A few tips on how to publish a professional book

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There are many highlights of working in professional publishing but an absolute best must be when a new book is well-received by readers and seeing the positive impact that can have for an author’s career (for first-time authors in particular).

Perhaps you have thought about publishing a book but are not sure how to go about it. Negotiating with publishers or even getting an answer from any can seem like a minefield. Here are a few tips on how to get your book published in the professional market:

New title ideas

Ideas can come from nowhere and that is the beauty of creativity. Our brains are working behind the scenes to join the dots of your knowledge, experience and network. Perhaps you have been contemplating a new title idea for a while or have a new idea you’d like to explore. 

Next steps

Most professional publishers will have a proposal document which they’ll ask you to complete. The starting point will be the table of contents, so the list of chapter headings and if you are thinking about an edited volume, the possible contributors for chapters. The table of contents doesn’t need to be final and publishers are usually happy to review the table of contents before you complete the full proposal.

Proposal document

  • The proposal document will contain a section on the background to the project and why it is timely. Why now? Have there been any developments which make the topic particularly timely?
  • A critical section in the proposal will be on the routes to market. Here you are invited to offer your thoughts on how the book can reach its intended market. Who is the book targeted at? For example, in the legal market, it might be a law firm partner or senior associate. What is the geographical reach for the book? Particularly useful will be your expert thoughts on how you can help the book reach its intended market. This could include: suggestions for journals/magazines/blogs where the book could be reviewed; firm activity such as client alerts and/or a mailer to contacts about the book; social media activity including LinkedIn; events where you might be speaking or where the firm might be exhibiting and associations you are involved with who could promote the book to their members. Might you be interested in copies of the book to gift to clients? A high-quality published book can make an excellent business development tool. Publishers also welcome your views on potential endorsers, ie contacts (perhaps well-known individuals in the field) who’d be happy to review the manuscript and offer a few lines as an endorsement. Smaller publishers are usually flexible and happy to work with you to maximise the book’s potential as part of your business development armoury.
  • It is very useful for publishers to learn your thoughts on the key selling points of the book, ie, how will it help readers/what problems will it solve? Specific examples are really helpful here and will be used in marketing.
  • Does the book have an academic market? Perhaps you teach on a course or are aware of potentially relevant courses where the book could be adopted or recommended. A named contact at the organisation (eg the relevant lecturer) is particularly useful. Most publishers will offer special academic discounts.
  • Competing works: having competing works on the market is not necessarily a problem but it will be important to ensure that your book is sufficiently differentiated. Some topics are much more crowded than others so it is a good idea to check out the competition at the outset (including free offerings from firms).
  • Timeframes for delivery: when do you think you will be able to deliver the manuscript and approximately how long do you think it will be? Most publishers prefer to receive the complete, final manuscript rather than parts.

Proposal process

Publishers are usually happy to be contacted about your potential new idea before you fill in the full proposal so do feel free to reach out to the commissioning contact (see below for the commissioning contacts at Globe Law and Business) to outline your idea.

Once the proposal is received, it is reviewed internally and presented for approval. This can take a few weeks, but a smaller publisher is likely to be more responsive than a larger one. A comprehensive proposal will greatly increase the chances of it being approved.

Benefits of being published!

So, you have been contemplating a potential new title idea. Publishing a book can be one of the most rewarding and at times, exciting experiences of your life. Many authors say it helps them crystallise their ideas and, if working on a multi-contributor volume, enhances relationships with those contributing (you can really get to know someone when working on a book!). The high quality published book can also make the perfect business development tool (particularly in these unusual times). So go for it! We will be here to fully support you all the way.

Sian O’Neill is Managing Director of Globe Law and Business, the independent publisher for international legal and business professionals.

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