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How to Get a Book Contract From a Legitimate Publisher

It could be the key to marketing your business and advancing your career.

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You know that publishing a book could exponentially grow your business. It can bring you more sales, more fame and launch you into a new industry as a speaker or consultant. In essence, it can give you the brand name needed to make your dreams come true.

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That said, you probably also know that there are many publishing options out there. Self-publishing works for plenty of entrepreneurs, but it's certainly not perfect: It costs you money, there's no publisher to support your book with marketing or distribution, and the media will generally not pay attention to self-published books. Legitimate, traditional publishers are very different. They will actually pay you for your work, and help your book reach its audience. (To be clear, I'm talking about nonfiction books. I know nothing about novels!)

But if you want to sell your book to a traditional publisher, you're going to need two things: an excellent proposal and a strong marketing plan.

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A nonfiction book proposal is to the publishing industry what a business plan is to venture capitalists, and for the same reason: You're trying to get a complete stranger to invest their money in your dream. Along with two sample chapters, it should cover these five basic parts:

1. The Overview

Where you outline your credentials, your ability to sell this book and a little about its content.

2. Your Bio

Who you are why you are the right person to write this book.

3. Competitive Analysis

Proof that similar books exist and are selling well, but that yours is still vitally important to publish.

4. Chapter Summaries

A loose outline of what you intend to include and the order in which you might present it.

5. Marketing Plan

How you will ally with your publisher to sell a gazillion books in record time.

Related: Why Every Entrepreneur Should Write a Book

That last bit, the marketing plan, is what trips up most would-be authors who think their idea is so brilliant that it will magically rise to the surface. But there are millions of books in print, with a million-plus more self-published every year. Getting in a position where your book actually fulfills your business goals is called "building a platform," as outlined in my most recent book with Entrepreneur Media, The Ultimate Guide to Platform Building. While I think you should immediately buy yourself a copy and read it six times until you can recite it (and, please, also give one to everyone you know), I'll share some select tips right here.

1. Your marketing plan, or platform, should be aligned with your specific goal, be it selling more stuff, growing a speaking career, etc.

2. You should do the things you're naturally good at, which is likely not everything. Focus on your strengths.

3. You will benefit most by being logical in your marketing efforts. Spreading yourself too thin financially or time-wise will cause you to burn out and ultimately defeat the purpose of being a published author.

4. A legitimate publisher will help you to supersize your marketing/platform building, but they will not create it for you. They can help you make it grow, but you need to have things in process already.

5. A book is the single greatest imaginable tool, but like all tools, you have to use it to create a result.

Your journey to a contract with distinguished publishers like Penguin Random House, HaperCollins, McGraw Hill, Entrepreneur or Simon & Schuster depends on taking the right steps in the right order. The system works if you work it, and disappoints if you don't. Write a proposal, get an agent, execute your marketing plan and watch the results flow in fast.

Wendy Keller is a literary agent with 18 New York Times best sellers to her agency's credit. She has closed more than 1,700 deals for authors and speakers worldwide and trained more than 25,000 authors on how to craft a book proposal that can sell to a publisher via To pitch your nonfiction book to Keller Media, visit

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