Michael Hyatt is the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing, the largest Christian publishing company in the world and the seventh largest trade book publishing company in the U.S., based out of Nashville, Tennessee. He has a blog that features news on current trends in the industry and marketing ideas. Below, Mr. Hyatt shares his advice to first time authors everywhere, but also to Christian writers here in the Memphis area.
The problem is that most publishers will not review unsolicited proposals or manuscripts. I personally receive hundreds every year; our staff receives thousands. We simply don’t have the resources to review these. It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack.
- So as an author, what do you do? Here’s what I recommend: Educate yourself. If you want to publish with a general market publisher, read 2008 Writer’s Market by Robert Brewer. If you want to write for the Christian Market, read Christian Writers’ Market Guide 2008 by Sally Stuart. Both books include writer’s guidelines and submission procedures for publishing houses. These books will give you a good overiew of the literary marketplace.
- Read blogs written by agents. You can get some incredibly helful advice and straight-talk from people who pitch proposals for a living. I recommend three: Terry Whalin, Chip MacGregor, and Rachelle Gardner. There are other blogs, but I have found these to be the most useful.
- Write a killer book proposal. If you want to write (or have written) a non-fiction book, I recommend my article, Writing a Winning Book Proposal. It will tell you exactly what publishers want in a propsal. It is used by numerous literary agents and publishers. .I just recently updated it. If you intend to write a novel, you can modify my format or search for another. (Just Google “fiction book proposal” and you will come up with several great resources.)
- Have someone review your proposal. If you have a friend who teches English or is a professional editor, ask them to review your proposal. You might even barter somethign with them. In addition, the Editorial Services section of Literary Market Place, 2008, lists over 500 entries, many of which provide some kind of critique service. (This is a very expensive book, so you may want to try and find it in your local library.)
- Find a literary agent to represent you. This is usually the only way to get in the door with a publishing company. Most publisher do not accept unsolicited propsals or manuscripts. Instead, publisher let the literaly agents do the filtering. If you want a list of general market agents, you can buy 2008 Guide to Literary Agents. I have also compiled a list of agents who represent Christian authors. This is the only list of Christian agents I have been able to find.
- Consider submitting your proposal to Christian Manuscript Submissions. This is a site sponsored by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA), an industry trade organization. It provides an opportunity to get your work in front of Christian publishers who use the site to discover new authors. I don’t know of a similar service for the general market.
Finally, don’t lose heart. This is probably the most important thing I can say to you. Yes, you will be rejected. I had over 30 publishers reject my first book proposal. However, it went on to be a New York Times bestseller. I know scores of authors with similar stories.
Like many things in life, nothing worthwhile comes easily. But if you have a great idea an dare persistent, you will eventually succeed.