What to Do BEFORE You Query

Until you get to know them, editors can be scary people. But with some concentrated effort, and a little knowhow about the care and feeding of these elusive creatures, you too can become a published author!

For Catholic non-fiction authors writing their first book, the key to your success will be how close your proposed book “fits” with your existing ministry. And one of the best ways to show that is by having a strong online presence. (It’s not the only way, but it’s the first thing I look for as an acquisitions editor.) Here are three things you can do to make your proposal irresistible!

  1. Have a killer author website or blog. You can create a beautiful site yourself — or you can pay someone to do it for you. It should have a speaker’s page (with clips of you actually speaking if possible), information about your other books or contributions, links to your social media, and links to any other online writing you’ve done. Ideally, you would also be collecting email addresses (MailChimp or Constant Contact are good for this) and developing a regular newsletter — shoot for 2000 names. Here are some beautiful examples from Christy Wilkens, Mary Lenaburg, and Kelly Wahlquist. A professionally designed site can run $1000 – $3000 dollars, but you can design one yourself for less than $100 (for hosting and newsletter subscriptions) by using WordPress or other software.
  2. Network with other authors and support their efforts to promote THEIR books. Establish yourself as a team player: Write Amazon reviews (send the author and/or the publicist a link), have authors on your podcast (or guest posting on your blog), or host book clubs at your parish (you might invite the author to Zoom in to a meeting) are all great ways to help. This does two important things: It communicates to the editor that you are familiar with the kinds of books they publish, and that you understand what it takes to launch a book successfully.
  3. Study the publishing website carefully, and be able to articulate how your project “fits” not only within YOUR ministry, but within OURS. Not only should your query clearly indicate what your book is about, who the book is for, and what benefits they will gain from reading it — it should also make a compelling case for why YOU are the right person to write the book, and WE are the right publisher for it.

Investing some time and effort into these preliminary steps can make a HUGE difference in how well your proposal is received by a publishing team. If you are already a published author … what other advice would YOU give?

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