How to Land a Traditional Publishing Deal for Your Nonfiction Book


Many first-time authors don’t realize that publishers don’t buy completed nonfiction books. Publishers buy book proposals. You don’t need to write your book to acquire a traditional book deal. You need to develop a professional, well-crafted, compelling book proposal that presents your idea, your expertise, and your marketing plan.

You need to acquire a literary agent to market your idea to publishers. The large major publishers do not accept unsolicited book proposals. You need a literary agent to act as your representative and submit your pitch package.

The book proposal is a marketing tool, which is analyzed by an editorial review. If a publishing company decides your idea is viable, they will offer you a contract to write the book, along with an advance payment.

Publisher’s don’t simply review a completed manuscript. A nonfiction manuscript does not answer the editorial review committee’s questions about marketing, competition, production, or the author’s platform. A publisher will invest tens of thousands of dollars to develop a book and requires a complete view of the project (which the book proposal provides) prior to making a decision.

Publisher’s decisions are based on:

  • Your platform (media attention you’ve garnered, how well you’re “known” in your industry).
  • The size of your community of potential readers (how many followers and subscribers you have).
  • If the idea is compelling.
  • If you have identified a large niche market for the book.
  • If you have presented a strong, sustainable marketing plan.
  • Your endorsements (which authors, experts or celebrities have provided testimonials about your expertise or material).

All of these elements are important to land a traditional book deal. However, literary agents agree that, when you’re writing a business, self-help or how-to book, the most essential element you have is a well-established platform and a large list or “tribe” of followers. Without a platform or list, it is challenging for an author to acquire a top literary agent and major publisher.

If you don’t currently have a platform and list, put your immediate focus on growing those areas or consider writing and self-publishing your first book as a way to build your platform and list and then approach literary agents and publishers for a traditional book deal.


Laura Cross is a writer/author, producer and founder of Rebel Seed Studio - an independent film production company, book publisher, and podcast network. Laura has worked as an author-strategist and professional ghostwriter of narrative nonfiction and how-to books. She is the author of the books EXPERT AUTHOR: Turn Your Expertise into a Profitable Business, Self-Help or How-To Book and BESTSELLER BOOK PROPOSAL: Develop a Winning Pitch, Acquire a Top Literary Agent and Land a Publishing Deal... Before You Write Your Nonfiction Book.

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