Many people dream of getting a book deal for their real-life story – but how do you get started and make that dream of landing a book deal a reality?
Here, as agents passionate about helping authors get a book deal and sell their books, we give you some valuable tips…
Come up with a great idea
Original and amazing ideas sell books so if you are an expert on babies for example, you need to think how to craft a book that hasn’t been done before. It might still be about babies but it could be you are presenting it in a different way – maybe a personal memoir about you and your babies or a different way of bringing up baby that hasn’t been published before. It might be you have a real-life story to tell. Selling your story to a newspaper or gaining a page in a magazine can be the first step to attracting a publisher or agent who will invest the time and money to help turn your story into a book. You can read about one woman whose story we sold to a newspaper and a magazine. An agent noticed her story and it has since been turned into a book: Nobody Cared by Terrie O’Brian.
Write your book
If you plan a non-fiction book, based on your real-life story, it is possible that if your story is published in a newspaper or magazine, a literary agent or publisher will pick it up as above. However, if you want to write a fiction novel, you need to write it yourself. Even if you have a great idea for a novel, the way it is written and and presented by you is key. For example, a simple story written brilliantly might get a book deal – but the writing would need to be special and unless you have written it, no-one will know if you can write like that. Also unless you can afford to employ a ghostwriter, every agent or publisher will want to see sample chapters of your book, and a plan for the rest of it. And obviously if you go the self publishing route, you must have a written book to publish. This means actually sitting down and writing your book – or at the very least the first three chapters. It might seem daunting but every author must start somewhere.
Do your research
Before submitting your novel to any publisher or literary agent, check and double check that your books is the type they specialise in. For example, some literary agents will only accept fiction – and then they might only accept certain genres of fiction. They might not accept horror or thrillers or chick-lit. Some agents and publishers only accept non-fiction books. And then you need to check if that agent or publisher is currently even taking books on – some will not work with new authors. There is simply no point in sending your book out without checking as it will just waste your time and result in a rejection.
Plan your submission carefully
All agents and publishers that are currently accepting new manuscripts will have submission guidelines. Usually they include a covering letter, the first chapter or first three chapters, a synopsis of your book (including how the story ends if it is a fiction novel) and a biography. Some will require you send your submission by email, others might only accept them via the post. Stick exactly to what is asked. So if it stipulates your novel must be written in double spacing, then send it like that. Never send riddles such as ‘if you are interested to find out how my story ends, contact me’ as busy agents simply don’t have time for games. It goes without saying that you should ensure your submission is fault free – so use the spell checker and then check again!
Be prepared for rejection
You might be extraordinarily lucky and the first agent or publisher you send your manuscript to will be so impressed that you will be immediately taken onto their books. But getting a book published in the traditional way is known to be extremely competitive. Stories abound where successful authors were turned down by numerous publishers before someone took them on – JK Rowling who wrote The Harry Potter series is one. So you must be persistent. If you receive a negative response, then you simply send your manuscript to the next one on your list.
Once dubbed vanity publishing, with the advent of the internet, self publishing has undergone a transformation and is no longer looked upon as something only authors who couldn’t get a traditional deal would do. Fifty Shades of Grey was originally self-published using an online company. It wasn’t until the third book in the triology was about to be published that the author secured an agent’s interest and from then on a traditional publishing deal. However, if you go this route the rules remain the same. To be successful, you must still have a good idea, which hasn’t already been previously done to death, written well. Your book must be proof-read so it is free from errors and presented professionally.
Write a short fiction story
There are markets for short stories – some online magazines, women’s magazines and websites will publish fiction stories. Find out about submitting your story here.
How we can help…
Firstly, if you have a great true real-life story suitable for a book, but no idea where to start, we can help you gain paid-for articles and features in a newspaper or magazine (and on TV) to publicise it. When your story is in the public eye it has a much greater chance of being picked up by a literary agent or publisher – and if your story is very good, they might well invest the help of a professional ghostwriter. This is of course invaluable if you have a story suitable for a book but are not a writer yourself.
If your book is already written then you need valuable publicity, otherwise no-one will know about it. We can sell your story so it appears in a newspaper or magazine with a plug for your book. We also run our own online magazine specialising in publicising authors where all authors whose stories we sold are given the opportunity to have their own page with a link to their website or online book shop such as Amazon. Added to that, we regularly give all successful interviewees who sell a story via Featureworld, free and professional advice about setting up a website, Twitter and Facebook pages to ensure they get continued publicity.
For free friendly advice about selling your story to the press and getting a book deal, contact us here: Sell my Story form