How to Double Your Chance of Landing a Book Deal (Before You’ve Written a Single Word)

landing a book deal - woman smiling

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post on landing a book deal by first time fiction author, Verity Bright who had three publishers offering to publish her first novel, A Very English Murder. Even if you’ve yet to write a word, Verity shows you how to turn this to your advantage and go get that deal!

Maybe you’re staring at a blank screen?

– Or piece of paper, if you’re old school? 🙂

And you’re wondering…

Is it worth it?

Even if you manage to start, let alone finish, your first novel, what’s the chance of landing a book deal? Of getting the thing published?

Well, pretty good actually.

Before we go any further and I qualify that statement, I’m discussing landing a book deal here, not self-publishing, that’s a whole different animal and outside the scope of this article.

So if you’re reading this, I’m assume you’ve done your research and decided you want a book deal? Good, then let’s proceed…

So, not only is your chance of getting a book deal pretty good, it actually increases the less you’ve written. Here’s why…

The ‘traditional ‘ way of writing a novel is to hide in a darkened room, away from the outside world, and wait for creative genius to strike.

Okay, I may be exaggerating, but there’s plenty of first time writers doing pretty much that. And there’s nothing wrong with it.

It just won’t get you a book deal. Unless your lucky. Or an actual literary genius. And even then, you’re still talking lottery-type odds.

The good news is, many of the great writers of the past did nothing of the sort. In fact they did pretty much the opposite. They went out into the world and embraced it.

Which will double your chance of landing a book deal before you’ve written a single word.

Now, this is normally where you might start to hear advice such as ‘write to market’, and not surprisingly I’m going to do the same, because that’s pretty much what Shakespeare, Chandler and Dickens did, to name a few.

However, I do have a caveat, and one that will sweeten the pill.

For those who don’t know, ‘write to market’ simply means find out what a bunch of people are reading and write that. For the author, a ‘market’ is basically ‘an audience’. There is one increasingly essential part of that, however, that few people talk about and I’ll come back to in a moment.

First of all the caveat to the advice ‘write to the market’. The reason I said earlier that your chances of landing a book deal increase the less you’ve written of your first novel is because you can go out and research your market and write for them from line one.

If you’ve already started your book, or even finished it, you can still do this to some extent. You see, there are so many ‘markets’ out there, one of them probably fits your book already. Sure, you might have to tweak it a little, but do you think Shakespeare didn’t tweak his plays for his market, or audience?

Which means you can still write what you want, you just need to write it in a form your audience already recognise, and read. Chandler did just that. He wrote books that are in may ways literary works, but he wrote them in a particular ‘genre’. A genre that was already popular with a given market, crime readers.

To recap, you can double your chances of landing a book deal not by selling your soul and writing stuff you hate, but by working out what market, or audience is already reading the stuff you want to write, and then putting it in a form they already recognise. Just like Chandler.

And the sooner you identify what genre your audience are reading that you can fit your work into, the sooner you increase your chance of landing that book deal.

The last slither of the equation is that ‘increasingly essential’ part of writing for a market I said no one really talks about. This is how your market get your work:

  • Paperback/hardback
  • ebook
  • audiobook

There are other formats, but these are the main ones. now, some people think this is quite a modern development, but in fact it’s not. Charles Dickens had exactly the same challenge. His audience were use to getting their reading in serial form through a magazine which is how many of his famous books were first published.

So, another quick recap:

  • Work out what genre you like writing in, or if you’re already writing, what genre your work would fit into. For Shakespeare it was plays.
  • Research everything about that genre, remembering people like Chandler managed to write ‘genre’ and ‘literary’ fiction at the same time, so you can still write what you enjoy.
  • Find out what format, or medium, your market get their reading matter in, just as Dickens did.

If you think I’m exaggerating how important this last step is, I was turned down by one publisher because the genre I’d chosen was selling badly in traditional paperback and hardback, their main markets, and taken on by another publisher because the genre I’d chosen was selling well in their main market, ebooks.

If you’ve done the three steps above you can now start writing and when you’ve done, rather than randomly send your novel out to any agent or publisher you can find, you can send it to agents or publishers who:

  • Publish works in the genre you write in
  • Market those works in the format your audience get their reading material in

So, does this work in the real world? Absolutely. I did these exact steps before I wrote a word. I then targeted only publishers who were already successfully selling books in the genre I was writing in, and the format the majority of the readers of that genre got their reading material in.The result? I had three publishers come back to me and I signed a three book deal with the publisher I wanted, rather than the publisher I could get. My first book, A Very English Murder, is currently on pre-release and I am so excited!

But this article isn’t about me. It’s about you. If a first time author who had never written a fiction book before, let alone one in a very competitive genre, can land a book deal, so can you.

And just imagine…

Next time you’re staring at that blank screen (or paper) how different would it feel to know you’ve already doubled your chance of landing a deal before you’ve written a word?

Readers need writers. Publishers need writers.

Writer’s like you.

Go get that deal!

About the author

Verity Bright

If you'd like to support a first time author, and get a cracking good read into the bargain, you can pre-order Verity's book here: A Very English Murder .