Book Publishing: Deciding What to Write


Since I got my very first book deal with John Wiley & Sons a few months ago, I’ve had professionals ask me how I did it. It’s not surprising that several of my colleagues are interested in writing books themselves, and that some of them have already written substantial portions of them in anticipation of landing their own publishing deals.

When I landed my contract, I had no idea how my experience compared with the normal experience of seeking out a publisher. But I promised my colleauges I’d write about my experience. In conjunction with that, I did some research to see how others typically get their publishing contracts. So this is the first installment in a series that discusses the process I went through to land my deal and get my book on bookshelves in Spring 2008.

I found a great resource for those interested in getting published: So you Want to Write a Book? The site has detailed information on the process, and I’ll summarize a number of their points here.

My first step, and everyone’s first step, is deciding that you want to write a book. But just “wanting” to write a book is obviously not enough. You’ve got to have an idea that is marketable. Something new or a new spin on a traditional topic. For me, the topic would obviously be fraud investigations, as that is where my expertise is.

When you decide “what” you’re interested in writing, you’ve got to determine whether or not there’s actually a market for your book. The most interesting or entertaining book will not be published if there isn’t anyone who wants to buy it. Publishers are in business to make money, so they’ve got standards that must be met for your target market. Find out if there are enough actual buyers for your book to make it worthwhile for the publisher.

Next, you’ll want to find out what books are already addressing your topic. What will you provide that is different? Why will your book appeal to the market? How will your publication stand out? Understand that even if you’re a good writer with a great topic, a publisher may not want to pick up your book if there are too many competing books already on the market. Again, they’re in this to make money, and too many competing products may hinder your project from getting off the ground.

Next up: Finding a publisher

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