How a Book Gets Published

From pitch to publication

Douglas Rushkoff
8 min readJan 9


Photo by Bank Phrom on Unsplash

Last month, I realized I was writing the very same email for the fourth time. It’s an email I’ve written what must be countless times before in answer to some variation on the question, “how do I publish a book?” I’m asked this question even more than “how do I write a book?” which may say a whole lot about the priorities of today’s aspiring authors. But I’ll cover that question next month.

Now there are lots of ways to publish a book. You can just create a document, post it on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, and you’re done. Or you can find an online print shop like and they will offer you ways to self-publish an ebook or print, distribute, and publicize physical copies.

What I’m going to share here is a super crash course on the more mysterious process through a person gets an idea for a book to a traditional publisher and into the market. Here goes:

First, you write a pitch. Ideally, it’s a whole proposal. What’s in a book proposal? Basically, it’s the introduction to your book in five or ten pages; then a list of chapters with a couple of paragraphs on each one; then a page or two on why you’re the best person to write this book; then a page or two on how you’re going to market the book (who is your audience, what magazines have you written for, how many people follow you on Twitter,); and finally, a page of books that are comparable to yours (but somehow different or lacking what you bring). If you’re really advanced, you’ll want to have a sample chapter.

Most folks aren’t in a position to put together something like that without a bit of guidance, so at the very least, start with a short pitch. Three to five paragraphs. If you’re a pilot who saved thirty babies from behind enemy lines or the inventor of a successful nuclear fusion reactor, you don’t need as much support for your pitch as someone with an untested theory for how to use crypto to save penguins, or new approach to meditation.

In any case, you bring your pitch to an agent. Ideally, find an agent through a friend. Thanks to social media, most people know a few writers. If you don’t, or can’t find one willing to introduce you to their agent (most of us are rather protective of our own agents, and try not to send more than a couple of…



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Douglas Rushkoff

Author of Survival of the Richest, Team Human, Program or Be Programmed, and host of the Team Human podcast