7 Tips for Landing a Book Contract

After signing the contract, I spent some time reflecting – trying to figure out what worked. How did I get here? I came up with a list of things that I believe helped. Hope they help you – wherever you may be on your journey.

Pursue learning. I wrote my first two novels not knowing much about anything and got a whole lot of rejections. It wasn’t until I spent a summer devouring every writing book in sight that my writing turned a corner. I highlighted. I took notes. I wrote blog posts about what I learned. I paid for professional critiques. I found two very amazing critique partners. I entered contests. I listened to feedback.

Persevere. I didn’t give up when I got rejected. I determined at the start that I wanted to be published by a traditional publisher—one that would actually pay me—and I didn’t let rejections influence my determination.

Keep writing. We submitted my book in the fall of 2009. By the time it went to pub board almost a year later, I’d written two more novels. My editor was able to bring not one, but three books to pub board. She was able to show the committee that I wouldn’t be a one-book wonder. She was able to show them that I know how to write novels.

Surround yourself with supportive people. This business is hard. You meet a lot of people who don’t get it. A lot of people who get it, but don’t like your work. Having some encouragers in your corner is vital. I am blessed with three amazing friends who are my biggest fans (hi Erin, Susan, and Melissa!) These girls believed in me when I couldn’t and spurred me on with their encouragement.

Keep a journal. All those times I wanted to rant and rail against the publishing industry? I did it in my journal. My safe, private journal. Ranting online would not have helped my cause.

Go to writing conferences. Not for learning, because you can save yourself a ton of money and get the bulk of that from books and blogs. But go for networking. Go when your writing is ready. I got face-to-face time with my editor and agent at the 2009 ACFW conference and landed my agent two months later. I got more face-to-face time with the same editor at the 2010 ACFW conference and landed a book contract two months later. I can say with complete confidence that I would not be where I’m at today if I wouldn’t have gone.

Hold out for a reputable agent. I know this is a hard one to control—especially when you just want an agent already. But I’ve heard it said a bad agent is worse than no agent, and I believe this 100%. Rachelle is well-respected within the industry and she goes to bat for her clients. Without her determination and follow-through, I wouldn’t have Waterbrook Multnomah as my publisher.

Of course, there’s a caveat. A big BUT at the end of this list. Something I think is important to understand.

You can do every single one of these things, and still find yourself waiting, because so much of it is out of your control.

You might be an amazing writer – but the agent you want has a full roster, or too many clients who write books similar to yours. You might have an awesome agent and solid work to submit – but your genre just isn’t selling right now.

So much of this comes down to….timing. Everything lining up just so. Some luck. And God. I like to think God.

Here’s the good news: If you’ve got the talent, the passion, and the right attitude, your time will come. Work hard. Persevere. Keep writing. Believe in yourself.

Let’s Talk: Do you have anything else to add to the list? Are there any you disagree with? Any you struggle with? What has helped you the most on your journey?


39 thoughts on “7 Tips for Landing a Book Contract

  1. buch veröffentlichen wie

    Another informative blog… Thank you for sharing it… Best of luck for further endeavor too.

  2. Dara

    Thanks for posting! I do look forward to when I can go to more conferences. I'm hoping to go to one local one this year (I've gone the past two) and maybe a few next year. My dream is to someday attend the RWA National Conference but we'll see.

  3. Shelli (srjohannes)

    yes network network 🙂

    good to see you on seekerville today 🙂

  4. Susan J. Reinhardt

    Hi Katie –

    I appreciate hearing about your journey.

    Success takes time for most of us in this business. Sure, there's a rare few, who win out of the starting gate, but it's the exception.

    Thanks for the tips and encouragement.

    Susan 🙂

  5. Dawn Alexander

    Great advice. I am trying to do all of these things, especially wait on God's timing… That is the hardest one!
    I am attending my first conference at the end of this month. I am beyond excited and pretty much terrified. I chickened out on meeting with an agent. I have two complete manuscripts, but I am only five months into the year I gave myself to learn everything about this business.

    This time next year, I will be ready to pitch. *fingers crossed*

  6. Patti Lacy

    Katie, great post! You've been that encourager for quite a few folks yourself:)
    Blessings on this new phase in your writing life!

  7. Susan R. Mills

    The encouragement is much appreciated and needed today! Thank you!

  8. Stephanie Faris

    Great advice!!! I've been writing for forever, it seems, still not published. I will say that Rachelle is a great agent, from what I've seen. Every time I see someone sign with her, she has a book deal soon after. In this business, that's amazing.

  9. Tamika:

    You said it beautifully Katie. I must keep growing, writing, and ultimately beliving.

    "I know the plans I have for you, to bring you a good future and hope (Jeremiah 29:11)." I hold to the promises of God.

  10. Sophia the Writer

    I really love this post!

    I saw your comment on the Creative Penn about day jobs and just had to visit your blog. It's so nice to meet fellow writers who hold down day jobs too – I sometimes feel like the only one and I'm mighty jealous of those who don't have to :D. (One writer suggested I move to Cincinnati where life is less expensive. But too cold!) So nice to meet you.

  11. Walt Mussell

    Great post. Realizing that so much of it is out of my control is one of the hardest lessons I had to learn.

  12. Shannon

    Brilliant advice. I love that you're sharing your journey with us. Thank you!

  13. Kristen Torres-Toro

    OH MY GOSH!!!!! I JUST SAW LAST WEEK'S POST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



    Secret… I always dreamed of being published by Multnomah. GOOD FOR YOU!

  14. Jen J. Danna

    This is a great post. As my partner and I are hanging in that space between signing with an agent and going out on submission (otherwise known as 'revision time'!), this post struck me as being very timely. I especially liked the reminder that so much of this process is beyond our control. Thanks for helping us put things in perspective!

