How to Get a Book Deal
Print is not dead. It may feel a little under the weather sometimes, but it’s not dead. In fact, for the more visual material that doesn’t translate well to Kindles and their ilk, print books are alive and kicking. And if you have the right idea and some insider know-how, it could be your name on the cover of one of those books. Becky Simpson, who landed her first book deal in a matter of weeks, shares what she’s learned in this interview.
Becky is the author and illustrator of I’d Rather Be Short (published 2013) and The Roommate Book (coming spring 2016). When I interviewed her, she had just sent the final pages of The Roommate Book to the publisher.
Stone: What’s the difference between a book query and a book proposal?
Simpson: A book query is an author’s pitch to an agent. It includes a cover letter, a little about you, maybe an outline or sample chapter. Agents are particular about who they represent because they don’t want to waste their time if they don’t think your book will be published.
A book proposal is a specific pitch to a publisher. My first proposal included a marketing plan, comparison titles (other books that did well in the same category), the 100 reasons it’s great to be short, and sample drawings. For my second proposal, we included a detailed outline, a sample chapter, comparison titles, and a new marketing plan with the help of what I learned from marketing I’d Rather Be Short.
Stone: How do you find an agent?
Simpson: Agentquery.com is good because you can filter your search. For my book I didn’t need to submit to Young Adult, for example; I needed a gift book/humor book category. After filtering the agent profiles, I found some who looked right. Also, there’s a book called The Guide to Literary Agents.
But one of the best ways is to look at the acknowledgement sections of books. If you’re a female comedy wrier, pick up Bossy Pants and check out who Tina Fey’s agent was.
Stone: How much of the book should you complete before you start looking?
Simpson: It depends on the type of book. You want to give people the clearest possible idea of what your book will look like. A lot of people think you have to be all done before you find an agent or publisher. That’s not necessarily the case.
Even when you approach an agent, you need to know how your book ends. For a kid’s book, for instance, you want to finish the writing and draw a few spreads.