Find a Publisher for Your Nonfiction Book (Part 1)

Writing an excellent book is one thing; convincing the right publisher is quite another.

As you undertake the quest, it helps to know what the acquisitions process looks like. Here’s an overview of some necessary elements, the gatekeepers, and the typical phases a nonfiction book project must pass through.

The Proposal

1. One-sheet

A three-minute summary of your book proposal that tells:

● what the book is about

● who it’s for

● why you’re the person to write and help market it

2. Full proposal

A detailed look at the contents of your book, your marketing plan, and the competition.

3. Sample chapters

Two or three complete chapters from the book that represent your best writing.


Acquisitions Gatekeepers

1. Agent

Your partner in finding the right publisher for your book.

2. Initial reviewer

The first gatekeeper at the publishing company.

3. Acquisitions editor

The person who needs to champion your project for it to survive the acquisitions process.

4. Marketing director

The person who has to be convinced the book will sell sufficient copies.

5. Publisher

The final gatekeeper at the publishing company.

Stages of the Acquisitions Process

1. Securing an agent

You find and contract with the agent who can best represent your work to potential publishers.

2. Polishing the proposal

You work with your agent to prepare a convincing summary of your writing to submit to publishers.

3. Submission to the editor

You consult with your agent in choosing one or more publishers to whom your agent will submit your proposal.

4. Responding to the editor’s queries

If the acquisitions editor is interested, he or she may have questions or request revisions to the proposal.

5. Submission to the publisher

If the acquisitions editor likes your proposal, he or she may submit it to a publishing board.

6. Responding to the publisher’s queries

If the publishing board likes your proposal, they may have additional questions or revision suggestions.

7. Contract offer and negotiation

If the publishing board approves your proposal, they will initiate the process of contract negotiation.

Over the next several weeks, I’ll share insights about working through each stage of the process.


Kevin Scott serves as acquisitions editor at Wesleyan Publishing House, where he coaches first-time and experienced authors through the acquisitions and editorial process. Kevin also writes essays about sustainable Christianity at

Photo Credit: © librakv –

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