The fact that I can sit here today and pen a journal entry on how to secure a book deal from first-hand experience is still, somewhat, unbelievable. I am an author. My name is on the front of a book. I still need a moment now and again to let that completely set in.
I know from speaking to friends of La Basketry that getting a publishing deal is on many people’s bucket lists of things to achieve in their lifetime. It was on mine for years. So ahead of the official release of Baskets in May, I wanted to share the lessons I’ve learned and my experience and knowledge of writing my debut book as a business owner, independent maker and passionate writer.
The First Step
I launched La Basketry back in May 2017, with the main ethos of selling generous storage, created by the craftswomen of Senegal. Business was going well, and the press had started to notice not only my products but the story of supporting these incredibly talented women by giving back to their community.
Just three months into running the business full-time, I opened my inbox and in and amongst the everyday admin I would go through each morning, sat an email from Quadrille - a major publishing house here in the UK.
OK, Tabara. Deep breaths.
The team there had discovered La Basketry and wanted a meeting to discuss the possibility of writing a book. I had previously studied literature, I wrote a script at age 18 and I wanted to be a journalist in my younger years, so being an author was always something I’d dreamt of.
After the shock of the email subsided, I had a very positive first meeting with my editor and was then asked to write a book proposal to be presented to their sales teams. I remember the first meeting, as I sat surrounded by books by incredibly famous authors. It’s fair to say at that moment, imposter syndrome kicked in but the team instantly put me at ease.
If getting a book published in on your to-do list, you’ve no doubt googled “how to write a book proposal?”. Ideally, it should contain the following information:
- Biography – a section about your company, who you are, what you do, any press you have had and what your background is
- An overview of the book’s contents and a chapter example
- Competition/similar titles – are there any books that would compete with this book or similar? This gives the sales team an idea of where you think the book would sit in the market
- Target market and social media stats, and any other information you can provide about your customer/audience
- Any information you may have on the sparks of popularity in your chosen field
I spent time creating a powerpoint presentation, which was a visual representation of how I saw the book developing. The book proposal won’t necessarily be the final version of your book but it’s important for a publisher to see that you have thoroughly thought about the book and what you would like to achieve.
As I’d only launched La Basketry just a few months prior, my social stats were OK, but not amazing (for example, I had 1,000 followers on Instagram at that point), so I was really nervous about sharing that information. There is a preconceived idea that you need a huge platform to sign a book deal and I’m a prime example that this is simply not true. I was building a brand with a strong identity and I believe this played a big part in the whole process.
The Waiting Game
There were several months between submitting my proposal and getting an answer and this was the most difficult time for me as I really wanted this project to come alive. It was also difficult not to be able to share my secret – only a handful of people knew. During that initial stage, there were internal discussions, costings etc. Although I didn’t want to get too excited, I couldn’t help but visualise my future book for sale on Amazon. I’m a huge believer in the law of attraction, and I even pre-wrote a message announcing my book deal. I asked, I believed, and I received.
And Then it Was a Yes
I remember exactly where I was when I found out I’d been offered a book deal. I was in the back of a taxi moving back to my flat with my boyfriend after a summer of living in a different part of the city. It was a Friday afternoon and it was honestly the best news ever. It’s fair to say we celebrated that night. Once your project is approved, you will then get an official offer.
Getting an Agent
Most authors work with a literary agent, who will pitch to publishing houses on their behalf. I chose not to go down this road, as I felt like I’d done a lot of the ground work already. I had already prepared a proposal and was about to receive an offer. From the first meeting until sign off, I worked independently with Quadrille. It has certainly felt overwhelming at times, especially as I didn’t have a literary agent to guide me through the process.
Google is a good starting point to find an agent, but you can also pay attention to the acknowledgements in your favourite books as agents are usually thanked by authors.
Signing the Contract
Like any contract, always make sure you receive legal advice. The big thing to take from getting a book deal is advance payment and royalties. You usually get an advance, which is a sum of money paid upfront when you sign a contract with a publisher. You can also receive royalties, where you are paid a percentage for each book sold. Each contract is different, which is where a good literary agent comes into play as they negotiate terms and conditions on your behalf.
Once the papers had been signed, sealed, and delivered, I was able to start the actual process of writing the book, which I’m going to talk about in part two of this series. If you’re interested in securing a publishing deal, I hope this has given you an insight into the initial process. Stay tuned for the second instalment where I talk about deadlines, photoshoots and the challenges faced as a busy business-owner-come-author.
Click here to pre-order Baskets on Amazon Worldwide