In a world full of ideas, how do you put yours into a book and in front of people who are waiting for you to create an impact? In this episode, Gerry Foster has the master in this space who can help you get a great book deal. Gerry sits down with the Founder of the Author One Stop, Inc., Randy Peyser. Together, they dive into what publishers look for and what readers buy, detailing valuable steps to uniquely position your book. They also discuss the differences between self-publishing and traditional publishing, as well as how Randy’s relationships with publishers give her an edge in helping authors succeed. If you’re an aspiring author seeking a book deal to further make your impact with your message, then this episode is one you won’t want to miss! Tune in for expert advice and insight from Randy Peyser!
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Get A Great Book Deal With Randy Peyser
We have a rockstar now, Randy Peyser. I have known Randy for several years. She is the Founder of the AuthorOneStop.com brand. When I talk about a master in their space, we are talking about Randy. She edits books. She ghostwrites books. She helps people get book deals with New York publishers. Check this out. She works primarily with first-time authors. If some of you are tuning in and you have never written a book before, then you are in the right place with Randy.
Let me tell you a few other things about her. Her books, the books of the authors that she represents, have been featured big time in Oprah Magazine, Time Magazine, Wall Street Journal, and the USA Today bestsellers list. This is someone who, if she represents you, is going to get you in front of a huge audience so that you can be a bestselling author. The books of her authors have also been seen on Hallmark TV. They have been available in airport bookstores and big box stores. They have been optioned for Hollywood films.
Randy is the author of the Write-a-Book Program. Also, she’s got something called Crappy to Happy, which I love, which has been featured in the movie, Eat, Pray, Love. That was with Julia Roberts, if I remember, and The Power of Miracle Thinking. I’m so honored and thrilled to have her here. Randy is going to help you understand what publishers look for and what readers buy so that you can position your book to get a book deal. Randy, how are you?
Happy to be here. I love to get people book deals. It’s not just about a book, we are all here to make our impact in the ways we are here to make it. I get to help people make an impact and reach the people they need to reach with their message.
Let me ask you this question. I see so many people out there, “I want to write a book. I have got some ideas. I don’t know how. I wouldn’t know the process.” What do you first want to say to those first-time authors out there?
Publishers make their buying decisions the way readers buy books. There are two parts to the conversation. The first part has to do with your content. That’s the part you are talking about now. Let’s just talk about that. Let’s say you have an idea for a book. I’m going to give you some actual steps to apply. This isn’t going to be a fluffy conversation. This is going to be a conversation where people get to do something and make a difference for themselves.
The first step is to go on Amazon. Put in keywords in an Amazon search, and let’s find books that relate to your book because you have to have a unique positioning. If you can say that your book is the first book to and then fill in the blank, if you are the first in your category, you own a particular lane, which is a lane you can help them find out because they are going to do some branding with you, which is a perfect way to create a lane that you own. That’s what you want. Look on Amazon. Look at what books are the most new. It’s going to be critical because then you are going to have to compare yourself and what’s there, what you are seeing.
I love the idea of finding your lane. I call that being a me-only brand, or in your case, a me-only author, as opposed to me-too, or me-also. To your point, who’s going to buy a book where they think they can get the same subject matter somewhere else? That’s a great first step. What’s the next step?
That’s right. The next step would be to have a conversation with me or somebody who pitches books. I’m a good person to speak to say, “What do you think about this topic?” Sometimes, a market is glutted on a particular topic. I will give you an idea. I was pitching a book in New York because that’s where the big publishing is happening. It was a book related to happiness. In five meetings in a row, I’m hearing, “No.” At the time, Marci Shimoff, with her book, Happy for No Reason, owned the happiness lane, and so no other publisher would touch it.
I pitched it to a particular literary agent who said, “How about calling this a book about liberating yourself from fear?” Same subject, same topic, however, just positioned differently. All of a sudden, I started hearing as I kept pitching that book, “Yes.” An author or somebody writing their first book might not know the correct positioning. With a little bit of conversation with someone like me, they can learn what’s selling, and we can help reposition that title.
What you are also speaking to is showing these authors, especially the first-timers, how to avoid not only a common mistake of being me-also or me-too but how to position their book in such a manner where they are looked upon as being a true authority in their lane. Am I right?
