The Writer’s Ally is so pleased to feature this very personal and very inspiring story of success from our client Laura Gallier. Wondering how can a self-published author get a book deal? Read on to find out how at least one author did it.
When I wrote my first parenting book in 2008, I was certain of two things: I’d never write anything but nonfiction, and, barring a full-blown miracle, I’d never get picked up by a literary agent or major publishing company. I know my cynical, pitiful attitude at the time is far from inspiring, but I’d been ignored and rejected by enough literary agents to resign myself to defeat. Fast-forward to 2018 and I have not one, but three books signed with a traditional publisher, and novels at that. How can a self-published author get a book deal? There are many factors, but I hope that in sharing my lessons learned I can begin to answer that question.
I used a vanity publisher to produce my books at first, and a generous friend helped me buy the 2,000 copies required by the contract. Using that same publisher, I wrote more faith-based books for parents and students, most of which I sold while speaking to small groups.
In 2011, when I discovered the benefits of self-publishing outside of the vanity model, I never looked back. It was inexpensive, had no buy-back requirements, offered a quick turn-around time, and I could tweak and re-upload the content anytime I wanted. To heck with traditional publishing, I decided. I now had a solid system to avail my content to the public.
Then came the moment that changed everything.
New Message, New Medium
It was Sunday morning, April 15, 2012. I’d been tossing around the idea of writing a nonfiction book about the reality of unseen spiritual forces as described in the Bible. I still remember where I was standing in my bedroom when the thought hit me: What if I illustrated those same truths through fiction? I immediately began accessing all the reasons I wasn’t cut out to write fiction—namely, I had zero experience and fiction tends to bore me. Then came another thought, even stronger this time: This is going to be big.
TIP: Rejection is common in the industry. It’s likely that initially—and perhaps for a long time—you alone will realize the potential greatness of your book. Don’t stop believing just because others don’t see it.
I sat at my computer and started typing, only to discover—much to my surprise!—that few things in life are as fulfilling for me as writing fiction. In five short months, the manuscript for my first novel, The Delusion, was complete—not because I’m a genius storyteller, but because I was so clueless about the genre and story structure, I simply wrote as my imagination led.
Whereas self-publishing was ideal for my other books, I became convinced The Delusion would benefit greatly from the backing of a reputable publishing house to reach its full distribution potential. Plus, I had a newfound desire to see the book made into a movie, and I knew a publisher’s credibility would go a long way in the film industry. So once again, I approached agents.
And once again, they all said no—or nothing.
I considered abandoning the project, but I decided I’d rather self-publish than give up. Still, after so much rejection, I had a deep desire for someone other than my mother to affirm the potential of my story. Then I came across an online ad for The Writer’s Ally. They suggested an intensive developmental edit, but, convinced my “brilliant” manuscript didn’t need it, I opted for an editorial review instead and soon received a stack of pages covered with insight and constructive criticism. It was sobering to realize my book needed such extensive work, yet one editorial compliment spurred me on: The story is never boring or preachy. I could work with that!
TIP: Invest in professional feedback on your manuscript, and resist the urge to get defensive when the results come in. It’s your book, but others’ opinions matter, especially that of experts. That said, beware of those who see zero potential in your project. What do they know?
I applied TWA’s critiques and rewrote the manuscript, then self-published The Delusion. My gut told me it was going to sell like crazy in the first few weeks. I was so excited!
And then I only sold a couple hundred copies, mostly to family and friends.
TIP: If people don’t want to finish your book, no amount of marketing or positive thinking will make it take off. Keep reworking it (possibly with professional help) until beta readers rave about it.
If at First, You Don’t Succeed…
Despite the let-down, I wasn’t entirely discouraged—the positive feedback from a few satisfied readers kept me going.
Convinced I was doing something wrong but unsure just what that might be, I again started thinking about traditional publishing. Maybe now that I’d gotten feedback and revised my book a bit, I’d have better results. In my now relentless quest to procure a literary agent, I finally connected with one who was willing to discuss the project and my film-related goals with me. She turned my book down but connected me with a friend of hers—an independent film producer who took a genuine interest in The Delusion. He passed a copy along to his friend who handed it off to literary agent Don Jacobson, and—miracle of all miracles—Don became my agent! Thanks to TWA’s editorial help, my manuscript was in better condition by then, and I have no doubt that made all the difference.
TIP: Poll everyone you know and see if they have a relational inroad to an agent or publishing house editor, even if it’s a friend of a friend of a friend. Personal connections can go a long way.
ANOTHER TIP: As part of a book deal, high-level edits are performed at no cost. However, the better the condition of your manuscript from the get-go, the better chance you have of getting published to begin with. Fully utilize freelance editors so that your manuscript is as excellent as possible before you ever present it to an agent or publisher.
Fast forward a few months, and despite not having a dime to put toward marketing my self-published book, sales increased based on word of mouth. Several thousand copies sold thanks to a group of a proactive ladies who were so moved by the life principles conveyed within the story that they began to champion the project around town.
