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.


Kelly Notaras is the founder of kn literary arts and the author of THE BOOK YOU WERE BORN TO WRITE: Everything You Need to (Finally) Get Your Wisdom Onto the Page and Into the World, published by Hay House. An editor for 20 years, she’s worked at HarperCollins, Penguin, Hyperion and Sounds True. She speaks regularly at the Hay House Writer’s Workshops and offers consultation by appointment. Find out more about how she can help you with your book.