Two Keys to Getting a Literary Agent and a Book Deal

Everyone knows that to claim full authority status as an expert in your field, you need to author a book. And the way to publish with the most prestige is to land a deal with a traditional publisher.

For new authors, the process of getting a literary agent and book deal can seem mysterious, elusive, even daunting.


It’s more straightforward than you might think. First, you need to write a book proposal.

Your Book Proposal is the Vehicle 

A book proposal is like a business plan for a book. It’s what agents and publishers use to evaluate your book idea and how well you as an author will represent and market your book once it’s out.

You need to do only two things: generate enthusiasm and remove doubt.

Success for an agent and a publisher is bringing a book into this world that adds value to the marketplace by introducing new ideas and insights. Success also means it sells a lot of copies, makes back the money invested and pays everybody involved very well, including you.

Failure occurs when the book does not sell well, so it doesn’t get read or make much of an impact. It loses money for the publisher and greatly reduces the chance you’ll ever get published again.
Thus, your book proposal must demonstrate that you can create success.

How to Generate Enthusiasm

This is where you have to generate enthusiasm for both yourself as an author and for your book concept. To do this, highlight your deep expertise, the results you’ve created with your work, your winning personality, whatever makes you unique and desirable.

The next piece is your concept. Generate excitement around your revolutionary insights — your new take on an old topic. Nobody wants to publish the second book of anything. Use the proposal to show them what other recent books are out there in a similar topic area, and why your book is different and needs to be published.

With enthusiasm brimming for you and your idea, you’re halfway there. But a book proposal will never sell unless you also remove doubt.

How to Remove Doubt

You remove doubt by demonstrating that you have the wherewithal to sell books. Passion and expertise in your subject matter can only take you so far. At the end of the day, agents and publishers need to sign books that sell. You must prove to them that you have a strong author platform.

An author platform demonstrates that you have an ability to reach a large number of people and thus have an ability to generate sales. You can build your platform in various ways: through social media presence, having a big email list, arranging commitments from organizations to buy books in bulk, having a busy speaking schedule, running a popular podcast or YouTube channel, and the list goes on.

For your proposal to succeed in removing doubt, you can’t just promise that you will do these things to build your platform. You must already be doing what you say you will to do after the book is out. You don’t have to tackle everything; just do a few things exceptionally well.

Research Agents Before You Pitch

Finally, remember that agents and publishers are people. They have passion projects. Some are fiercely committed to getting messages out about racial justice, equity, and environmental conservation. Others are really excited about fitness and nutrition books. Others are into business books. So, a huge part of selling your book is pitching it to the right agent who can get it to the right editors.

Take the time to find a few appropriate agents for your pitch. Don’t make the mistake of so many aspiring authors who send their book proposal to every agent they can find on the internet. When an agent can see that you reached out to them specifically because of their stated interests and client list, it lays a foundation for a good relationship.

The Bottom Line is this:

Never try say these words to your literary agent. Agents and publishers want to feel excited and sure that you’ve brought them a fresh take on a big idea by a credible author who will sell books. Use your book proposal to prove you’re the one they’ve been looking for.

Republished from an article which appeared on