How to Publish Your Health & Fitness Book—with Patrick Nolan – EP114

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Many thought leaders in the health and fitness space aspire to grow their platform by publishing a book. But how, exactly, does the process work? What are the pros and cons of self-publishing? How do you get the attention of a traditional publishing house? Do you need an agent? And what does a book proposal look like?




Patrick Nolan is the Vice President, Editor-in-Chief and Associate Publisher at Penguin Books. A 19-year veteran of the publishing house, Patrick served as VP of Trade Paperback Sales before transitioning to his current role. Today, he oversees the editorial direction of Penguin Books, generating trade paperback bestsellers like Alexander Hamilton, A Gentleman in Moscow and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.

On this episode of Ali Fitness, Patrick joins us to discuss the pros and cons of self-publishing your book and working with publishers that specialize in the health and fitness space. He walks us through the components of a non-fiction proposal, explaining why it’s beneficial to submit through an agent and how an author’s advance is determined. Listen in to understand how a publishing house assesses an author’s platform and learn how to find your authentic voice as an aspiring writer in the wellness space!

Topics Covered

[4:42] The pros and cons of self-publishing

  • A lot of work (editing, publicity, packaging, etc.)
  • Miss out on professional expertise of publisher
  • Won’t have same reach, retail distribution
[7:26] Publishers that specialize health & wellness

  • Built-in specialty of editors, publicists + sales
  • Easier to stand out in well-rounded field
[9:33] The components of a non-fiction proposal

  • Clear statement of project, how fits in marketplace
  • Includes simple chapter outline + two full chapters
[15:04] How publishers assess an author’s platform

  • Consider numbers, engagement + growth
  • Professional network (i.e.: conferences, TED Talk)
[19:36] Why it’s beneficial to submit through an agent

  • Understand landscape, match with best editor
  • Advocate for you through life cycle of book
[23:56] How to get an agent’s attention

  • Submit ‘elevator pitch’ of project
  • Ask if interested in seeing more
[24:57] How an author gets paid

  • Advance against royalties (paid at milestones)
  • Small % of each sale until publisher ‘paid back’
[27:44] How the advance amount is determined

  • Agent negotiates, facilitates rounds of bidding
  • Run PNL against sales to come up with figure
[32:55] How a literary agent gets paid

  • Usually receives % of earnings
  • May ask for hourly fee
[33:34] How to generate long-term success as an author

  • Book aligned with mission
  • Reflection of who you are
[37:18] How to balance cutting-edge with mainstream sell-ability

  • Focus on authenticity
  • Campaigns geared to first adopters + mainstream readers
[39:56] The factors that influence publication timing

  • Publishers prioritize trusted agents
  • Limited space in each category
[43:20] Patrick’s advice for aspiring authors

  • Develop own style but be well read
  • Find voice and keep working on it

Learn More About Patrick Nolan

Penguin Books

Patrick at Penguin Books

Patrick on LinkedIn

Patrick on Twitter


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