  15. Angela C.

    great post! it is so encouraging to read your story and find out how far you've come. you have an awesome attitude and i so look forward to reading your posts!

  16. Keli Gwyn

    Great list, Katie.

    I'd add one item. Consider entering contests. They offer valuable feedback. Plus, a final can get your work in front of publishing pros as well as give you material for the author bio portion of a query. I received my offer of representation as a result of a contest final.

  17. Jen Daiker

    This is great Katie!!! I love it! I think this is amazing advice.

    The only thing I would add is that an agent is not always needed as long as you're confident with a small publishing house. They can be just as good to you as a big publishing house as long as you're a fair marketer.

    Go with your gut. It's normally right!

  18. Donna Hosie

    An inspiring post.

  19. Karen Akins

    Thanks for the encouragement! Good reminders. 🙂

  20. donnarobinson

    As a Christian, I think God's will is the most important factor. Like you said, so much is out of a writer's control. We can't control the minds of agents and editors– but God can!

    It reminds me of the Biblical story of Joseph in prison. He had to wait for years, and he probably thought he'd spend his life behind bars, but God was working behind the scenes. Joseph just had to wait for the Lord's timing. And so do we.


  21. MBT Ponderers

    Love the journal tip. At the 2010 Deep Thinkers retreat, Susie Warren suggested we keep emotion journals to help to how to better write our characters.

    Writers need to understand writing takes time too. They can't be in a hurry to send out that first draft. Polish polish polish.

  22. Jill Kemerer

    Great list. I find the "keep writing" is my number one sanity saver. It helps me focus on today instead of tomorrow!

  23. Patti

    I liked your keep writing advice.

    I was querying my book and thought what if I can't do it again, so I wrote another book. Now I have way more confidence that other ideas will come.

  24. Diane

    I am looking forward to going to a large writer's conference. It will be a great learning experience. :O)

  25. Sarah Forgrave

    Awesome post, Katie! I agree that conferences are more about connections and less about learning. Not saying you can't learn at a conference, but that face-to-face time is a treasure. 🙂

  26. Catherine West

    Support is SO vital in this business! Like you said, it's really imperative to surround ourselves with like-minded individuals who will encourage us, grow with us and kick us in the pants when we want to give up! The most important thing for me in my journey thus far, outside of truly believing that I was traveling the path God put me on, has been learning to believe in myself.
    When the going gets tough, self-doubt kicks in and crushes my confidence in the time it takes to click open an email. Even now, waiting for my release day, I'm thinking, "They've made a terrible mistake. People are going to hate my book!!" It's something I've lived with my whole life, but struggle daily to overcome. But I know that on some level I just have to get over it, otherwise I would have given up a long time ago.

  27. Wendy Paine Miller

    Praying about that holding out one. 😉

    I love the journal tip. I can't tell you how many times I've written line after line of prayers overflowing from my heart and my longings.

    Great post, Katie!
    ~ Wendy

  28. Lisa Jordan

    Great list, Katie!

    I made personal connections at ACFW conferences that have morphed into professional opportunities. Plus, the face to face aspect of meeting an agent or editor helps cement that relationship when it comes to selling your novel.

  29. V.V. Denman

    This is so encouraging!

  30. Robyn Campbell

    I love what you wrote about so much being out of our control. This business is NOT for the faint of heart. That said, I'm tough, but some days get me down.

    I think God has helped me the most on this journey, Katie. He is always there to share my tears. He wipes them and tells me to keep keepin' on. 🙂

  31. Laura Pauling

    I guess the same goes for signing with an agent too! Great advice.

  32. Jennifer Shirk

    Keeping a journal is a fantastic idea! Then you have something to look back on too that shows your journey. 🙂

  33. Guinevere

    Thanks for answering, Katie! This is really helpful. I'm looking forward to your post about it! 🙂

  34. Katie Ganshert

    Hi Guinevere! First, thanks for the follow! To me, networking is simply interacting with and getting your name in front of people in the industry – fellow writers, editors, agents, publishers, etc. As far as what writers should be doing at conferences…I think that depends. If you have a finished work that you believe is ready for publication, then for sure you should pitch it! I know it's nerve-wracking as all get-out, but this is a GREAT opportunity for a face-to-face pitch. The thing to remember is that you're selling yourself as much as your work. If you don't have something you think is ready for publication, then just meeting with editors/agents and getting to know them and letting them know you is a WONDERFUL thing to do. I think I'm going to expand on this in a future post. I'll make sure to send you the link via Twitter. 🙂

  35. Sherrinda

    I love your list and think it encompasses it all. I truly believe that God's timing is in it and His timing is best. But if we don't have the perseverance and determination, we can't give God the chance to bless us in time. 🙂

  36. Guinevere

    Inspiring post, thanks. 🙂 It's so neat to hear from someone who has made it!

    I just came back from a writer's conference where I met a few agents and an editor, and I talked with them, but I didn't talk about my work specifically. When you talk about networking, what do you mean? What do you think writers should be doing – just meeting the agents as people, or trying to connect about their work? I'm pretty shy at heart, so the first was scary enough for me. 🙂

  37. Tabitha Bird

    Thanks Katie. I certainly need to her all that.


  38. Tabitha Bird

    Thanks Katie. I certainly need to her all that.


  39. Bonnie R. Paulson


    Thanks for the encouragement and the dash of reality. Very well baked and brought together.

    I love hearing all about how you got "there".

    The list might also include banking some patience. If you can't hurry up and wait, you'll soon learn how, right?

    Have a great day!


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