Why Getting a Book Published is a Numbers Game (and How to Win)

Pennsylvania Lottery

I haven’t written one of these updates on the book I’m writing in about a month, and that’s largely because there isn’t too much to report. We’re still working on it and I’ve been building up a list of publishers and agents to pitch it to. (And, hey, if you’re interested, and think you can help, drop me an email!)

To reiterate, I’m co-writing a book relating to crowdsourcing, and I understand it’s a gamble on the publisher’s part, because the risk of betting on a book relating to technology is it can be, at best, somewhat outdated, and, at worst, absolutely obsolete, by the time it is released. I get that. But publishers aren’t exactly known to greenlight every pitch they get, anyway. It’s especially hard to get a book sold in this crummy economy, but agents and publishers are still hungry for good ideas. I know we have a great idea on our hands, and my friends who have had books published have told me it’s just a matter of getting the pitch in front of enough people. At best, in that case, you get a bidding war. At worst, you get a book published by someone you weren’t crazy about working with. But you still get a book out, and that’s what victory in this battle means.

Anyway, I have had some resourceful breakthroughs in compiling a list of publishers to pitch to, and hope it’ll help you.

  • Buy this book. “Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents” was recommended to me by a friend who ghostwrites books on real estate, which is not at all what he’s known for, and it helped him get matched up with people looking for a writer for a book they wanted to pitch. There are lots of ways to market in this, and this book will help you figure out who to approach for what.
  • Use Goodreads. It’s like Facebook but for book-readers to comment on books they’ve read and plan to read. You can browse around to see what other books have been published on similar topics. You can use Google, obviously, from there to find the appropriate contact information.
  • I doubt this really has to be said, but check Amazon for the same information.

I’ll post an update to see how this has fared for me, but I have a list of about 50 publishers to try this time out. I hope this helps you guys, too. 

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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