How I got a publishing contract for my B2B Marketing book

26th November 2017

In just one week – on 3rd December – my book B2B Marketing Strategy: differentiate, develop and deliver lasting customer engagement will finally be released!

B2B Marketing Strategy

In the publishing world, there is such a big gap between the final manuscript submission and the actual book release date that I haven’t really thought that much about it lately. But, as the date is rapidly approaching, I thought I’d share how I got a book publishing contract with an established publishing house.

Self-publish or traditional publisher?

First, you need to answer for yourself whether you want to self-publish or go the traditional route. Self-publishing has boomed in recent years thanks to digital technology applied to the publishing process, and though it was once associated with ‘vanity publishing’, there’s no longer that same stigma attached to it.

There are, however, pros and cons to both:

  • You might self-publish because of the lengthy and often arduous submissions process for traditional publishing. However, the traditional process is intended to really make you think about what you’re writing, your audience and your competition. Most importantly, it gives a publisher confidence in the viability and success of your book.
  • You might want to get your work into the market quickly. As I mentioned above, in the traditional publishing world, the time gap between manuscript submission and book release date can be many, many months. In my case, almost 9 months! In the space of that time, many things changed throughout our markets and our profession. And, while the marketing fundamentals remain the same, there are some topics in my book that I wish I’d had the opportunity to explore further in light of these changes.
  • You might think you’ll make more money by self-publishing. But this isn’t always the case. If you self-publish, you take on all the up-front costs and risk, as well as all the marketing and distribution, and there may well be no profit left at the end. A traditional publisher shoulders all those costs and risks, and as a result, the author earns a percentage of retail price, typically 15%. But, make no mistake, either way, unless you’ve written the B2B marketing version of Harry Potter, you won’t be earning a living from your book.
  • We’ve all heard the self-publishing success stories. Unfortunately, for every self-publishing success, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of failures. The reality for most people is that even with super savvy social media skills, a self-published book may only get to an extremely limited audience. Furthermore, self-publishing isn’t likely to get your book into bookstores, and your self-published book on Amazon will be there along with thousands and thousands of other self-published titles. Self-publishing won’t get your book featured at global book shows or put you in a position for language or other licensing sales.

Writing a book, while hard on its own, is only one small part of the entire book publishing process. The things a traditional publisher routinely does – edit, illustrate, design, promote, review and distribute books – are often difficult, expensive and time-consuming to do as an individual. So, if you decide to go the self-publishing route, you need to be very aware of what lies after the writing is completed.

Getting a book deal from an established publisher


How to get a book deal

Where to start?

I knew I wanted to try to get a book deal before I looked at self-publishing. I had been consistently blogging about B2B marketing for a number of years as my way of connecting with other B2B marketers to think about and work through the many challenges that we face in our everyday working lives. When I looked back at my blogs I saw that a number of key themes kept emerging that I went back to again and again, some of which were not being adequately addressed at the time.

But writing a book is very different from writing a blog, and I just couldn’t seem to begin. I didn’t even know how to start. I was really stuck. And I didn’t know what to do next.

Then, one evening, I went to a networking event where I met Tim Hughes, author of Social Selling. That meeting led to an introduction to his publishing house and that crucial first step, writing the book proposal.

5 elements of a good book proposal

In essence, the book proposal is a sales tool; you use the proposal to ‘sell-in’ your book to the publisher, giving them everything they need to know to make their investment decision. It’s also a writing tool; although much will invariably change once you begin writing, you’ll find the proposal becomes the foundation from which it all flows, acting as the framework within which the book is written.

My proposal ended up being 8 pages. While the length will differ for everyone, and some publishers will require additional elements (eg a sample chapter), the following main elements are usual. Mine looked like this:

  1. Proposed title, specifications and logistics – 1 page

That clever title you’ve created? Don’t get too attached to it.  An established author may be able to get away with some witty titles, but for a new author it’s all about SEO and search these days. Though couched in terms of a suggestion, the title I ended up with was not the one I originally proposed. Likewise, the publisher asked me for a book length of 60,000- 70,000 words, in the form of 12 chapters with at least one image or diagram per chapter. They also asked for a specific deadline to fit in with their publishing cycle. One thing to keep in mind though: it will take far longer to write your book than you think it will!

  1. Introduction: book description and purpose – 1 page

What are you writing about and why? Why will someone be interested in it? What will set your book apart from existing ones? I answered these questions and more by essentially writing part of the book’s overall introduction alongside the reasoning behind the structure for the book.

  1. Table of Contents – 3 pages

A detailed Table of Contents (ToC) gives the publisher a fuller sense of the scope of the book and represents not only the thinking behind it but the detail they need to even consider it for publication. I found this the most difficult but also most stimulating part of the process. It gave me the means I needed to flesh out my ideas, getting to grips with the narrative flow and articulating the key topics and messages that would become my book. A detailed ToC acts both as a synopsis of the book and a guide that I referenced time and again during the writing process. I knew I was aiming for 12 chapters, but what would the chapters be about and how would they flow one into the other? I drafted chapter titles and a short description for each, with a few key bullet points. And while the ToC did change as I wrote the book (I found that the more I wrote, the more ideas I had) it gave both myself and my publisher confidence in the story I was telling.

  1. Competitive titles, uniqueness and target audience – 2 pages

This part of the proposal reflects the outcome of your market research and your USP for your market. What other books are out there that might compete for your readers’ attention? What makes your book different from what’s already out there? Do you have a unique point of view that differentiates your book from the competition? And critically, who is the audience for your book? A big part of what made my proposal so interesting to my publisher is that I was introducing my 3D Marketing Strategy System to a wider audience, a model that had already achieved great success with my clients.

  1. About you – 1 page

The most important part of the proposal is you! This section isn’t meant for your CV, it’s intended to give the publisher a sense of who you are and why you are uniquely positioned to write this particular book.

It took me six intense days to write and submit my proposal, and 3 weeks after that I was offered a contract. But this really wasn’t usual. My timing just serendipitously happened to fit neatly into their commissioning and publishing cycle. Plus, I really did write a terrific proposal which gave my publisher both confidence and clarity for what I was intending to write.

Those months, though incredibly hard, were among the most rewarding of my career. I loved every minute of it, even though I had to be extremely disciplined to fit in the writing around my work and the rest of my life. But writing expanded my thinking and enabled me to hone so many of my ideas that I’ve been able to incorporate into my everyday working life. I’ve even come up with an idea for my next book!

In the meantime, my book starts shipping on 3rd December worldwide. If you haven’t already ordered your copy, you can buy now from Kogan Page publishers here in the UK or from Amazon everywhere.

And, as always, thank you so much for your continuing interest and support.


Heidi Taylor is an award-winning senior marketing strategist with 25 years' experience of helping organisations engage with their customers, creating impact and differentiation. She is a sought-after speaker at marketing conferences in the UK and internationally, and regularly contributes articles to marketing journals in print and online. You can follow her on Twitter @TaylorMadeInKew.

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