1. “Inspect” Your Book Idea

I can’t tell you how to get a book idea, but I can tell you what to do after you’ve gotten one. You’ll want to analyze your idea from a few different angles to make sure it’s worth the work and energy you’ll be putting into it. The last thing you’d want to have happen is pour your heart and soul into a brand new book, only to hear agents or editors tell you they don’t see much of a market for it.

To help prevent this, I’m going to ask you four questions about your book idea:

  1. What’s your long-term vision? (Personally or professionally)
  2. What are your short-term goals? (Personally or professionally)
  3. How would this book support those things?
  4. What market(s) do/does your book belong to? 

The last question has to do with something called “comp titles” (short for comparable titles). Basically, this is where you compare your book idea with other similar books/authors that have ideally been published within the last five years or so. You’ll be looking at the authors’ backgrounds, customer reviews, and any trade reviews (reviews by magazines like Kirkus, PublishersWeekly, and LibraryJournal) to determine how “successful” it was.

Usually you’d do this a bit later when you start “pitching” your idea, but my advice is to do this early on so you can show agents/editors and yourself that there is a need and want for your book. Like I said, the last thing you’d want to do is write a book that no one asked for (or is interested in).

2. Review Your Publishing Options

I know we’re focusing on the traditional route with this blog, but I want to make sure you understand your options, as well as their various pros and cons.

3. Understand the Traditional Publishing Process

When we’re talking about traditional publishing, we’re talking about a pretty big umbrella that covers houses of varying sizes: small, medium, and the “Big 5” (large).

Generally, the bigger the publishing house, the more you’ll need an agent to represent you as many mid-size and large presses don’t accept “unsolicited manuscripts”, or un-agented books. Small presses don’t always require an agent, so you might be able to get away without having one if you decide, later on, you don’t want to go that route.

Agents generally help with the following:

They’re on your side. They want what’s best for you and your book because, simply put, if you don’t get paid, they don’t get paid. So naturally, they’re gonna do their best to get the best deal for you both since you’re a team. Agents also act as the “middle-men” between you and the publishers, so communication will often come from them as well.


Above is a visual outline of how the traditional publishing process works. Click to enlarge it and you’ll see that it goes Acquisition > Editing > Design > Production > Marketing > Distribution.

What’s important to understand is how YOU fit into the process. Further, it’s worth considering what you have to offer to your publisher. This isn’t how it used to be 40-50 years ago; you’d only be responsible for writing the book. Now, because of our extremely digital age, everyone’s marketing everything on social media – so what can you do (or what leverage do you have) to sell multiple copies of your book? The bigger the publisher, the bigger the demand.

But the thing is, platform doesn’t have to be all digital. A lot of it is just about influence, so consider where you stand with each of these:

4. Write & Edit the Book

You’ll be spending a lot of time here. The writing process for fiction and nonfiction will differ greatly. Memoir is kind of in a funky category because it’s nonfiction, but it’s heavily narrative – so for the purpose of this blog, I’m lumping it in with fiction.

For Fiction / Memoir

For Nonfiction

5. Prep Submission Materials

These are the materials you’ll be sending to agents and/or editors for either representation and/or publication. Again, if you’re going for a mid-size or large (“Big 5”) press, you’ll most likely need an agent. For small presses, you typically don’t but it never hurts to double check.

For Fiction / Memoir

You’ll need to have your full manuscript written even if you’re submitting sample chapters because if you get a request for the full document, you’ll need to be able to produce it.

For Nonfiction

You’ll pitch your proposal to agents/publishers and, once you get a contract, you’ll be allotted a certain amount of time to write the book. Sometimes you’re even given advances to write the book, depending on the publisher’s size/budget.

You’ll need…

Your goal with this pursuit is going to look like…

To see how ready your manuscript is for publication, I suggest reviewing “The Top 10 Questions EVERY Aspiring Author Should Be Able to Answer”.

6. Pitch to Agents/Publishers

Getting an agent by itself can take years. So I would highly encourage you to start off by asking around to see if you know anyone who’s connected. This could dramatically reduce your time investment.

If you don’t have industry connections, be prepared to treat your pitching like a part-time job until you can get representation. It ultimately depends on how much value you’re placing on your book and/or traditional publishing path. If you don’t think it’s worth it, don’t do it. If you think it is, get ready to play the long game.

Each agent and publisher is going to have their own submission criteria listed on their website (usually under the “Submissions” tab). Please read these CAREFULLY as your manuscript/proposal will not be considered if you don’t follow them to a tee.

**To learn more about the pitching process and where to look for agents, check out this post: Where to Find Literary Agents**

7. Negotiations/Contracts

Once you get an agent (if you’re going that route), they’ll start pitching your book to acquisitions editors on your behalf in hopes of scoring a book deal. Once this happens, everyone sits down and starts negotiating their contracts. This is why it can be beneficial to have an agent—their the expert and they know what the best deal is for you and your manuscript.

If you’re going un-agented, you’ll be responsible for reading, understanding, and signing the book contract yourself. Like I said, if this makes you nervous, consider joining the Authors Guild and utilizing their legal services; they have lawyers available to review traditional publishing contracts.

8. Publishing Process Begins

Once you’re in with a publisher, this is the process you can expect to follow:

Editing > Design > Production > Marketing & Distribution

You can also take a look at this graphic below to get a birds-eye view of everything we’ve discussed up until this point.

9. Leverage Your Book & Authorship

Congrats, you did it! Your book’s publication is the beginning of its new life; take time to revisit your goals and vision from Step 1 and make sure your book is still in alignment with it. 

From here, continue marketing and promoting both your book AND yourself as a new (bestselling) author; leverage these accolades to get more opportunities, like speaking, mentoring, podcasts, hosting events, webinars, workshops, getting on panels, you name it.

**To learn more about this piece, feel free to check out my blog, How to Launch Your First Book.**

⭐ Let’s keep the conversation going! Email me at lauren@laurenericksonofficial.com 

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