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Be honest. Do you really want a publishing deal?

Earlier this week, I started work with a new client. She asked me to review and edit her book proposal, which is for a coffee-table book showcasing her gorgeous wildlife photography and poetry.

She had put a vast amount of work (and money) into creating her book. It had been professionally edited, with print-ready layouts created by a leading graphic designer.

Hang on a minute—if she has done all of that, does she really need a publisher?

After all, this is what publishers do really well: shape the content of a book so it’s the best it can be. They know how to design a cover, the inside of a book, and even the spine of a book. They know how to copy-edit the chapters and typeset the pages.

If an author has already done all of that, what is a publisher to do?

Sure, publishers also know how to get the book printed handsomely and economically, and work with an author to publicize, market, and sell their book. They know how to produce audiobooks, how to arrange for books to be on sale at speaking events, how to place books in airport bookstores. But publishers will only do that for books they have selected and had a creative hand in. (I’m not talking here about publishers who will take on titles for distribution only; I’m talking about a full author-publisher relationship.)

If you have written a manuscript, had it professionally edited, and engaged a cover designer and a typesetter, then you need to weigh up whether you truly want a traditional publisher. If you have reached this point, it sounds like you want to have creative control over the final book, and you won’t get that with a traditional publisher. When you sign a publishing contract, you sign over certain rights to your book, meaning you lose some of the ownership to your work. If you want full control over edits, typography, cover, and layouts, traditional publishing is probably not the right choice for you.

There is no single correct answer that applies to every author. You need to make a decision that you’re comfortable with in terms of control, risk, quality, and financials. In my next post, I’ll lay out some of the pros and cons of traditional publishing and hybrid or self-publishing.


If you need more help with writing your non-fiction book proposal or if you’re interested in my other services, please check out the “Services” tab on my website.

Coming in 2022: my new online course on writing book proposals! In the meantime, check out my course (with co-presenter Lari Bishop) How to Write a Successful Nonfiction Book:


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