Yes, that’s true. I always tell people, “You have to own a lane.” You just do to get a book deal because you are the thought leader in your space.
I like that because an author may hear that, and maybe they have even heard that before, maybe it’s said a different way, but they don’t know how to go about making that happen. You are showing them how to make that happen. What’s step three? After the lane and then the positioning, what’s after that?
When you are going to start writing, there are different paths to writing a book. One is that you can map it out yourself. We also do book coaching, and we do ghostwriting as well. Let’s say somebody is writing their book themselves, then we would start with analyzing it, reading it, using comments spar and words, pointing out anything we see that needs to happen to strengthen the book, and also discerning in that reading round, since a book we think a publisher will buy. I would never pitch anything unless it was sellable and thought it was sellable. That’s one step.
Another step is we do book coaching, which is incredibly popular. I saw literary fiction. We do mostly book coaching for non-fiction, but we did this one on fiction where, first, we are going to do a series of calls with the author to figure out the theme of the book and the very detailed chapter summaries. You, as the author, would write each chapter and then get feedback to revise, send it, and then rewrite and get more feedback to revise. We do an editing round at the end. That’s a very popular way to get a book done now.
For people who are just too busy or they just feel like, “I’m not a writer, but I want a book to promote myself for my business,” or, “I want to get in Time magazine. I want those big placements,” then we could ghostwrite the book. That’s a series of phone calls, again, to create the detailed chapter summaries, and then we are writing the book. Books that we have ghostwritten have gotten six-figure deals.
It’s fascinating because I would imagine for the people that you serve and that you work with, you have got those who are ready and able and enthusiastic about writing their book with your guidance, and then you have the other person who has writer’s block, and they need the ghostwriter. You can work with either one. Here’s my question. Within that and other issues you may be thinking of, what are the biggest problems or challenges that you help solve for your clients? Give us some perspective on what comes for a lot of people when it comes to having a book.
The biggest one is that I can open doors for people to top literary agents and top publishers they absolutely cannot open for themselves. I will give you some examples. I have one literary agent who told me, “I get 1,000 submissions a month. I’m not even looking at my email. When you have someone for me, you have a project for me, text me.” I have publishers and agents who have contacted me directly.
The largest publisher in the world is Hachette. They have a lot of imprints, which are different houses that focus on different subjects. In one of their houses, the publisher for Hachette for that particular house, emailed me directly, “I’m looking for books on this particular topic.” I can create shortcuts for people or open doors that they cannot open for themselves, and typically, get feedback within 1 day to 1 week to usually not longer than 2 weeks, which is amazing.
Is that because of the relationships you have with these publishers?
Yes, over several years of first-name relationships with people. Not only their first name basis, but we also give likes to each other’s dogs on Facebook. They are real relationships with people who know the quality that they are getting, so they are going to consider the projects first. I had another agent who said to me, “I hope you know I fast-track every project you send me.” Why? She has done six-figure deals for clients I have sent to her. Yes, she’s going to open the doors. She going to look at whatever I send. Opening doors for people who cannot access the people that I’m opening doors for.
It sounds like you are not only opening up the doors for these authors, you are holding the door open for them and showing them the secret handshake to make sure the deal gets done. I love this because I would think, for an author who’s reading, here’s the reality. The reality is you are not going to be able to get into those doors yourself. You have to have someone like you that the publishers know, like, and trust. That’s worth everything.
You are not walking your manuscript into Hachette, they will not consider it, or McGraw Hill, HarperCollins, or any of the number of places where I pitch.
What’s this whole trend between self-publishing versus getting something published? I have heard all versions of this, which is, “It’s too hard to get something published. Even if they do, they are not going to give you much of an advance. You are better out publishing your book.” What are your thoughts on that whole topic?
I love both methods for different reasons. I have done both with different books I have written. I truly want what is highest and best for each person. I’m not attached to what that looks like, so I’m going to share the differences. Generally speaking, I tell people, “If you want to make more money per book, self-publish. If you want speed to market, you want to get that book out quickly, go self-publish. If you are a control freak and you want to control every word in your book and your cover design, your interior design, self-publish. However, if you are using your book for anything related to your career, try for a traditional publisher.”
