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How to Sell Your NonFiction

  • By Harry Bingham
  • Published 09/5/2011
  • Non-Fiction

Here are the things that will go to make a really strong selling package. I’m assuming, by the way, that you’ve written a fair chunk of the book and have an outline of the rest. Typically, I’d want to see an introduction, the first three chapters and a detailed outline of everything else. That pattern can vary – I’ve seen book sold with no speciment chapters at all, and ones sold with 50,000 words of polished text – but that intro + three chapters + outline model is a reasonable one to follow. Once you’ve got that, you also need: A strong title. Not essential, but if you have a strong title, it’s a real asset. If you don’t have a strong one in mind, then use one that clearly advertises what your book is about. Clear qualifications. If your book deals with some technical area, you need to establish yourself as a legitimate expert. You don’t necessarily need to say much about those, but something is essential.

A clear angle, need or approach. There will inevitably be competitor publications to yours, so you have to offer something distinct and unique. If you can encapsulate that unique quality in a paragraph or two, you’re well on your way

. Some strong titbits. Often it helps to arrest your potential audience with a few very striking facts – quotable, surprising, repeatable nuggets. The kind of thing that people will be repeating inside the editorial meeting. You don’t need a lot. A short page is plenty, but if you can make that page strong, it’ll really help. A literary agent. I hope I don’t need to tell you that you need a literary agent. That won’t be true for very niche non-fiction (Grooming My Pony, Classic Motorcycles, that kind of thing), but it’s true of pretty much everything else. To secure a literary agent you’ll need much the same package as you’ll need for publishers, so you won’t have to repeat the work. Finally, there are things you do not particularly need. Market facts and figures. In most cases, publishers will know more than you do about the potential market for a given title, so it just looks stupid to try and do the work for them. A book cover. That is the publisher’s job! Your effort will almost certainly look embarrassing. So spare yourself the embarrassment. Blurb. That too is a publisher’s job.

If you can supply all of the above – particularly the literary agent – you’re well on your way. Best of luck!

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