Do you want to know how to best get your book published traditionally?
Listen as Tony Robino shares steps for you to take to have your book considered by a traditional publisher.
Do you want to know how to best get your book published traditionally?
Listen as Tony Robino, Founder of Windword Literary Services, shares the steps you need to have your book considered by a traditional publisher, including finding a literary agent.
In this week's powerful episode "How to Best Get Your Book Published Traditionally" you will discover…
Welcome to Book Marketing mentors the weekly podcast where you learn proven strategies, tools, ideas and tips from the masters. Every week I introduce you to a marketing Master who will share their expertise to help you market and sell more books. Today my special guest is Tony Rubino toning is a leading collaborator and concept developer and literary talent scout for nonfiction books and novels. Her credits include New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestsellers, Tony is inspired to work on books that have the power to create positive change. She and her partner Doug Wagner also offer a customized writing course that walks first time authors through the process of creating marketable books from concept through publication. She is an absolutely dear, dear friend and colleague, Tony, what an absolute pleasure it is to welcome you to the show. And thank you for being this week's guest, expert and mentor. Ah,
Toni Robino 01:06
that's so sweet. And thank you for inviting me. I'm glad I finally made it. This is super fun.
I know it's been several years that I've been hounding you, let's get you on the show. Let's get you on the shows.
Toni Robino 01:18
Podcasts shy. I've just gotten used to podcasts, too. So but no, I'm good. This is going to be fun.
It's going to be really fun. Your specialty area is working with clients who are taken on by traditional publishers. And I often get authors who come to me and say I want to be traditionally published. If that's the case, what are the steps that they would need to take to even be considered by a traditional publisher? Well,
Toni Robino 01:55
that's a great question. They're going to be considered by literary agents before they'll ever talk to anyone in a publishing house. What they need to do is they need to write a query letter, and they need to write a nonfiction book proposal for a nonfiction book. Those are very specific pieces that cover very specific items of information, that writer will use the query letter to pitch literary agents.
Toni Robino 02:22
And what's tricky is that every literary agent has different requirements. Some of them want a one page query letter, and a 30 page proposal. Some of them want to see the first chapter, some of them want to see excerpts from throughout the book, they all have very specific rules about how they want to be pitched. So you can't just create a customized package. And it's a very time consuming process. The other thing to keep in mind is that prior to the pandemic, there were about 3000, very active agents in the United States, and that number has dropped. Agents typically make 15% of an author's advance.
Toni Robino 03:00
And if a nonfiction book is only making 10,000, or $20,000, in advance, you can see how little the agent is making for all the time they put in. So they're looking for pitch packages that they know, they can sell tomorrow, I mean, they're not looking for something that's going to take 100 conversations to sell, they need to know it's a marketable idea. It fills an empty hole on the bookshelf, the author already has an outreach and a following. That's significant. And that means engagement, not just, you know, 10,000 people on Instagram. So all of those things need to be in place to really even get an agent to take a look at what you have.
Wow, that's already a lot. Let's sort of replay a little bit and talk about where would you even try and find agents to consider representing you?
Toni Robino 03:53
Well, one great place is Jeff Herman's guide to book publishers, editors and literary agents. And I know that he has a new edition coming out next year, because I just updated my chapter. For him that's in the back of the book. That's a great place. Another really great place is writers conferences.
Toni Robino 04:12
A lot of them happen to be virtual right now. But there's nothing like being face to face from an agent to you know, have them remember you. And a lot of times, you know, an agent may not be interested in the first book that you pitch, but if they like you and they think you're mediagenic, you seem like you'd be an interesting, you know, good person to work with. They might say, well, you know, what else do you have? I mean, look at your resume, you know, what are their areas of expertise might be more marketable than this particular project that you're pitching me today.
And then you talked about a query letter. Talk to us more about what exactly that is. And I know that you said that there isn't a sort of one size fits all. But in general, what is a query letter? Well, What does it contain?
Toni Robino 05:01
In general, for nonfiction? Most literary agents are going to ask for a one page letter, it can be single spaced, the very first paragraph, you're going to tell them what's the concept of the book. And it has to be very clear in that first paragraph that you're offering something that nobody's done before. Then you move into who's the audience? And why do they need this book? That would be your second paragraph. And these might be one or two paragraphs each. Third, why are you an authority?
Toni Robino 05:31
What credentials do you have that make you an expert in this field? Very, very important. And then the fourth thing you want to address is what differentiates this book from all the other books on the topic? You're doing a setup a hook and a resolution, essentially. But here's an example. This is book has already been published. Hot flashes, warm bottles, a guide for the first time moms over 40 is the first prescriptive guidebook for multitudes of women who make up the growing ranks of midlife mothers. So that answers what is the book and who is the audience. Next, the concerns of these women are unique there is different from the concerns of young mothers as they are from older mothers with growing children.
