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New World Library Unshelved

New World Library Unshelved

Positive news and inspiring views from the New World Library community

Thursday, October 20, 2016
A WRITER’S GUIDE TO GETTING PUBLISHED by New World Library Publisher Marc Allen
What is the main difference between a successful writer and an unsuccessful writer?

It’s not the quality of the work. A lot of very good writers are not successful. It’s a matter of how much the writer understands how the publishing industry works, and how they can best present their work and find their audience.

The first thing I tell beginning writers is this: Study the industry. Get to know how it works. Read things about it. Ideally, go to the big annual publishing convention, Book Expo America. It’s not for everybody, and it can be overwhelming for some people, but the entire book industry is spread out in one huge room, and you can learn a tremendous amount about how it all works. It’s in late May and early June in 2017 in New York City. Or go to local writing and publishing events. And get this book: Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents

The book gives you a grand tour of the publishing industry and presents you with a great many different possibilities to consider. It begins with “Part 1: Advice for Writers.” This is filled with invaluable information, including how to write a good query letter to get an agent’s or a publisher’s attention and how to write a proposal that will get your book published.

I’m always surprised at the number of writers who ask me what we want in the way of a proposal. I just say, “Pick up Jeff Herman’s Guide and go to page 32.” He concisely spells out exactly what we want: 

  • • Title page
  • • Overview (keep it brief — ideally just a page or two)
  • • Biographical section (tell us about you and why you’re qualified to write your book)
  • • Marketing section (tell us what your “platform” is, and what you’ll do to help promote the book)
  • • Competition section (briefly list the main competing titles)
  • • Chapter outline (keep it brief as well)
  • • Sample chapters (I always like to see at least the first 25 or 30 pages of the book, including the Introduction [if any] and the first chapter or two. Don’t send us chapter 5 unless you also send chapters 1–4.)
That’s all we want. You can approach a publisher or agent once you’ve written just the proposal and the first 25 or so pages of the proposed nonfiction book, and if they take you on, you may be able to sign a contract and get a portion of an advance right away.

“Part 2: Publishing Conglomerates” is a broad and yet detailed explanation of the world of big publishing, complete with editors’ names and contact information. “Part 3: Independent Presses” gives you a tour of the publishers who are not part of the conglomerates: the independent publishers (like New World Library, for example). “Part 4: University Presses” gives you all the information you need if you’re writing something appropriate for the academic world (and, quite often, a more general audience as well). “Part 5: Canadian Book Publishers” gives you some great options north of the U.S. border.

“Part 6: Literary Agents” gives you names, contact information, and a whole lot more about 170+ literary agents. It includes their areas of special interest, previous books they’ve represented, and a lot of other really valuable information if you decide you want an agent. (In general, you need an agent to approach the big conglomerate publishers, but you can send proposals to a lot of the independent publishers — including us — directly, without having an agent.)

Finally, “Part 7: Independent Editors” gives you profiles and contact information of freelance editors, in case you want to work with a professional editor before you approach a publisher or self-publish. (Please, if you self-publish, have someone edit your work! Virtually every writer can use a good editor to help them make their work clearer, cleaner, more beautiful, more effective.)

Every publisher knows that authors are the lifeblood of the industry. Every one of us in the publishing industry is constantly looking for new books to publish. 

We get a ton of books submitted to us, but just a tiny percentage of them get considered seriously, because the vast majority of them are either totally inappropriate for us to publish or badly written and badly presented.

Do your homework. Go to your local independent bookstores and browse their shelves and find out who publishes the kind of book you’re writing. Research those publishers a bit first; get familiar with their list before you approach them.

I got a call from someone a while ago. This was the entire conversation:

“Marc, you don’t know me, but I’ve got a great book for you.”

“What’s it called?”

The World’s Greatest Dirty Jokes.”

“Uh . . . we don’t publish those kind of books.”

“Oh. What do you publish?”

“Look, if you don’t know what kinds of books we publish, why are you wasting your time and my time calling me? Go call someone who publishes dirty jokes.”

“Oh . . . okay. Good-bye.”

End of conversation. That’s an example of a lame way to contact a publisher. Now here’s an excellent way. Years ago, I got a very brief query letter that started with something like this: “First you published Creative Visualization. Then you published Prospering Woman. Now here’s the third book in that trilogy: Work with Passion.”

I immediately knew that the author was familiar with the kind of publishing we do, and I was intrigued by the title. We ended up publishing it, and it became a bestseller.

Keep trying not only to be the best writer you can be but also to understand and work smoothly with the publishing industry. It’s a great industry to get involved in — there’s a lot of integrity in it and a lot of passion for well-written books. There are good people in publishing companies who are always looking for their next book to publish and promote successfully. 

I challenge you and encourage you to write the very best book you can write, and then to find a great partner to work with in getting your book out to the world.  

# # #

Marc Allen is the author of several books, including Visionary Business, The Magical Path, The Greatest Secret of All, and Tantra for the West. He is an internationally renowned seminar leader, entrepreneur, author, and composer. 

He cofounded New World Library (with Shakti Gawain) and has guided the company, as president and publisher, from a small start-up to its current position as a major player in the independent publishing world. He leads seminars in Northern California and gives teleseminars that reach people all over the world. Visit him online at






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