Get A Book Deal: If you want to make more money per book, if you want speed to market, and if you are a control freak, then self-publish. However, if you are using your book for anything related to your career, definitely try for a traditional publisher.
Here’s why. My first-time author, Eleanor Stutz, who winds up in Time Magazine, can you imagine how many doors open for her? The next thing you know, she’s on stage with Suze Orman at Moscone Center speaking. She’s flown to Paris to speak. Why? Her book came out, and all of a sudden, it’s talked about in Time Magazine.
If you want your book in airport bookstores or Oprah Magazine, Cosmo magazine, or Publishers Weekly top picks, all of these media opportunities that open up increase your credibility and will open more doors for you in your business. Try for a traditional publisher. That’s how those doors open. It depends on the person’s goals. Like I said, “I’m not attached.” I always ask for somebody’s divine right publisher and divine right alignments. That’s what drives me.
This is a big branding show. What lies at the heart of a big brand that sells is a brand that is perceived as being different and better than other choices. I don’t need to tell you this. It seems like there are so many people out there who say, “I will get your book written. I will get your book published.” How do you set yourself apart? In my opinion, there’s Randy, there’s you, and all the rest. What are your thoughts on that?
You helped me solve a problem many years ago when we met in person. I told you my problem at that time was that I might be at a big networking event and I’m introduced to somebody, I tell them exactly what I do. We edit books. We do book coaching. We ghostwrite. I pitch books to publishers. Later on, that person would come up to me and say, “Randy, I want you to meet so and so. Randy is a publisher,” and I’m not a publisher.
I said, “Gerry, why do people do that?” You told me, “People will put you in a pocket.” I’m in the publishing pocket. You taught me the value of having to stand out and own a lane. Now I call myself a book broker. I’m not using the word publishing in there. A book broker because it’s what I do. I pitch books to both agents and publishers, depending on the project and where it’s going to be best served. You taught me about how everybody is going to put you in a pocket no matter what your business is. Brand-wise, you have to stand out. You have to.
Unless you are standing out, you are blending in.
That’s right. As you said, you are me-also or me-too.
They put you in a box. They put you in a slot. You are just another ping going in the group, another bird in the flock, another slice, and all these little branding clichés. I have to ask you this too. I’m so glad we are talking about this. I have to believe that a lot of these authors, existing authors, or wannabe authors are getting bad advice. They are getting bad intel about this whole thing called writing a book, getting a book published, and on and on. What bugs you the most in terms of what people are thinking, these authors rationally thinking?
I can answer this in one sentence. People are under the misconception that self-publishing is a great way to get a traditional publisher for that book or your next book. It couldn’t be further from the truth. Here’s why. Once you have a book out on Amazon, you have a track record of sales. I was on a call with an acquisitions editor, a Zoom call, and she had a side computer.
Get A Book Deal: People are under the misconception that self-publishing is a great way to get a traditional publisher for that book or for your next book. It couldn’t be further from the truth.
I’m watching her on Zoom and I can watch her on her big desktop computer. As I was pitching projects to her, she was looking up my people if they had a previous book on Amazon. She can get your sales numbers within one second, just putting your book title, whatever. She’s got the right software. She gets your sales numbers. If your numbers aren’t where they would want to see the book that they are going to do for you, you don’t have a book deal.
Some people will say, “I was using it to drive business. It was my big business card.” They don’t care what your excuse is. You have got to have the right numbers in place. Typically, the right numbers are for a first book, they are going to want to see that you sold 3,500 to 5,000 books in the first year. That’s tough to do self-published. Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster want to see that you sold 10,000 books in the first year. If you haven’t sold that, then they don’t have the incentive to buy that book or your next book.
The only way I know to get around that is to do a GoFundMe or something like that, where you can prove sales because you are going to have to. Don’t self-publish. That’s why I love working with first-time authors. It’s so much easier for me to get a book deal for a first-time author with no track record of sales than someone who has a lower track record of sales.