Toni Robino 06:11
This answers why does the audience need this book? Then she says hot flashes combines the candid and often hilarious anecdotes from the women and Nancy support groups with field tested and Mother approved advice. That answers is the author and authority in the field. Hot flashes promises to be the Bible for this growing demographic of women whose concerns are not yet addressed elsewhere, and who are actively seeking resources. And that answers, you know, are there other competitive titles essentially. So that's the main format.
Toni Robino 06:43
And the one mistake that people tend to make is they waste that first paragraph that I refer to as prime real estate by saying, Dear Susan Friedman, I know that your literary agent who represents these types of topics, and that's why I'm writing to you, you don't need to do that. They know their literary agent, they know what they represent. And they know that if they're getting a letter from you, you're probably not inviting them to your birthday party. So just get right to the point because the faster the
better. That's so good. And thank you for that example, because that was beautiful. And then going through the different steps that you need on I know, listeners, you're going to have to listen to this again and again, so that you can take it down. We have a transcript, so you'll be able to see it in the transcript as well. Let's say that a literary agent takes you on, they find you a publisher, yay, yay. What can you expect from a traditional publisher?
Toni Robino 07:45
Well, Susan, this is one of those questions. Nobody likes the answers to most of my wealthy clients who can afford to produce their own books, even if they have very original ideas that a traditional publisher would pick up. And they have an extensive outreach and following are choosing not to go the route of traditional publishing these days, because they can do better marketing, if they hire their own people better PR, they can sell more books, actually, in a lot of cases, and they're gonna make more money per book, the people in my network that are still trying to get traditional contracts are the ones who can't afford to produce their own books.
Toni Robino 08:27
But publishers are giving very low advances nowadays, for books, in most cases, unless you happen to be a celebrity, a famous politician, a new cure for cancer, a lot of publishers aren't giving any advance. I mean, the advantage to that is that you might actually earn some royalties on your book if you don't get an advance, because it'll mean that they don't have to recoup their expenses, you know, and the advance that they already gave you. But ultimately, you know, what you're going to get is you're going to get the published book, and you're probably going to get a few press releases that they're going to put out. One of the best things that you get is the distribution part of it.
Toni Robino 09:08
You don't have to handle any of that yourself. You might have some opportunities for media, but you know, there are no book tours anymore there. I shouldn't say no, there's probably an exception to everything I'm saying. But in general, there are not those kinds of things anymore. And both agents and publishers are looking for authors to already have a network to sell that book to. I'll give you an example the book called atomic habits that was you know, an instant New York Times bestseller. It wasn't because the book is well written, which it is. It's because the author already had millions of people active in his network before that book was published. They were all waiting for that book.
Toni Robino 09:50
When the book was released on the very first day, they got a gazillion sales it shot right up to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. And then of course, other people started to pay attention and word of mouth marketing, and the ball keeps rolling. But all of the credit for that New York Times best seller goes to the author and his team, the publisher had very little, if anything to do with that book becoming a best seller,
going onto the coattails of that, isn't the marketing side of a proposal. So important in terms of how you're going to get the book out there? I mean, isn't that what the traditional publisher wants to know?
Toni Robino 10:31
Yes, absolutely. And I'll tell you, as somebody who used to be a reader for Jeff Harmon literary agency, and because I have a large network of agents, different agents will look at a proposal sections in different ways. But usually, they read the overview, which is three to five pages, which is like your commercial for who needs this book? And why in are they going to buy it immediately. It's less about what the books about and why the book is needed. And then they're going to skip right to your author's bio to see if you have the credibility to do a book with this topic. And if that checks out, the next step is usually to look at the table of contents to see you know, okay, does this person know how to really put a book together?
Toni Robino 11:13
Is this all in logical order for readers, it's the kind of content that we know readers will want in a book like this. And then the next thing they'll go and look at is your marketing and your outreach section. And that is, you know, how big is your outreach right now? How active are you in this thing that you're teaching about? Do you have a bunch of people who get your newsletter every month, all of those things. And they also look at the comp section, which is competition, like competitive and comparable books, because they want to know that there is not another book like this on the market. So many people come to me and they say, I have this book.
Toni Robino 11:48
And I say, Well, have you Google searched your keywords, and sometimes they haven't. And then they're very depressed when they do, because they see that there's 20 other books that have already written by this, and they don't really have something new to say, to add to the conversation. So you really have to be either taking the current conversation to the next level, or you need to be disrupting what the current belief is about a particular thing. But it all has to come across as new and necessary.
Fascinating information. You said something earlier, I'm going to jump on that. And that is getting onto the New York Times bestseller list. I know, you said with atomic habits that you know, James clear. Got that instantly, because you know he had the network to do that. But how does the regular job?