TIP: Nonfiction books tend to sell better than fiction. That said if your work of fiction carries a relevant message that can inspire and help others, be sure to communicate that.
Soon, Don pitched The Delusion to all the major Christian publishing houses, and I could hardly wait for the bidding war to begin. You can imagine how disappointing it was when every one of them turned the project down. For one, the book needed a more extensive, line-by-line edit, which I’d naively chosen to forego with The Writer’s Ally. Also, the unique genre—Christian young adult thriller—left many publishers stumped, wondering how they’d market such an edgy faith-based book.
We made some tweaks to the proposal, championing its marketability, and resubmitted the book a season later, but again, every publisher declined.
Keep Pursuing the Long-term Vision
By the start of 2016, it seemed my instincts about The Delusion were . . . well, delusional. Still, I kept improving on the book while also speaking and promoting it. All the while, I focused on the joy of readers’ testimonials, including one from a seventh-grade boy who pulled me aside after I spoke at his school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) gathering to tell me the novel inspired him to change his mind about committing suicide. How incredible is that?!
TIP: Include an email address in your book so it’s easy for readers to contact you, and keep a record of positive feedback you can turn to when you’re feeling discouraged. (Don’t forget to ask each reader to post their positive review online at places like Amazon and Goodreads).
ANOTHER TIP: Pursue opportunities to speak throughout your community and beyond about concepts in your book.
That spring, a friend invited me to attend the annual Mount Hermon Writer’s Conference, and I figured the experience would be refreshing. What I’d underestimated is that literary agents and editors from Christian publishing houses all over the country participate in that conference and avail themselves to attendees. While there, I struck up a conversation with Tyndale’s Children’s and YA Acquisition Editor, and she requested that my agent send over the manuscript, which by then had undergone extensive editing. She was also pleased to hear how much effort I’d put into selling my self-published copies; publishers want authors who are going to work hard to promote and sell their books.
Despite having turned the project down twice before, this time, Tyndale offered me a contract.
TIP: I highly recommend attending writing conferences to network and meet with agents and publishers. Just make sure you’ve taken advantage of professional book editing services so that, should someone request your manuscript, it’s as polished as possible.
In October 2017, Tyndale released a much-improved edition of The Delusion. (You read that right: all my editing was just enough to get me in the door—but the book still needed more work before it could compete at the highest level). My publishing journey has since been a mix of exhilarating moments, such as signing hundreds of books at Book Con in New York, and challenging experiences, like falling woefully short of my ambitious pre-release sales goal. That said, I’ve learned to let go of the idea of overnight success, choosing instead to work diligently every day and celebrate small wins, knowing that over time, they equate to big progress.
TIP: Just because a publishing house is behind your book does not mean you can ease up on your own marketing efforts. It’s primarily up to authors to drive book sales.
I’m honored to report that The Delusion is developing a reputation as a thrilling novel students and adults can’t put down and was recently named a 2018 Christy Award Finalist. I am currently working on the movie script, and although the film effort has been wrought with challenges, plans are steadily coming together—I am confident The Delusion will become a soul-stirring feature film someday! (Check out the book trailer here.)
Tyndale will release book two in the series in September 2019 and book three, September 2020. Even as I type this sentence, I marvel at how far the project has come and can’t help but thank God, along with the many invaluable people who have championed the project and joined the grassroots movement.
TIP: Are there people who are excited about your book? Empower them with handouts and graphics to help spread the word and be a part of the journey. Teamwork truly does make the dream work!
So, how can a self-published author get a book deal? I think the tips offered in this article and the lessons I’ve learned essentially boil down to this:
- When you’re first starting out, get professional book editing to help give your book its best chance at the big leagues.
- Prepare yourself for challenges: Every new author struggles with rejection, so you can’t let it stop you.
- It can be hard to reach them, but your fans are out there, and they need your book. Do it for them. Let their words bolster you when your courage wanes.
- Network like crazy to connect with the people you feel can help you, including ideal readers who will champion your book and help boost sales.
- Learn everything you can about how to write, publish, and market a successful book. As the author, you will always be responsible for at least part of all these aspects.
DELUSION 10/10: TOGETHER, WE WILL PUT A DENT IN THE DARKNESS!
October 10, 2018, is perhaps the most significant day in the life of this project as a nationwide, unified effort is underway to utilize the book to bring hope and healing to countless students and adults from coast to coast, many of whom are battling addiction, anxiety, depression, and suicide.
Join the mission and purchase The Delusion at
Laura Gallier is a national speaker and author known for her insightful presentations and resources on the topic of sex-related values and romantic relationships. Based on a biblical foundation, she places special emphasis on exposing and overcoming the strategies of our unseen enemy, empowering students and adults to gain victory over self-defeating thoughts, emotions and habits. Connect with Laura on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, and learn more about her and upcoming appearances at LauraGallier.com.