I have passed a big milestone a few weeks ago: I finished the manuscript for my memoir Wandering and Wondering. In my network, I found a couple of beta readers and am waiting for their feedback. In the meantime, I started preparing the publisher pitch. From publisher and coach Scott Zarcinas of Content Plexus I received a checklist of the important things to consider when pitching a non-fiction book to a publisher. This checklist covers the following parts:

1. Introduction
Provide basic information about your book, such as title, subtitle, author, editor, illustrator, and genre
2. Overview
Provide a summary back page blurb covering the problem, challenge, or frustration of your audience, listing the benefits of reading the book.
3. Table of Contents
4. Synopsis
Compile a one- to two-page summary of the book outlining the content of each chapter according to the table of contents.
5. Author Bio
Tell the publisher your strengths and expertise, such as previous publishing credits, relevant education, industry experience, blog publishing, workshops, seminars, etc.
6. Market Overview
Provide facts and figures about your target market: demographics, psychographics and explain the results of your research.
7. Promotion
List all your assets to help the publisher promote your book: author platform, website statistics (visitors, subscribers), social media presence and followers, speaking engagements, workshops, author talks, etc.
8. Competitive Titles and Sample Chapters
Research three titles similar to your book and discuss your book’s point of difference. Provide sample chapters according to the publisher’s submission guidelines.

It took many hours to work my way through this list, but I now feel much more confident in submitting my book to a publisher. My first test will be the Pantera Press Open Day at the New South Wales Writers’ Centre in Sydney on the 29th of April.

When I saw this event in the centre’s brochure at the beginning of the year, I instantly booked my seat. I am very much looking forward to this day, as the morning sessions will give insight into the daily life of a publishing house, how publishers decide whether or not to commission a book, and everything about editing, marketing, digital, and publicity. In the afternoon, I will get feedback from one of their editors on the first twenty pages of my manuscript including a one-page synopsis that I had to provide beforehand.

What I found one of the hardest things to do was writing the one-page synopsis. After writing, rewriting, and editing – I can’t remember how many versions I did – I managed to condense it to a couple of pages. Then, I noticed on the submission information that for the Pantera Press Open Day I needed to submit only one page. So I started cutting down more words; what a challenge to summarise the important points of your book on one page. Luckily, my editor offered me to have a look at it before I submitted it.

I decided to wait for the feedback from Pantera Press before contacting any other publishers or agents. I also prepared a list of five agents and ten publishers including their submission guidelines to get started. It is very interesting once you start comparing the submission guidelines of the agents and the publishing houses. There are agents, who only read your work if you have not submitted it to any other agent or publisher; this means, however, if the agent takes up to three months to reply to you can’t do anything else with your manuscript. Some of the big publishing houses do not accept unsolicited manuscripts, and if you have identified this particular publisher as a good fit for your book, you will need to find an agent first. I particularly liked the approach of some bigger publishers offering specific days or weeks where they accept unsolicited manuscripts. I ended up prioritising the publishers accepting memoirs and offering specific windows when to submit your work. I grouped the publishers that do not accept unsolicited manuscripts and identified a group of boutique publishing houses currently accepting non-fiction works.

Reading the submission guidelines, I noticed that they are all very individual. Some prefer email, some printed manuscripts; some require a one-page, others a two-page synopsis; some of the agents ask you to call first before sending anything. One thing is pretty obvious: if you want to be noticed by an agent or publisher of your choice you have to stick exactly to what they ask you to do. The next challenge on my writing journey is waiting for me.


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