Toni Robino 12:44
It really is kind of a mystery how they add up those numbers in which bookstores they count in which bookstores they don't count. And if they're counting online sales or not, and ebooks I mean, I don't know why this is such a. It's like it's in a vault somewhere, how they, how they calculate these things. And nobody seems to tell us but I will tell you that if an author or an agent promises you a best seller run, because nobody can promise you a best seller. It's just doesn't happen that way. I mean, it really has so much to do with the author's outreach and marketing. In nonfiction in particular, we have a client that we worked with, in an editorial capacity, whose name is Brad Aronson. And he wrote a book called humankind, changing the world, one small act at a time. And he published with a hybrid.
Toni Robino 13:34
But he was able to get great endorsements from people like Deepak Chopra, and a lot of other best selling authors. And he was able to get a lot of media because 100% of the proceeds of his book are going to Big Brothers and Big Sisters in Philadelphia, which he volunteers for, you know, he was able to use that angle of, you know, the book, essentially being a fundraiser, to get a lot of media that most nonfiction authors are not going to get.
And so he made it to the bestseller list. And
Toni Robino 14:08
I'm glad you finished that loop for me thank you know how in my mind runs around, he made it on USA Today and Wall Street Journal, he did not yet make it onto the New York Times bestseller list. But he sold more than 50,000 books in the last couple of years, which is a lot a lot of books and a lot more books than many of the traditional titles that came out at the same time have sold.
Going to that, you know, Wall Street Journal and USA Today, which is sort of second and third in line. How do you even get on there? I mean, is it just selling this number of books and how do they find out that you've sold these kinds of numbers?
Toni Robino 14:50
Yeah, all the different publications and other places that have bestseller lists, have ways to track numbers and they have different methods. But essentially, it does come down to selling a whole lot of books. And a lot of times it comes down to sign a whole lot of books on one day. One way that an author can increase their chances of making it on to any of the lists is to have a whole lot of pre sold books. So in other words, you start marketing and selling your book six months out, or three months, you know, before it's even released.
Toni Robino 15:24
And you already have a giant network. You know, if you get 50,000 100,000 books in pre sales, you'll probably make the New York Times list that day, you may not stay on the list, depending on what other books are coming out, or if the book continues to sell. But that is one of the methods that some people were using. And it's not easy to do, because I've heard that they don't necessarily count bulk orders.
Toni Robino 15:50
Like if you've got a company to order 10,000 books, you know, one for all of their employees, there's no guarantee that that would count toward your sales for the various best-selling things that are categories that are out there. And then the other thing I want to say is, and this is just a note of caution, if you're self-publishing, or you're a hybrid author, please don't put best selling on the front of your book unless it really has sold a ton of copies, because all people have to do is look it up on Amazon. And they see you have 10 reader reviews. And they're like this person's lying, you know, and the last thing you want to do is hurt your credibility right off the bat. And anybody can say something's a best seller could be a best seller on my street in my neighborhood. You know, the only time those words really mean anything is when they are attached to New York Times Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and those kinds of things,
saying that, I mean, so many people are doing the Amazon Best Seller? What are your thoughts on that?
Toni Robino 16:49
Well, I think it's fine to say that you're an Amazon bestseller because that's true. If it's true, those numbers change constantly, we used to think that there was some validity and, you know, including sales ranks in a book proposal, but they change from day to day based on the author's media, you know, when other book sales spike all kinds of things. So neither agents nor traditional publishing houses, the acquisitions editors are that interested in Amazon ranks.
Toni Robino 17:18
The other thing that they're not interested in is a book that's already been published. If you have self-published a book, no agent that I know of, is going to want to take that book, if the book only sold a few copies, but it's brilliant, they might suggest that you cancel the ISBN, get a new one, change the title, and go about the whole thing differently, you know, this time may be trying to do it through traditional publishing. But I get asked that all the time at conferences, people bring me books that had been published. And I know that none of the agents in my audience in my network are going to respond
to that. And it's interesting that you say that, because a few of my authors have actually publish for us through Aviva publishing, as you know, is a hybrid publisher. And having sold, I don't know how many 1000s of copies, you know, have been traditionally published. But like you said, they're given a new ISBN number, and sometimes the title has changed, or the book cover. So it's taking on a whole new lease of life, but they have been interested. So I do say to people, if they sell 10,000, you know, 50,000, they're going to get some eyeballs looking at them.
Toni Robino 18:35
You're absolutely right about that. And I'm glad you mentioned that exception. And that actually has happened with Brad, where he had publishers who were not interested prior to his great success with selling the book, who are now interested, but because he's using the book as a fundraiser, he's not interested, you know, he's gonna stick with his hybrid and keep channeling all the money to the charities.
