5 Ways To Get a Book Deal: Guest Post by Sheena Lambert

This morning we have a guest post from Sheena Lambert, whose novel The Lake comes out today. (Woo-hoo!) Sheena self-published her first novel, A Gathering Storm (previously published as Alberta Clipper) and now this, her second, is one of the first six to be released by KillerReads, an imprint of Harper Collins. Before she started on the champagne for breakfast, Sheena shared her tips on how to get a book deal… 

“So you want a book deal? No problem! The following is a vaguely scientific way of achieving your goal. For the purposes of this post, I am going to assume that you have written a book worthy of publication; a rather weighty assumption, granted, but we have to start somewhere. This is not a how-to on writing a book; this is a how-to getting it onto bookshelves.

So, let’s get started. There are a number of ways of getting a book deal.

  1. Be famous. Yes, famous people get book deals all the time. It’s understandable – it’s a lot easier to market a famous person, and most of us want to read what famous people have to write. So, go and rob a bank, or have an affair with a politician, or become a politician (just for a while – you don’t have to stay that way), and I can almost guarantee that you will be offered a publishing deal for your book.
  2. Be a journalist first. It’s a lot easier to get noticed by the relevant people in publishing if you have a track-record in being paid for writing, and it’s a lot easier to get paid work in journalism than in books. Have you counted the number of debut authors who have day jobs with the Times newspapers? Exactly.
  3. Have a wild past, or make one up. No one is interested in reading a debut novel by Mary Smith who was born and has lived all her life in the same small town in the country. But MJ Smyth, an ex-nun and recovered heroin addict who spent his/her (no one is sure) thirties travelling through Siberia in atonement for past life indiscretions? I’d read me some of that.
  4. A good head of swishy hair. I don’t know why, just believe me that it will increase your chances of publication significantly.
  5. Self-publish first. Yes, fine, it might sound a little pedestrian when compared with options 1-4 above, but it’s a truth that is becoming increasingly apparent – successful self-publishing helps you noticed by the big boys.

The Lake - 3D

This is how I got my book deal. (Did I mention my novel The Lake has just been published by HarperCollins? Finish reading this, and I’ll show you where you can buy your very own copy.) I am neither famous, nor do I have a particularly notable past. My hair is unremarkable to say the least. I have written the odd journalistic piece in my time, but I would certainly not refer to myself as a journalist.

I did, however, self-publish my first novel. Not without a lot of help from Catherine Ryan Howard and her Self-Printed books [ed. note: Oh, stop! *blushes*], I self-published A Gathering Storm in 2012, both as an ebook and in paperback. The book got itself noticed by a major wholesaler in my home country of Ireland, which led to it being stocked and sold alongside traditionally published books in real, live bookshops. So when my second novel The Lake was ready to send out to agents and publishers, I had some credentials: I had a track record of selling and marketing books successfully, I had a following who were keen to read my next book, I had form.

Interestingly, the traditional publishing deal I got for The Lake was not so traditional – rather it came in the form of HarperCollins’s new digital first crime/thriller imprint KillerReads. Instead of arguing against the ebook revolution, HarperCollins have embraced this phenomenal phenomenon with their digital first imprints which publish the ebook, a little like the hardback of yore, as a forerunner to the paperback (my paperback is out on 4th June. Just saying). With a digital first imprint, the ebook is given all the pomp and circumstance it deserves, rather than being treated like the less-loved, problem child that has to be endured.

As a self-published author, the idea of putting emphasis on the ebook felt very comfortable for me, and I’m guessing HarperCollins KillerReads liked the fact that I had experience of digital publishing. No one successfully self-publishes without learning the social media ropes, and that experience was very useful when it came to working with the HarperCollins team in the run up to The Lake’s publication date.

So in the proverbial shell of the nut, self-publishing my first book helped me get an agent for my second, and a publishing deal followed. And I’m not the only writer this has happened to. Hardly a week goes by that we don’t hear about a self-published author landing a significant book deal with a publishing house. Rather than putting publishers off, having experience of self-publishing can make you and your book a very attractive gamble these days.

So what are you waiting for? Not a six figure deal from one of the Big Six (or is it Five these days?) I hope? Well, of course, that would be nice, but while you are waiting for that, invest in a copy of Catherine Ryan Howard’s Self-Printed [ed. note: I see what you did there…] and get yourself a head start in self-publishing.

Unless, of course, you have swishy hair, in which case sit tight. Those six figures will come to you.”

The Lake is available on Amazon.co.uk for less than the price of the venti wet latte, extra hot please, that I’ll be having in a minute. It is also a great read. The first two chapters are available to read for free here, and you can follow Sheena on Twitter at @shewithonee.

I’m off to buy some volumizing shampoo. Thanks Sheena and congrats! x

Sheena Lambert, The Lake

More about The Lake:

September 1975.

A body is discovered in the receding waters of a manmade lake, and for Peggy Casey, 23-year-old landlady of The Angler’s Rest, nothing will ever be the same.

Detective Sergeant Frank Ryan is dispatched from Dublin, and his arrival casts an uneasy spotlight on the damaged history of the valley, and on the difficult relationships that bind Peggy and her three older siblings. Over the course of the weekend, Detective Ryan’s investigation will not only uncover the terrible truth behind the dead woman’s fate, but will also expose the Casey family’s deepest secrets.

Secrets never meant to be revealed.