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Key Insider Tips about Traditional Publishing

Key Insider Tips about Traditional Publishing

Most of the aspiring authors I talk to want very much to be published by a traditional publisher right now.

You may understand the feeling. (I certainly do!) And, there’s often a lot these hardworking, big-dreaming authors don’t yet know about how the biz works.

Today I’m offering some key insider tips about the traditional publishing business. Things any/every author with a dream of “getting published” needs to know.


Key Insider Tips about Traditional Publishing


While these are just “the tips of the iceberg” (yes, I just did that) you’ll be several steps ahead of the pack if you understand them.

Let’s go!

6 Insider Tips about Traditional Publishing


Tip #1: Don’t quit your day job.


After reviewing hundreds of royalty reports for my authors over the years, I can attest that—unless you’re a hardworking ghostwriter—making a living from writing books is exceedingly rare. This is true even for authors who’ve gotten published numerous times by “the big houses”! If you want to live the dream and quit your job to write books, make sure you have another stream of income available to you for the first few years at least.


Tip #2: Persistence pays.


Many published authors have sent 25, 50 or even 100 query letters to agents before finally getting representation. While lightning sometimes strikes early, be prepared for a long haul. (For three key tips on how to find an agent, check out this article.)


Tip #3: They’re dying to love you.


Agents and book editors want to fall in love with your book. I’m serious. Bringing in great submissions and getting them published is the lifeblood of our careers! If you send us something we can fall in love with, we’re going to jump right on it. (Now “falling in love” is, of course, a subjective measure. See next point.)


Tip #4: Show them the money.


To an agent or editor, the definition of “loveable” necessarily includes “going to make lots and lots of money for the publishing company.” Even if they really enjoyed the read, an agent or editor can’t take your book on unless they think it’s going to sell. Your #1 job when pitching nonfiction to these folks is to explain the need in the marketplace for a book just like yours. If you’re writing fiction or narrative memoir, your #1 job is to give them a 3-sentence pitch that makes the hair on the back of their neck stand on end. (That kind of somatic response comes with a cha-ching! in the world of books.)


Tip #5: Always put your best foot forward.


Most of the time, you have one chance with a literary agent—and then with a publisher. I’ve heard many would-be authors over the years decide to “get some reverb” on their idea by sending out a query letter or shooting their prime book industry contact an email when their idea is half-baked. Doing so is like putting a frozen steak on the grill—it’s too soon to expect a positive outcome. Start by crafting a rocking proposal with amazing sample chapter(s) and/or writing a fantastic novel before putting your baby there in the world. You’ve got one shot! Use it wisely.


Tip #6: Dreams do come true!


Books get published every single day. While on paper the statistics can be dismal, we live in a magical universe. Recently, a KN Literary client had her book snapped up by her dream publisher, before we’d even finished editing the proposal! It could happen for you, too. Just keep going, and don’t forget to enjoy the journey—it’s all any of us really have, after all.



1 thought on “Key Insider Tips about Traditional Publishing”

  1. Dear Kelly,
    Thank you for your great book which I’ll recommend to any aspiring writer I ever meet! It’s a real page-turner, with a lively, witty, chatty style and lots of great advice!
    But I want to thank you in particular for the tips. To borrow your charming way of putting it, I’ve been around the sun sixty-seven times already and for at least fifty of those revolutions, have been an aspiring author. And yes, you guessed it, life kept getting in the way. Three books are with Smashwords, but I’ve been in denial about that other 50% of being an author you wrote about, i.e. I’ve made about $20 in five years; it feels like as if I’ve sent three kids to an impoverished boarding school and keep forgetting to send them food-parcels to keep them nourished. I have another three manuscripts (oops, I almost said books!) under my arm which I’ll be taking surreptitiously to the HH workshop here in Dublin at the end of the month in the hope of catching Reid’s or Michelle’s eye from amongst the crowd. Thanks to you, I’ve changed the title of one of them and thanks to you again, I’ve finally cottoned on to the importance of the ‘hook’!
    So anyway, if I emerge from the workshop with my tail between my legs, you may hear from me again! I can imagine how busy you are but I’d be happy to send you the three hooks just for the fun of it, if you’ve time for all that. I’ve adapted one of your genre descriptions (thanks again!) to ‘transformational fiction’, which best describes two of the manuscripts, the third being an inspirational memoir going back to the thirteenth century (sic) and ending in the future (sic again). Of course, the aspiration of the inspirational memoir is to be transformational as well :).
    No worries if you haven’t the time to respond!

    With heartfelt thanks and warm wishes to you from Ireland,



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