After Businomics was published, lots of people have been asking me how I got the book published, so I’ll write down my basic procedure. I don’t know that it will work for anybody, but it worked for me. The key here, I think, is to do all the steps. Don’t try to wing it, don’t try to invent a new method, just do your basic blocking and tackling.
Proposal: you need a proposal. To get a proposal, you need a guide to how to write a proposal. I used Elizabeth Lyon’s Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write. I took her guide as a bible. In addition to laying out how to write the proposal, she explains a lot about the publishing game.
Agents: you should have an agent. I have a friend who got a major publisher without using an agent, but I don’t think his deal was as good as he would have gotten with an agent. The agent knows the business, knows how much you can ask for, and can play one publisher off against another. Well worth his commission.
I went to Publishers Marketplace, a web site that allows you to search for agents. I searched for agents who did business books. That gave me LOTS of results. It turns out that many agents list virtually all genres. So I started hitting the web sites of agents, looking at the books they had successfully gotten published. I categorized each agent as high priority for me, medium, or low, based on how strong the agent seemed to be in business books. You could do the same with any genre.
I ended up with a list of 113 agents, of which 26 made my highest priority. I picked nine to pitch the book to in my first round. The idea was that if none of the nine went for it, I would alter my pitch and then hit another nine. And if that failed, I’d alter the pitch again and go for the last eight on my top priority list.
For the first nine on my list, I identified how they wanted to be pitched: email or physical letter. I sent them a query letter, as described in Lyon’s book, that was basically a one-page summary of the book proposal.
Three of them asked for the full proposal promptly. I sent it out. Two agents replied fairly promptly that they were interested in representing me. I talked to each one, and identified one as preferable to the other. Then I contacted several authors who were represented by that agent. Got good referrals. Signed contract with the agent.
I sent withdrawal letters to the other agents who had not responded, so that I wouldn’t tie up their time. (Might want to come back to them with another book.) A third agent expressed interest in representing me, our messages crossing in the mail.
From there, I trusted my agent. He revised my proposal and query. He sent the query out to his list of acquisition editors handling business books. He sent out the full proposal to those who wanted it. He negotiated the offer we got. That part was the easiest, because I had an experienced hand guiding the project.
The keys to my success: I took a the basic plan from Lyon’s book, and followed it. Nothing miraculous. When I’ve spoken with people having trouble getting published, they were trying short cuts.