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The Five Biggest Questions Publishers Ask Before They Will Buy Your Manuscript

I know we’ve only just hit day number six, but it’s time to get into the real nitty-gritty of nonfiction writing: the business end of book publishing. (I warned you we would!)  If you’re going to write a nonfiction book, you must be sure you have a marketable product. (This is true of articles, too, but we're going to talk about books today.) While fiction writers also must be sure their book manuscripts have a market, they don’t have to concern themselves with such things as promotion and platform. These, however, represent the essentials of selling nonfiction books. Without them, you won't find literary representation or sell your book to a publisher.

So, while you’re writing your nonfiction book this month (or any time), you must consider—and work upon—the business aspects of nonfiction writing. Don't put it off. Begin immediately, if you haven't already. (If you have started, step up whatever you are doing a notch or two.)

Randy Peyser, the owner of Author One Stop, a national publishing consulting firm, not only works with many nonfiction authors, she has contact with a variety of publishers and agents. For this reason, she has a good deal of insight into what nonfiction writers need to get their books sold to a traditional publisher. You’d be surprised to discover that they don’t just look at your manuscript. Acquisition editors are looking well beyond your wonderful words and well-crafted sentences to how easy it will be to get your book onto the shelves of major bookstores—and sold to eager readers.

Read on to hear what Randy has to say about what questions publishers are asking before they purchase a book manuscript. You’ll want to be sure to have them answered before your manuscript and book proposal come under their consideration.

When you've finished reading this post, crack out a book about how to write a book proposal and how to build a platform. If you don’t know much about these topics, don’t worry. Write Nonfiction in November will feature expert blog posts on these topics in upcoming days, and you can find past blog posts on these subjects in the November 2008 and 2007 archives.

The Five Biggest Questions Publishers Ask
Before They Will Buy Your Manuscript
By Randy Peyser

In this economy, the marketing departments at book publishing companies are counting every bean to see if the numbers justify the purchase of your title. Even if you find an acquisitions editor who absolutely loves your book, if the numbers don’t add up to the satisfaction of the publisher’s marketing department or the book buyer from Barnes & Noble, your book is toast.


The five biggest questions that publishers ask before they buy your manuscript are:

  1. Is your topic current?
  2. Is your topic differentiated from every other book that is already out there?
  3. Will people be interested in this topic, and, if so, what is the size of the market?
  4. How extensive is the author’s publicity platform?
  5. Do the numbers add up?

Here’s how the math breaks down: Publicity = Eyeballs, and Eyeballs = Sales

Picture this scenario: The book buyer from Barnes & Noble meets with a publishing house to decide which books he is going to order for Barnes & Noble for the upcoming season. He takes out his computer and starts asking questions about each title.

What he really wants to know is: What is the size of the target market for your book and how big is your platform? The book buyer then writes the stats down for your book and compares them against every other book he is considering.

The books with the biggest numbers win.

Four Tips to Build Your Numbers

  1. In the “About the Market” section of your book proposal, include real numbers (strong and clear statistical evidence) to show how large the market is for your book. For example, in addition to mentioning every legitimate market for your book, think about specific associations who would be interested in your topic and include the size of each of their national memberships in this section.
  2. Contact movers and shakers who have large email lists and ask them if they would be willing to send out an email message blast to announce your book when it comes out. Find out the size of each list and include this data in the Promotion section of your book proposal.
  3. Blog like crazy and include the number of your connections on Linked In, your Facebook fan page, and all other social media sites in the Promotion section of your book proposal.
  4. Speak, speak, speak. Publishers want you to be in front of eyeballs way before your book comes out. Get out there and speak or teach seminars or teleclasses. Include all of this information in the Promotion section of your book proposal.

If you can prove your publicity platform, justify the market and write a book that adds something new and different, you’ve got a potential winner on your hands. So get out there and build your numbers!

About the Author

Randy Peyser owns a national publishing consulting firm called, Author One Stop. Her 10 award-winning editors includes: a book reviewer for People Magazine, The Washington Post and The Boston Globe and an editor of 20 New York Times national best sellers (including those written by Sidney Sheldon, Dan Rather, Gail Sheehy, and Margaret Truman). Services offered by Author One Stop include: editing, ghostwriting, book proposals, help finding top literary agents and publishers, self-publishing, and internet publicity.

(831) 726-3153


Don't forget to check out the home for this blog series, www.writenonfictioninnovember.wordpress.com.

Also, go to www.copywrightcommunications.com and sign up to be on Nina Amir's free mailing list to receive a free gift at the end of November!