Many of us creatives dream of one day writing and publishing a book – seeing your name on the cover of a beautiful book which you’ve poured your heart and soul into is a real pinch me moment. Even well established authors will tell you it’s still a thrilling moment to see your work on the shelves of your local bookshop.
But the process to getting there can be daunting and scary. You may have a fantastic book idea, but the stumbling block for many is knowing how to approach and pitch to a publisher. In February 2023, we hosted a 2-part online workshop covering how to publish a lifestyle book – the first part focused on self-publishing with Helena Murphy, while the second part, hosted by interiors author Joanna Thornhill looked at how to work with a traditional publisher. These workshops are still available to watch, so do check them out after you have read Joanna’s top five tips…
TIP 1: Hone in on your USP
Have a think about what your specific niche angle is, what is your area of expertise? and what is your lived experience? When writing a book, it’s important that you really ‘know your stuff’ and you should also consider what the book is going to do for the reader. Analyse how you can make the book really interesting and timely – what kinds of trends are happening or emerging? For example, I wrote Home for Now – a book focusing on interiors for renters – because at the time, I myself was a renter and had noticed there weren’t many books around that covered this area. My personal experience and role as an interiors stylist had given me lots of knowledge and ideas for decorating a rented property, so I wanted to share these with others in the same situation.
TIP 2: Consider the format points your book might have
Lifestyle books are generally broken up into chapters or sections and there will be various ways in which the layouts will be created to make it more interesting for the reader. It’s worth having a think about possible devices you could use before you pitch – so for example, if it were an interiors book, would you split the featured homes out into styles and aesthetics, or would it run more chronologically house-by-house? You might also want to consider whether your book would benefit from things like ‘top tips’ boxes, pull quotes, cases studies and DIY ideas – all little snippets that can help to make spreads more interesting and easy to digest.
TIP 3: Research potential publishers
There are a number of different lifestyle publishers, both in the UK and abroad, so make sure you do plenty of research as all will operate slightly differently. (there is a great list of publishers as part of the online course content) Browse bookshops, looking at your niche section and see which publishers are producing which books. Make a list and get to know the types and style of books they tend to produce. Go to their websites and read up about them, you should also be able to find out online if they accept direct submissions from authors or if they only accept these via an agent.
TIP 4: Research your competitors
It’s really worth looking at whether there are other books already published that are similar to your idea, or at least in the same niche. Don’t be put off if there are, remember there aren’t many ideas that are completely new, what matters is your perspective and the spin you put on the topic. It’s perfectly acceptable to reference other similar titles in your pitch, as this can demonstrate that the trend or topic is current and relevant. For example, there are lots of books out there about sustainability, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pitch a book that is related to this, it is a hugely important and popular topic, so you should harness this. Just be sure to demonstrate what you can bring to the table that is different and interesting.
TIP 5: Start prepping your proposal!
Finally, it’s time to start creating your proposal document, incorporating all of the tips above in a clear and concise way. Keep it simple and make sure to explain why your idea is so great and why they would be the ideal publishers to take it on!
For more in-depth advice and guidance on how to prepare your book proposal, how to approach publishers and then hopefully work with one, why not check out the full workshop recording with Joanna:
And, if you want to consider an alternative publishing option, make sure to look up our session with Helena Murphy: