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How to Publish a Self-Help Book Without a PhD
By Suzanne Falter-Barns

It's no secret that writing a book is a key piece of any speaker's climb to success. Published books give you a broader market for your message, plus more clout and better back-of-the-room sales. And why do you need mainstream publishers when you can sell your own e-book from your site? It can mean the difference between selling 1000 copies of your book and selling 100,000, not to mention major media, greater credibility, and advance checks that carry 5 or 6 digits.

That said, it can be tough to publish self-help material if you don't have academic or medical credentials, or a PhD. I don't, yet I was able to do a two-book, six figure deal with one of the biggest publishers in the world on my motivational book, How Much Joy Can You Stand?

Here are some street smarts I discovered along the way:

1. You need a killer idea.

What is the universal problem that your material solves? Check Amazon.com and find out who else is tackling the problem and how. Then give your concept a unique spin.

2. You need a great title.

Think viscerally, and think hard. This is your five second ad for the power of your book concept. Without it, yours is just another book on the big pile on an editor's or agent's desk.

3. You need a professional book proposal.

This is a systematic presentation of your material that spans 15-30 pages, and covers not only the outline of chapters and basic premise of your book, but why you are qualified to write it, who the market is, unique selling ideas, special markets (group sales), competing titles and their performance, etc. This is as much a marketing pitch as a chance to convey the power of your work. Books abound on this subject. You can also take my Self-Help Author's Crash Course, which takes you step-by-step through creating such a pitch. (See below.)

4. You need a literary agent.

Major publishers almost never buy books from authors; instead, they make deals with agents who represent you. You pay these people 10-20% of your fee, but without them, there truly is no deal. They also sell ancillary rights for additional income.

5. You can find that agent by being specific.

There are a gazillion agents out there, so home in on who sells your type of material. One industry trick is to look in the acknowledgements page of similar books to yours. Authors often list their agents. Then check that agent's current location in Literary Market Place, a library reference book, or on the Web at various writing sites that list literary agents.

6. Send a great package.

Include a brief cover letter that is attention-getting, plus a beautifully presented proposal. You can also include a few chapters. Make sure you've done your homework here, as you only get one quick shot.

7. If all else fails, hit the small presses.

Small presses will publish titles that major publishers are afraid to-- e.g., great self-help material by authors who don't have PhDs. Big publishers regularly re-publish such books, especially if they have a proven track record, e.g., book club sales, a word of mouth readership, a built-up author ezine list, etc. This can happen (less frequently) with e-books. You can learn more by visiting the Small Press Center at http://www.smallpress.org

8. Approach the agents again.

If you couldn't find an agent the first time around, this is a great chance to re-approach, with book and sales in hand. Agents love placing small press books with big houses, and are important partners in helping you make that transition.

If you've got a self-help book idea or even an inkling, check out Suzanne Falter-Barns' Self-Help Author's Crash Course at http://www.howmuchjoy.com/selfhelpbook.html. Suzanne Falter-Barns' free ezine, The Joy Letter, brings you a crisp, fresh burst of inspiration for your dream every week or two. Sign up at http://www.howmuchjoy.com/joyletter.html and receive her valuable report, "Thirty-Five Guaranteed Time Savers." It helps you create time to finally live your dreams.

Learn what it takes to write and publish your own self-help book at www.howmuchjoy.com.

Suzanne Falter-Barns is the author of How Much Joy Can You Stand? A Creative Guide To Facing Your Fears and Making Your Dreams Come True (Ballantine Wellspring).

This and other self-publishing articles can be found at Go Publish Yourself.com.

"Empowering Writers by Bringing Them into the Innovative World of Self-Publishing."


2002 Suzanne Falter-Barns. Reprint permission available by request. Article must be complete and must include all contact information above. Apply to info@howmuchjoy.com



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