Friday night I got my first positive feedback from a publisher. They sent an email asking if my manuscript is still available for purchase.
Here is an excerpt from the email:
“I love the concept, I love the stories, and I love the potential this [book] has to create life-changing behavior.”
(Yes! this made me so happy to hear. My brothers and friends told me they liked my idea, but it was very validating to hear positive feedback from an actual publisher.)
Here is how it all started. Back in December a friend introduced me to a buyer at Deseret Book, a publisher, located in Salt Lake City, Utah. I called to ask if they could recommend a good editor for me to hire. After I explained my concept, they told me not to hire an editor, but instead to just submit a few sample chapters to them because they might be interested in publishing the book with their Shadow Mountain imprint.
I was pretty excited until I got a form email back saying, “Your manuscript has been entered into our database and we will read it in the next 2 to 3 months.” This was pretty discouraging to me at the time, so I just kept working on my manuscript and submitting it to other publishers.
Then late Friday night I got the first email response, and it was very positive. I am stoked about this, but there are a few questions that remain-
Should I continue to submit to other publishers? OR Do I take this and run with it?
How do I get my book idea published?
For those of you that have never tried to get a book published, here is how it works. First, you send a query letter to the publisher. This is a one page explanation of what the book is about, why people would buy it, and why you are properly suited to write it. The query process may take a month or so. There are examples of good and bad query letters in The Writer’s Market (a great resource for aspiring authors).
The second step is the book proposal. If the publisher likes your query letter, they will request a 5-10 page book proposal. This is kind of like a business plan for your book. You explain how the book stacks up to the competition, why the book is unique, and more details about who you are. This will usually include a table of contents of the book, and maybe a chapter or two. This part of the process will take another couple of months.
Third, if the publisher likes the query letter, and likes the proposal, they may request a full manuscript. If they like what they see- they send you an advance ($500-$1000 for first time authors). The interesting thing is that you don’t even need to have a manuscript to get a publisher interested- many authors receive an advance on the book before it is even written simply by writing a good letter and strong proposal.
In NYC I met with a publicity firm named Krupp Kommunications. They recommended that I submit my manuscript to some smaller publishers. One in particular is Benbella Books. They are a publisher out of Texas that publishes about 15 titles per year. I was given the phone number of someone named Glen at Benbella, so I called and spoke with him for a minute about my manuscript, I said that Krupp had recommended Benbella for my book. He told me that I should email in my proposal, and he gave me his email. He said he would get back to me in 1-2 weeks.
This was good news, far quicker than the normal submission process that usually requires paper submissions, self-adressed stamped envelopes, and a lead time of 3-4 months. So I jumped online to read about what was expected by Benbella in their proposal (most publishers have submission guidelines on their website). It turns out Glen is not just one of the editors, he is the Founder and President of Benbella, the company was named after his two children Ben and Elisabeth. The point is by networking through Krupp I had skipped a couple of steps- and got straight to the decision maker. It gets better.
I emailed out my proposal (expecting to hear back in 1-2 weeks). 30 minutes later Glen emails me back asking (1) if I am using Krupp for my publicity, and (2) If I can send him a few sample chapters of my book. I responded in the affirmative to both questions, and I look forward to hearing back from Benbella soon. This was a great lesson in the power of talking to the right people.
Don’t be afraid to network, in life it often helps us skip a couple of steps, and make it past the gate keepers.