Yeah, because I mean, I know, having got four books, traditionally published. I mean, the royalties are peanuts. I mean, it's nice to get a check, but I'm not going to survive very long on what I get. So
Toni Robino 19:13
no, it's true. And a lot of it has to do with how long the book stays in print. A book that I co-authored, many, many, many years ago, was actually called potty train your child in just one day. Not exactly like a barnburner kind of book, but it sold really well. And it sold for 20 years, and I made more royalties on that book than I've made so far in the best sellers, just because of longevity. And she was really good at selling books, too. She had a partnership with Babies R Us and other stores and you know, went around at her own expense to promote this book and did really, really
well. It's interesting because as I told you prior to starting to record this that I'm talking to Whew, wildly about my meeting and event planning for dummies that they want to revise, they've asked me if I'd like to do it. And this book is 20 years old. But sales have been consistent over that time. And so they've come back and said, hey, you know, we need to update it, because it's got nothing about virtual meetings, or hybrid meetings, podcasting or social media. I mean, that didn't exist 20 years ago, sounds as if I came out of nowhere.
Toni Robino 20:34
Like, What dinosaur age was I born in now that that's the best thing. And that's a huge stamp of approval on you as an author that, you know, not only do they want to revive the book with the updated modern-day spin, but that you have so much credibility with what you do that they didn't just go off and find somebody else to do a new book that came back to you. And that's what every author wants, whether you're with a hybrid publisher or a traditional publisher, you want them to know how good you are, and that you're a valuable part of their house.
Yeah. And it's interesting because you were instrumental in helping me with my riches and niches book, which was also an international bestseller. And they were interested in updating the book, and that's maybe 13 years old. One of the things that I found is that for books to have longevity, they have to be what's known as evergreen, so that they will love the time. You know, it isn't trendy the next year or the year after it's
Toni Robino 21:38
dead. Yeah, that's for sure. And you know, it's those timeless messages you know, sometimes universal principles if you want to call it that, that do stand the test of time and a lot of parables to you know, you look at some of the books by Jonathan Livingston Seagull and or not him not by the seagull by Richard Bach, who wrote Jonathan Livingston, Seagull illusions by Richard Bach is the one that I was actually thinking of that came after Jonathan Livingston Seagull, that that book came out in the 70s. And that book is still selling. The Alchemist is another one that's, you know, selling for a very long time. People don't always think in terms of presenting their nonfiction messages, you know, in a kind of a parable, or in a, a novel kind of way, but a lot of those books sell for a very long time.
Yeah, this is the point in the show that I say, tell us or tell the listeners rather because I know where to find you. But our listeners will want to know how to find you. So share what information you can about how they can contact you and the kinds of people you'd interested in hearing from to
Toni Robino 22:49
Okay, well, you can Google me type in my name Tony to and I Roby you know, RBI No, and writer, I'll come up in a million different ways. My website will come up my website is wind word WINDW o rd, literary services.com, you can find me there. I'm also on Instagram, and I'm on Twitter, and I'm on Facebook, and I'm on LinkedIn.
Toni Robino 23:19
And there's only three Toni Robino spelled my way, as far as I know, on the planet, and none of the other ones are writers. I'm easy to find. If you want help writing your book, we do have our fabulous one-on-one coaching teaching program called Book walk journey from dream to publication.
Toni Robino 23:37
Be happy to talk to you about that. I do not work in the capacity of a literary talent scout, except with my own clients, personal referrals and people that I meet at conferences. I can't say that you can send me a pitch package, I probably won't be able to have time to read it if you do. But you can read many of my blog posts, and there's webinars, and there's all kinds of stuff that address all these things all over the place. So any of that, for sure. And who am I looking for? My ideal clients are people in nonfiction and fiction, who you know, have a vision to make the world a better place in some very particular ways. I love to support that work.
Beautiful. And I know you do and you do a fantastic job at it as well. If you were to leave our listeners with a golden nugget, Tony, what would that be?
Toni Robino 24:31
I say this a lot. And I think it's worth saying a lot. Don't cheat yourself. Whatever your goals are. I believe they're achievable as long as you're willing to do the work put in the time you have the discipline, get the team whatever you need. Don't cheat yourself. Don't wake up when you're 90 and say, Oh darn, if only I had done this or that, you know, I might have actually had the kind of book success that I was looking for. Do the work and Just prevail, and get experts to help you like Susan. And you
will see. That's nice. Yes. And Tony, thank you and Doug as well working on a novel for one of my clients. So that's wonderful. Tony, this has been amazing. I'm still pinching myself that I managed to finally get you on the show. Thank you so much for sharing your incredible wisdom. And thank you all for taking time out of your precious day to listen to this interview and I sincerely hope that it sparked some ideas you can use to sell more books. Here's wishing you much book and author marketing success.