I had an author who had written a book related to Vincent Van Gogh. We have an internationally known subject, a very unique positioning with his book. He had sold 2,700 copies, self-published in the first 6 months. I had 25 meetings in New York pitching 16 projects. This was 1 of the projects of 3 top literary agents and 22 publishers. No one would touch that book because he had only sold 2,700 copies. I’m thinking, “That’s a lot of books to sell.” It told me the reality of traditional publishing. Very numbers-driven. That’s the second part of the conversation. Earlier, we talked about content. The other part is purely about numbers.
Is that part of the work you do? I know we were talking about the steps that you take with the author, writing the book, and getting the book published. Do you do the third part, which is helping with book sales? Is that depending on the author?
I don’t but I do have a number of partners whom I refer people to. For example, we edited a book. One of my editors, I will just share with you, for fiction, is a former publisher from Simon & Schuster. The publisher, the guy who bought the books, the guy who gave the thumbs up. He’s retired now, so he edits my fiction clients. Anytime he’s given a thumbs up, I have gotten a publisher saying, “We want it.” Why? He knows.
We were working on one book for an author, and the author had started a podcast to talk about his thriller series. We had just helped him finish his first book. He started a podcast just to talk about a series and he had 20,000 downloads in the first 2 weeks of talking about his thriller, his first book. Here’s the catch. He didn’t have a book. He had a manuscript on his laptop.
I said, “How did you get 20,000 downloads of a book that hadn’t sold it yet?” He said, “I did Facebook ads. I worked with a marketing guy who helped me do Facebook ads.” I said, “Will you please introduce me?” My author’s name was Tony. I said, “Tony, will you please take screenshots and send them to me?” When I was pitching his project to a publisher, we had a book deal being offered within three days. He had such high social proof and the book was already edited and co-written by the former publisher from Simon & Schuster. We had the content right. He had the numbers right the a book deal.
In light of all of this, if someone’s tuning in and they are trying to decide between you versus another option, another alternative, they are thinking as the acclaimed book broker that you are, what would you say gives you an edge? What are the advantages that you offer versus other people that an author may be considering, even a first-time author?
All of my editors and ghostwriters have to meet extremely high criteria. My criteria are they had to have worked directly for a traditional publisher, whether if edited or ghostwritten many books that have sold to traditional publishers. It’s great to be a great editor but is the person a great editor or ghostwriter who knows what publishers buy? We understand what publishers buy.
Get A Book Deal: It’s great to be a great editor, but is the person a great editor or ghostwriter who knows what publishers buy?
When we are doing an analysis, yes, we are meeting publishing industry standards always, but we also understand what publishers buy. We are also examining a book from that perspective, which is why I sell the vast majority of anything I agree to pitch because I’m only going to pitch something if it’s stellar and if it’s sellable.
Tell us about your target audience, these authors. Are they business or fiction authors? Are they writing love stories? Who’s your primary market?
My primary market is non-fiction professionals, just clearly. One book we did, The Tao of Influence, was on the Wall Street Journal bestseller list for weeks as the best hardcover business book. Another book, Power Your Profits, was a $125,000 book deal with Cosmos calling it one of their top picks for the year. I handle memoirs, self-help, mind, body, spirit, and a lot of business, leadership, and thought leader books. I have sold a variety of things. One of my authors, we have a book called The Skincare Hoax, which is just going phenomenally well.
Let me just tell you some new sales, a book related to autism, a book related to the future of work, and a book on unconscious living. I had an oracle deck come out from two women from an indigenous tribe, the Métis people that have never been represented in print. There’s a wide span of projects. We have an anime memoir from one of the founders of anime that will be coming out probably in 2024, a book about AI, AI being a very big topic now. It’s like what’s trending, just a lot of good things happening.
If you have something that’s trending, something that people are going to love and crave because it matters to them, you can make it happen. That’s the main thing if you are a nonfiction professional, and a professional can include all those different categories you are talking about. Randy, what’s your story? Without going into the details, what’s your journey? I’m one of your biggest fans. How did you get to this?
The way I started my journey is I slept my way into the publishing industry. You better be laughing about that. I fell in love with a publisher of a magazine. The relationship did not last, but I wound up being editor-in-chief of a very large magazine in the Bay Area, and then became editor-in-chief of a national magazine, then started writing books. It was a very organic process.
