I have written a nonfiction book. How do I get it out there?

Here’s the latest from my inbox – how to get your completed nonfiction book out there, sharing your expertise and your story. A real enquiry and one that’s typical of many I receive now that I am working almost entirely as an author coach and book publishing consultant.

I have written a nonfiction book. How do I get it out there?

Whichever route to publication you use, you have to understand that this is where the hard work starts; writing the book is the easy bit!

How to get your book published

Dear Suze
I was recommended to you by (name.)
I am a new author, and I am looking for a publisher.
She said you are the best person to connect with, and spoke very highly of you.

My book is a motivational book about my life, my journey.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Alice (not her real name)

Hi Alice!

Let’s get started right now – with the “bad news.”

That, quite simply, is the fact that much as your life and journey are certainly amazing (and I have checked you out on social media!) the sad truth is that many other people’s lives and journeys are, too, and their stories are equally motivating.

OK. This does not have to matter.

Why? Because no-one else has lived your life. No-one else has travelled your journey. No-one else can tell your story.

What this means though, in terms of publishing your book and getting your messages out there, is it’s unlikely that a “major” publisher (and I do say that with tongue-in-cheek) is unlikely to pick up your book and offer to publish it right now.

That’s not because the book may be good or bad, but purely because the traditional trade publishers are facing increasing pressure from all over the place and are only taking on such books if it is either written by someone famous, or is so gob-smackingly outrageous that they will have the tabloid press dribbling with excitement at the prospect of serialising it and sharing its – preferably – gory, shocking whatevers.

Consider what opportunities you have to sell your book

As I understand it you have a wide academic and social network of followers who are likely to want to read your book.

Given that you do quite a lot of teaching and public speaking, you will have opportunities to sell your book “back of room” (to audience members.)

No, this isn’t likely to help you sell millions of books. But it will give your book traction, and that’s important for reasons given below.

This makes the option to “self-publish” your book quite attractive

Why? With modern self-publishing techniques, it won’t cost you much, especially if you go for the digital option (e.g. Kindle.)

Even with a printed book option, the costs are very bearable: long gone are the days of “vanity publishing” where you paid a fortune for a couple of thousand badly printed books that would sit in boxes in your garage until you eventually junked them for recycling.

No, these days we have a superb option called Print On Demand, which basically means you publish your book on a platform like CreateSpace, Lulu, etc. that gets a copy printed each time someone buys one and sends it off to the purchaser. Yes, you pay a fee for that. But even so, you keep a big chunk of the purchase price.

And more of the benefits of self-publishing later.

So what’s wrong with approaching traditional trade publishers?

Nothing, provided that you have:

Plenty of time. Although trade publishers are emerging, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century, they still tend to move at 20th century speed when a submission from someone like you (or me) would take weeks if not months before a response would be delivered. Old-fashioned but still expected etiquette suggests that you should not submit proposals to more than one publisher at a time which was fine in pre-internet days, but is ludicrous now. In mitigation, however, some publishers accept online/digital submissions these days, although response times still can be lengthy.

A desire not to make much money out of your book sales unless you have no other choice. Trade publishers – if they accept your submission – will issue you with a contract to sign that means you get a royalty of between 5 and 10 percent (if you’re lucky) of cover price for each book sale. Often this will be linked to the number of copies sold, in a sliding upward scale whereby you get a higher percentage once your book has sold XXXX copies.

No worries about letting the publishers decide everything. Most publishing contracts allow you to have a say in things like the layout of your book, the “blurb” on the back cover, the illustrations and even the ultimate title. But that doesn’t mean you’re in control: usually, the publisher has the final say and can over-rule whatever you want.

Surely there are some benefits from approaching traditional publishers?

Yes, of course there are. The main benefit, in my experience (and the majority of my own books have been published by some quite high & mighty traditional trade companies) is their distribution systems.

Their second benefit is that you gain the kudos of being published under the banner of their brand.

Let’s look at the first one. 

When you self-publish or work through a self-publishing distributor, it’s unlikely that the bricks-and-mortar bookshops will stock your physical book in their stores.

However they will, usually, include your book’s details on their computer system so that if a customer comes in and searches for your book on their computer terminals, it will come up and they can order their copy there and then.

When your book is published by a well-known trade publisher, however, it is more likely to be stocked in its physical presence in the store. Note “more likely,” rather than “likely…”

And if your topic is not the latest bodice-ripping novel or Stephen King horror drama, you may find that even being stocked in a store means your books are in a relatively obscure category lodged upstairs just along from the toilets.

The other key benefit from working with a traditional publisher is the kudos

It’s a no brainer for you to be able to say your book has been published by a Big Name publisher – people who know about publishing are bound to be impressed!

But don’t let this fact get in the way of the fact that marketing the book – selling it, promoting it, and all that – is still down to you. Unless you really are a famous name who can deliver a large audience based on your reputation, these traditional trade publishers can’t afford to put the necessary marketing grunt behind your book.

Fine. But what are the other options?

Self-publishing, of course. But not necessarily as the ultimate solution.

If you haven’t got the necessary options to sell your book face-to-face on your speaking/teaching/lecturing or other travels, don’t worry. It’s still possible to launch clever and free/nearly free marketing campaigns for your book via social media. And for a (seriously) small investment you can benefit greatly from targeted Facebook and Google ads.

What you’re trying to do here, is to make as much noise about your book as possible, so it attracts the attention of a traditional publisher. This happened to me a few years ago when I self-published “How To Write Brilliant Business Blogs” in paperback and Kindle.

The following year I was approached by a business book publisher in the USA who are now offering it on their “list,” and the best news is that they are quite happy for me to continue selling my own version on Amazon and to my workshop and speaking audiences.

Don’t forget that even “50 Shades of Grey” started out as a self-published book … and look where that went!

Once you have written your book, you become a marketer/sales person

Whichever route to publication you use, you have to understand that this is where the hard work starts; writing the book is the easy bit!

If you approach the process with this in mind you have a much better chance of success, especially if you have done your homework before writing your book and ensured it has a future – not a “solution looking for a problem.” (And although we’re talking nonfiction here, the same applies – to a large extent – to fiction, too.)

I’ll be sharing more soon about that crucial homework you need to do before you start planning your nonfiction book.

Happy writing!







  1. Great read and well articulated, Suze!
    The distribution network is certainly what gives the Traditional Publishing an edge over Self Publishing. Although an author would enjoy more freedom and a greater percentage from the book sales following the indie route, but ultimately it boils down to what they intend to achieve from the published book. For me, as a new author, l intend to use my first book as a channel to meet early adopters for a novel and creative business simulation model which is introduced in my book as I look forward to developing it into a computer application in the future after successfully getting published.

    • Your plan for your own book sounds very sensible, Basil, and thank you for commenting on here. I’m sure I speak for all of us on HTWB when I wish you the very best of luck with your book, and your business ventures.

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