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They’re Getting Book Deals: Find Out How

Your Book Writing Coach
Your Book Writing Coach

I’m going to out and out brag here. July is shaping up to be an exciting month for my clients and we’re celebrating. Want to hear their secrets of success?

First, here’s the good news. In July alone:

– Three of my clients signed contracts and/or received offers from publishers for their books.

– Two other clients are in discussions with three major publishers each, including several in person meetings.

– Two others signed contracts with top agents.

So, what can we learn from these successful authors? What are they doing right in this market where people are saying it’s harder than ever to publish a book? Here’s what these seven authors have in common:

1. They’ve worked on their platforms. Some of them had powerful platforms to begin with, but many did not. They grew their platforms while writing their book proposals. They’ve done everything from subscribing to Help a Reporter Out (which is free) to PR Leads to starting a wordpress blog to tweeting.

Note that not all of them have huge mailing lists–some have gotten great pr (TV, radio, print, internet), some do a great deal of public speaking and some demonstrated the potential to take their public speaking to the next level–and that was enough because of the strength of other aspects of their proposal.

Dr. Terri Major-Kincade went straight to her target audience to get feedback throughout the process.
Dr. Terri Major-Kincade went straight to her target audience to get feedback throughout the proposal writing process for her upcoming book, Early Arrival: 10 Steps to Bonding with and Celebrating a Premature Baby.

2. They clearly thought about their market.  Several, including Dr. Terri Major Kincade, went to their potential audience directly and asked for feedback–what were readers looking for to solve their problem? What were the biggest challenges they faced? Which chapter titles worked for them? Which did not?

3. They performed a thorough comparison with other successful books on their subject. They focused on both what was similar to these bestsellers and what was different. They clearly demonstrated that their books had something unique to offer, something timely, catchy and compelling, and that their books also had much in common with bestsellers and very successful books.

Dr. Eric Pfeiffer just signed a contract with Sunrise River Press for his book Happy, Healthy, and Wealthy: 14 Winning Strategies for Successful Aging. While he has impressive credentials, as founder of Suncoast Alzheimer’s and Gerontology Center, he still spent significant time establishing his platform and crafting his promotion plan in order to create an airtight proposal. He also included an extensive analysis of competing titles.

4. They demonstrated why they are the ones to write their books, because of their expertise, their interesting stories and the unique gifts they alone have to offer…and, yes, back to platform–many of them have a following.

5. They opened their proposal in a compelling way. You have to grab agents’ and publishers’ attention in your first paragraph or they probably won’t even read further. Ideally, in the first paragraph, the reader gets the sense that you have a highly marketable book concept, a good size market, a significant platform. Sometimes, it also works to start with a compelling story that draws the reader in.

Of course, this is just a starting point. To write a truly solid book proposal, you need a proper road map. I recommend Michael Larsen’s How to Write a Book Proposal for its winning format and specific details, as well as sample proposals, and Terry Whalin’s Book Proposals That Sell, for helping you get into an editor’s (publisher’s) mind.

What are your concerns about your book proposal? Ask your questions here. Or share why your book proposal got you a publishing contract or agent. And good luck with publishing your book.

Lisa Tener

Lisa Tener is an award-winning book writing coach who assists writers in all aspects of the writing process—from writing a book proposal and getting published to finding one’s creative voice. Her clients have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Early Show, The Montel Williams Show, CNN, Fox News, New Morning and much more. They blog on sites like The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and WebMD.

Reader Interactions


  1. Mahesh Grossman says

    What I love about this post is how these authors all took their time to develop their book and platform, rather than saying– “Here’s my book, publish it.” Plus they were smart enough to get high quality professional help. Would love to hear real specifics about each one’s platforms, especially the ones with the least platform.

    I love the book idea geared to premature babies. It seems like it found a hole in the market– I doubt there are any books out there about bonding with premature babies– in fact, I doubt there are any books about parenting for premature babies. Yet there are millions of premature babies born each year. It would be easy for a publisher to justify buying a book like that.

    • lisatener says

      Mahesh, while I can’t share all the details, here are some I can share: one author made a connection with a national organization–this expanded her potential reach considerably, and provided a way to reach a specific audience that might otherwise be difficult to reach. Another talked to companies about potential bulk sales (this is a slightly tricky one because, without a written agreement, it may not mean as much to agents and publishers, unless they feel certain about the connection). A third author revamped his website and added compelling video from several TV appearances.

  2. Jill Sylvester says

    Lisa, I was inspired by the blog particularly because I am developing my platform as I go, like some of your other clients. Like Mahesh, I, too, would like to here more about those that had success with the lesser platforms. I was also impressed by the success you had in one month. Go girl!

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