By Randy Peyser

Do you want to get a book deal with a publisher or literary agent?

Every year, at Book Expo America,, the annual “feeding frenzy” for the publishing industry in this country, I pitch agents and publishers live, in-person, to help my clients get book deals.

If you want to get a book deal with a publisher or literary agent, here’s what you need to know: Every year, agents and publishers ask me the same 2 questions once they’ve quickly assessed whether 1) the topic is current, 2) they think there will be a sizable market for the book, and 3) they believe readers will buy, buy, buy your book.

The 2 biggest questions publishers ask once they’ve made this lightning-fast discernment are:

  1. How is your book different from every other book on your topic?
  2. What’s the size of your platform?

The market is flooded with books. For your book to stand out, you’ve got to contribute something new, or provide some unique twist on your topic.

Regarding platform, one top literary agent who’s sold many of my clients’ books told me: “Randy, it’s all come down to publishers sitting with their calculators, comparing people’s numbers.”

What numbers are they looking for?

In this economy, the marketing departments are counting every bean to see if the numbers justify the purchase of your title. This means that in the “About the Market” section of your book proposal (a mandatory document to accompany your non-fiction manuscript), you must show strong statistical evidence that there is a market to support the sale of your book. You could write the best book in the world, but if the numbers don’t add up in a way that satisfies their marketing department, your book is toast.

When an agent or publishers asks: What’s the author’s platform? Here’s how the math breaks down: Publicity = Eyeballs, and Eyeballs = Sales.

Years ago, I wrote, Crappy to Happy, The editor at Ballantine loved the book. But the book was rejected because my platform was too small. When I started doing a one-woman comedy show and gained visibility, I was immediately offered a contract by Red Wheel Weiser, and Crappy to Happy wound up being held up by Julia Roberts in a bookstore scene in the movie, “Eat Pray Love”.

Many people think they will start speaking or building their publicity platform once their book comes out. Don’t wait! Publishers consider this strategy to be meaningless. They want to see your real numbers now.

What numbers do they need to see? As the agent told me: “Any numbers that are better than the other authors they are considering at the same time.”

Here are other questions publishers ask: after reviewing a book proposal I had polished for David Couper for Outsiders on the Inside, an Acquisitions Editor at Wiley asked: “Where has the author spoken in the last year? What was the size of each audience? Where is the author speaking in the next 6 months? What is the projected size of each audience?”

Good golly, Miss Molly – they’re after real numbers! Although David was speaking and had the numbers to prove it, we went with a different publisher.

Prove your publicity platform, write a great book with differentiation, and speak to a topic that is current with a sizable market, and your likelihood of getting a book deal with a publisher or literary agent will greatly increase.

Randy Peyser has a high success rate of helping people find a literary agent or publisher for their books with scores of people under contract with agents or publishers she’s found for them.

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