How To Increase Your Chances of Getting Published - Captain Honey
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How To Increase Your Chances of Getting Published

22 Feb How To Increase Your Chances of Getting Published


It’s not easy getting accepted by a traditional publisher. In fact, it’s really hard. But there are ways you can improve your chances.

I worked as a publisher with the big houses for twenty years, so I’ve seen a few book proposal documents in my time! There are good and bad ways to do it. This post is intended to help you put together a good proposal document.

It goes without saying that you should check the submission guidelines of a given publisher, and follow them. The following are general guidelines for submitting a good publishing proposal.

Remember that putting together a brilliant book proposal does not guarantee you a signing with a big 5 publisher (or any publisher). In fact, it remains quite unlikely and elusive for most.

However, doing the opposite – submitting a half-baked proposal – all but guarantees that you won’t get offered a publishing deal. So, a top-notch book publishing proposal – one that immediately connects with the publisher because it covers the topics they need to know about and it looks appealing – is essential.

The Importance of Title and Subtitle

For both fiction and non-fiction a “grabby” title is important. The two genres are quite different. Choice of title also depends on your book – no need to go all poetic if it’s a business or health book, and conversely literary fiction does tend to have a poetic, imaginative quality to the title.

Either way, give it some thought and come up with something good! For non-fiction, a subtitle or tagline is essential. It needs to spell what the book will give the reader (that they need) and/or tell you exactly what is in the book.

Nail Your Elevator Pitch

This is the short summary. It should be a few sentences only, around 100 words is plenty. Get this right early on in the process and you will find yourself referring back to it over and over again. It should form the core of your presentations, your marketing, your conversations about your book. Although it’s jargon, it’s called an elevator pitch because it’s what you should be able to say to someone on your journey from Ground to Floor 11 to make them want to buy your book.

Know Your Competition 

A publisher will want you to demonstrate that you have your finger on the pulse of your genre – you know what works and what doesn’t. It’s your way of showing that you have an know the market and understand the commercial realities of publishing. If you write fiction, you should know the writers that are similar to you in style. For non-fiction authors, you need to know what books have worked in your subject area and why. When talking about Competitive Titles, you need to be able to critique them, specifically saying what is better and different about your book.

Know Your Audience

Again, this demonstrates your commercial and market awareness. Rather than just saying “Female 40+”, consider creating a profile for your reader – give her a name, an occupation, a range of hobbies and interests, a relationship or family status. This will help the publisher to visualize the person you have in mind. If you can, add demographic information the reader to give a sense of the size of the market.

Create a Compelling Author Profile

Yes, you. Who are you to be writing this book – especially if you are writing non fiction? You need to be able to demonstrate that you are credible or an expert in your field and that you have an engaged market in mind (if you do).

The publisher needs to know a bit about your background but also get a feel for the kind of person that you are.

If you have social media followings, list them here.

Fiction authors will need to demonstrate their commitment to writing, hopefully with some runs on the board in terms of publication.

Talk About Marketing

It’s important to show that you understand the importance of this. If you have extensive social media networks or other tangible connections with your market, this will put you in a very favorable light with the publisher, so be sure to mention it. If you don’t have that, then here’s an opportunity to show that you have ideas and enthusiasm instead.

Don’t Ignore the Topic of Sales

To show that you know a little bit about the way books are sold, you can mention which channels you think will be most important for your book ie the big chains versus the gift trade.


Make It Look Good! Don’t send in a scrappy-looking Word document, because you will be wasting their time and yours. You need to demonstrate commitment and professionalism. Consider asking a designer to help you if you don’t have the skills to do this yourself.

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