I started looking for a publisher for my first book. You mentioned Crappy to Happy, which Julia Roberts buys and holds up in the movie, Eat, Pray, Love. I started with my journey of becoming an author. I started my journey looking for a publisher by standing off the 101 Freeway with a giant sign at rush hour on a Wednesday afternoon in Mill Valley with a giant sign that read, “Author seeks a publisher.” I call that my random act of chutzpah, or in my case, a Randy act of chutzpah as a result of standing off the freeway in Mill Valley, off the East Blithedale exit with a dress high and heels with an author seeks publisher sign.
A publisher called me that night. I became editor-in-chief of his national magazine. It was hysterical. My whole journey has been filled with fun, twists, and turns. I started helping other people once I had my book deal. Over time, going back to New York every single year to the big feeding frenzy for the publishing industry in the United States and making more and more connections to the point of just having twenty years of solid connections with top agents, top publishers, and agents who also sell to film being able to open doors for people. I’m very heartfelt, as are you, Gerry. I just love what I do. I love helping people create their success so they can make an impact. It was just a process.
I have got to imagine you have got a ton of success stories. Is there one success story that you are particularly proud of that you can share with our readers?
There are a ton of them. I will share the story of a book called Slave: A Human Trafficking Survivor Finds Life. It’s about Jabali Smith, who was at age four, his mother turned him over to a Messianic sex cult leader in Berkeley, who took him to Mexico, and he grew up as a child slave. He escaped in his young teens. That story, emotionally, was the hardest book I have ever edited. It was just hard. He has a foundation now called the Well Child Foundation out of Oakland, helping children who have been trafficked. He’s a prolific speaker.
I knew the publisher of that book. I kept trying to get a meeting with her when I was going to be in New York, and she wasn’t getting back to me via email. When I was on the show floor of the big feeding frenzy that year, I was pitching different books, and I saw her booth there. I went over, there was nobody sitting with her. I pitched this project to her, and she said, right on the spot, “I’m buying it.” She hadn’t even seen one word, but when I told her about the project, I knew she was the right publisher for it.
As I was leaving the booth, she said, “I wasn’t going to meet with you this year because I was full. I knew I couldn’t take on one more project financially or anything. I saw the look in your eyes. I knew I had to listen to what you had to say.” That’s a book that’s been optioned for Hollywood film. She’s a publisher who also was responsible in part for the Wish Man movie that came out on Netflix. A great publisher. I just knew this was the absolute right alignment as I called the divine right alignment. I knew she was the right person for that project.
I have to share this with you. I say I sold that book with my eyes, but I also sold one with my noes. It’s someone you and I know. Adam Markel is a wonderful man. I was pitching one of his early books, this was some years ago, called Pivot. I was sitting down with an agent and she said, “What do you got for me this year?” I held up a sale sheet I had created for this book. I inhaled deeply. I said, “I smell money.” Her eyes lit up. Her eyes look, “What you got from me?” Adam’s book also was sold in a bidding war for six figures. I say, “I sold that book with my noes.” In three words, “I sell money,” that was my pitch.
That’s a great pitch. See how creative you are. Everyone, she’s a rockstar. This is who you want. There’s Randy Peyser and everybody else. It has been great having you on the show. If you could leave our audience with one thing, what would it be? That’s the first thing. Also, again, what’s your URL? If people want to get in touch with you, what are your socials?
The easiest is AuthorOneStop.com. In terms of social, the only one I use is LinkedIn, Randy Peyser. The one thing I want to leave people with is that when you read a book, there’s often nonfiction. There’s often somebody or a famous quote at the top of a chapter. I’m going to challenge you. If you are reading, you will be the person that other people quote. You will be the person that other people create memes off of. It’s your uniqueness that we are bringing forth. You be the one.
That is a great way to end this episode because it’s all about you standing out and getting the success and recognition that you deserve and you can’t do it by yourself. That’s the other thing. People cannot make this happen on their own unless they have those types of contacts and connections. They need someone like you to hold their hand, walk them through the process, and get them that big deal that they deserve.
Thank you again for being here. You are my friend and my colleague. You have made my day. I cherish our reconnection after all these years. Everyone, thank you for reading. Until next time. Take care.
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