Keller Media Blog

By Wendy Keller

The stairway to success is shorter than you think if you take it in baby steps.

The stairway to success is shorter than you think if you take it in baby steps.

There are four steps to getting a nonfiction book published.  All other steps are actually sub-steps of these four.  Print this page out, nail it to the wall above your writing desk, and think about this every minute of every day from now on.

Step One: Figure out if anyone wants what you want to write.  Do your homework!  Are there similar books on  (But not too similar!)  Are people asking the questions your book will answer?  (Go check out Google’s Keyword Tool to find out!)  How many people want your answer?

While you may be fascinated by how you overcame cancer or how your cat is actually a psychic being, probably not a whole lot of others will be too outside your immediate circle of friends.  Do your research before you invest time, money and your heart in writing a dead end book.

Step Two:  Test your assumptions. If you now believe strongly that people are interested in how running a successful business is exactly like making a pizza; or how the lemurs mate in the jungle; or how your one grown kid who went to Yale is proof that you should write a parenting book, then start a blog, a YouTube channel, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, anything that gives other people a chance to decide if your assumption is true. The more people who agree with you, the better your book will do, before, during and after publication, whether you publish, self-publish, come out in print or digital format or decide to do an audio series instead.

Step Three:  Write the proposal!  A proposal is the tool agents use to sell nonfiction books to publishers.  If you’ve been smart, you’ve been listening to how the world asks the questions your proposed book will answer.  Replicate your public’s exact phrasing.  Write a splendid, thorough, brilliant proposal that documents conclusively the size of your public, proves your ability to resonate with them, and clearly outlines your proposed content.

Step Four: Pitch 30 agents. Not 300. Not 5. Not over a period of six years.  All at once. Find 30 agents who (this is crucial!) HAVE sold and ARE selling books like yours. For instance, I haven’t sold a screenplay since 1992.  People still send them to me, although I left that business then.  People send me fiction and swear I’d be perfect for it.  My relationships are with editors who do books in alignment with the kinds of books I sell.  I don’t have close working relationships with fiction editors, because I don’t sell fiction.  I will reject your novel if you send it to me.  So find 30 agents who HAVE sold and ARE selling books like yours.  Then, here’s the Secret Sauce.  I call this “Wendy’s Rule of 30” and I have shared it with literally tens of thousands of writers all over the world.

  1. Send your beautifully written query to all 30 agents simultaneously.  Start the first sentence with your credentials.  As in, “4.2 million people have this problem and I am the leading expert in its resolution.”  Or “My 220,000 Facebook followers agree that…”
  2. Give everyone up to 2 weeks to respond.


If NONE of the agents request your proposal, then your query letter is bad.  Remember, these are people who make their living selling good books…on commission. If some of the agents request your proposal (never give an exclusive – that’s not fair to you) but none offer you a contract, then your project is currently bad. That’s it.  Black or white. No gray area.  When someone who has credentials and good idea swims past my agency, my team is poised to leap on it.  If you don’t get agents leaping, it’s your fault, not ours.  Sorry, but it’s true. It’s not the end of the world, it just means that you have three additional steps to take.

Fix your query.  Fix your content. Grow your platform.

Try again in six months. (And don’t remind anyone they rejected you before, they won’t remember you and it won’t impress anyone!)

If you refuse to modify your query or your proposal after significant rejections (which 30 would certainly be) then you may as well self-publish, because you aren’t likely to work well within the publishing industry anyway.

This is how publishing works.  I don’t get paid unless you succeed and I sell your book for good money to a good friend who happens to be a book editor.  These four steps work, every time, I promise.  The only variable is how teachable you are, how willing to learn and adapt your content and your approach, and how much effort you’re willing to put into growing your platform every day.


It’s not rocket science, it’s just publishing.  It’s quite easy to get a book deal if you follow these steps.

Want more great advice?

Since you’ve read this far, I’ll let you have this one for free! Grab a FREE version of my e-book filled with tips for snagging an agent!

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