting book deals – and they’re clearly not professional writers, but yes they have ‘platform’.
PUBLISHED AUTHORS KNOW THEIR AUDIENCE
They key to getting a book deal before writing the book – and particularly for nonfiction – is to KNOW your audience. You also need to demonstrate to your proposed publisher or agent that you know them (and have a way to connect with them). But – first things first! Don’t go straight to writing the book proposal if you haven’t clearly identified your audience and a way to connect with them – not yet!
You’re probably tearing your hair out thinking “how on earth do i know who will read my book?” but there are specific techniques I can take you through which involve very precise questions about your book. This is how you find thousands of readers after exactly what you want! I’m excited to work 1:1 with writers on this piece of the strategy in the Art of The Book Deal Mastermind which I’ll be launching in early 2023.
Whether you’re trying to get a memoir or any other style of nonfiction published, knowing your audience is the fundamental piece of your book deal strategy. It’s why ‘writer platform’ is such a commonly used term in book proposal workshops, etc. Your platform is the multiple ways in which you connect to your audience. This looks different for EVERYONE. It could look like having an engaged email list or or having a way to connect with a very niche population (who is the audience for your book!). As I said, it is unique to you, and your life, and your specific book!
WHY KNOWING YOUR AUDIENCE HELPS YOU GET A BOOK DEAL
It’s time you got supremely confident that your memoir fills a spot in the market – because there’s a reason you went through the heavy work of writing it! Knowing your audience – and where you can connect with them – is an incredibly empowering way to approach getting your book deal.
The GOOD news is that you don’t need to be a celebrity to get a book deal! And you don’t need to have a million followers on instagram or any other social platform that you loathe using. But the work you DO need to do is get brave and get deep in identifying the specific audience for your work and how you will connect with them!
What’s actually beautiful about this process is that it shows you (writer you) that you are NOT alone in what you’ve chosen to write about. It reveals to you why your story matters, and how it can help people, and it will inspire and encourage you to do the work to get it published.
WHEN YOU DON’T KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Without knowing your audience, you won’t have this confidence that your story matters, you won’t have clarity around the unique hooks, and you also won’t have a captive market ready and waiting and keen to hear when your book is published!
I think that this is actually what differentiates self-publishing from traditional publishing. Because traditional publishing is considered elitist, conservative and snooty, a lot of writers mistakenly assume that publishers are ONLY looking for staggering works of literary genius (or celebrities with ghost-written memoirs). Where self-publishing courses focus on identifying your target market, writing and literary programs tend to focus on the craft of writing itself.
But – as I’ve said before, getting a traditional book deal is only ONE THIRD about the quality of your writing!
YES your manuscript has to be GOOD – as GOOD as you can possibly make it, because traditional publishing has high standards, they ALSO have very high standards around this key piece of connection to your audience.
I’m tired of seeing writers get it around the wrong way – going straight to the book proposal or querying before they’ve even done the work of identifying their audience!
This is exactly why I’ve been putting a lot of time and thought into the Art of the Book Deal [you can find details here, This is 1:1 work, not a self-study programme].
THE ART OF THE BOOK DEAL mentorship is strategically designed to help you…
- Identify your captive audience so you can be confident that you do, in fact, have a story and a message that needs to be heard
- Learn how to successfully pitch a story (and it doesn’t HAVE to be an article – there are multiple styles of media that could land you a book deal!) so that you start building a ‘platform’ in a way that clearly positions you as the perfect person to author this book.
- Learn the appropriate way to follow up with media and publishing people so you can get published and move forward much quicker than those who DON’T follow up (because they don’t know how to do it!)
- Amplify a published story so that it reaches a MUCH wider audience and your platform grows and you become every agent and editor’s dream! Because you only need ONE story to land you a book deal – if you do it in the right way!
I really wanted it to be the ONLY program nonfiction authors need to get a traditional book deal.
This is not for you if you haven’t written the manuscript yet. I teach memoir writing in my other programs but this is a high-touch mastermind.
It’s a publishing business program and you’ll start to think very strategically about where your book sits in the publishing marketplace. You’ll start to look at your story in the way publishers look at your story – and that will help you to get a deal! This stuff is usually so hidden from people who haven’t published a book before, which is why I love to share it.
The Art of the Book Deal
If you’re ready to get working on your book deal and you have your manuscript polished and / or a platform already, jump over and apply for details here.
I want to see more first-time authors empowered in the traditional publishing industry, making confident decisions, getting the right attention and building platform in a way that makes their first book deal inevitable. Because I did it (and I am NOT famous!), and I know you can do it, too. There’s nothing like seeing an offer from a publisher and it’s COMPLETELY possible. People get book deals every day! Why can’t you be next?