The Top 6 Author Questions

Hi Manuscript Workers,

The theme of my last couple newsletters has been author anxieties leading up to and during the publishing process. Anxieties come from a lot of places, but I believe that many can be traced to uncertainty and a general feeling that the opaque process of getting a book published is set up for you to fail in navigating it. I don’t think it actually is set up for authors to fail (in most cases) but it is needlessly opaque. Which is where I come in.

I’ve fielded hundreds of questions from prospective authors, and I’ve noticed some patterns in the topics that people seem most uncertain about. For a little while, I even kept track of all the questions in a spreadsheet, so I have actual data about which ones came up most often. Want to know what the top questions are (and see if these are your questions too)? I’ll tell you in just a sec!

But first I just want to let you know that these most frequently asked questions are what prompted me to develop the workshop I’m offering this Friday, Set Up for Publishing Success. In some cases the answers are unique for every author, so I’ll be providing everyone who comes to the workshop with tools (like flowcharts, worksheets, and even a decision tree) to arrive at the answers that are right for them. There will also be a Q&A period so if you have specific, possibly weird, circumstances you want to ask about, you’re more than welcome to do so. You can register for the workshop here:

Register for the workshop

Ok, here are the top 6 questions I’ve received:

The number one question by far is “how much of my manuscript should be complete before I submit a proposal?” Another version of this question is, “when in my writing process should I submit my proposal to a publisher?” Underlying that question is sometimes uncertainty about the difference between seeking an advance contract (on the basis of a proposal + sample chapters) versus a full contract (on the basis of a complete manuscript).

The second question is about process: “what happens at the publisher after I submit my proposal?” There’s also its counterpart, “How long should I expect to wait before knowing if my book is going to get published?”

Question #3 is about simultaneous submission — “is it acceptable to submit my proposal to multiple publishers at the same time?” Quick answer: yes, usually, but there are things to consider and strategic ways to handle it that work better than others. I would not recommend sending your proposal to a dozen places at once just to see where it sticks.

The fourth most common question is “how do I figure out the right publisher to approach?” I walked a bunch of you through this during my 5-day challenge back in August and I’ll do a mini version of that in the workshop on Friday.

Question #5 is about how to work with acquiring editors. Versions of this question include “Do I need someone else to introduce me to an editor?” and various permutations of “How do I get to know an editor and talk to them about my project?”

The final question that comes up all the time is “how do I transform my dissertation into a book?” There are many answers to this one out there (including in some great guidebooks), but because I’m a book proposal specialist, I usually reframe the question a little bit: “how do you present your book to a publisher so that it doesn’t look like a dissertation but rather like an appealing, marketable book?” I’ll be doing a quick run-down on that in Friday’s workshop too.

If you dig back through the archives of this newsletter (or check out the contents of The Book Proposal Book) you will find answers to some of these questions. My aim on Friday is to provide some tools and quick, actionable advice so that, in about an hour and a half, you feel confident about moving forward with your project and talking to (the right) publishers about it. Hope to see you there!