Lay the Groundwork for a Fruitful Collaboration with a Publisher
Updated: Nov 21, 2022
This article is part of a series that adapts and excerpts my entire book, Pitch What’s True: A Publisher’s Tools for Navigating Your Best Path to a Published Nonfiction Book (Everything Goes Media, 2019). Find an index to the series here.
A Word on This New Relationship
A business relationship is a relationship. Finding a publisher is the beginning of establishing a long-term business relationship. Keep that forefront in your mind, as well as everything you know about positive, healthy, mutually beneficial relationships, as you continue through the process.
Know that you are bringing something specific and valuable to the table…and so are the publishers. Do they want what you’re offering? Do you want what they’re offering? What sort of relationship are you looking for here, and how can you do your share to create that as you go?
Respect yourself, respect your book, and respect the publisher/s. Nurturing high-quality connections and partnerships as you go about this process is one of the keys to publishing success — and one of its rewards as well.
I may have mentioned relationship a few times!?
Before we get started on the Savvy Author Checklists [Publisher/Publishing Knowledge, The Book, The Author, Sales & Marketing]: What specific and valuable things are you bringing to a publisher? Consider any and all aspects of your content, you as a person, and the economic and other opportunities you bring as a package. This is just early dreaming and brainstorming. Refinement and reality can come later!
And what are the things you want from a publisher?
How would you describe your ideal author-publisher relationship? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
What are some of your best relationship skills? What are some ways they can help you as you proceed? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
What are some of your weaker relationship skills? What are some ways you can bolster those, compensate for them, or work around them? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
What does respecting yourself and your book through this process look like to you? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
How will you respect the publishers with whom you come into contact? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
If at this point, you are already disinclined to do the exercises, guess what? You don’t have to do them! You can pick and choose which ones to do. You can skim for the main ideas and skip any real thinking. You can chuck the reading and dip in only as a reference. You can click on the next blog post to catch your eye!
But consider this: studies show that one of the best predictors of whether or not you will behave optimally (as you most desire, in service of your end goal, as your best self, etc.) in some future situation is simply if you have previously thought about how you would act or be in that situation.
“The harder I work, the luckier I get.” — Samuel Goldwyn
So prepare yourself. Do your research. Think through the details. Clarify your aims. Walk yourself through future scenarios. Know what’s true now and what you want to be true down the road. Just do the work.
“Fortune favors the prepared mind.” — Louis Pasteur
A Quick Note about Agents, Self-Publishing, and Hybrid Publishing
While this content is specifically for nonfiction authors who want to directly pitch and submit their projects to publishers, it is also useful for those seeking an agent. Adjust accordingly. It can also be immensely handy for those who plan to self-publish or enter hybrid publishing arrangements. If you will be your own publisher, have you considered everything you need to? Consult the Savvy Author Checklist, and view your project from an external perspective. How does it rate? How can it be improved to increase its odds of success?
 For online advice on agents, turn to the cache of articles on and by literary agents at WritersDigest.com or the one-stop shop of MarkMalatesta.com. Former literary agent Mark Malatesta also manages the free database of literary agents on his site (you need to provide an email address and sign in for access but he doesn’t abuse his email list). If you have a book that you think — know — could go big, you want an agent if you can get one. Spend at least 2–4 months contacting 1–5 agents a day with your best possible efforts before pursuing other options. Publishing is a numbers game, often a big numbers game. Work the numbers.