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A friend of mine (no, really!) is well on his way of writing a unofficial/unauthorized biography of Steve Jobs. In my opinion it is a fantastic read and he did a lot of research and has a long list of sources to back the story up. He is not a professional writer and doesn't have any credentials in that regard.

Neither he, nor I, nor any of our friends have any contacts or experience with the publishing industry. He contacted some local Australian agents a while ago but all of them basically said that he needs to get at least an article published in a respected magazine or newspaper before they take a look at his book.

He tried to do that for a while but I think he got frustrated because all the companies he has contacted say basically the same thing.

He has since published the book as a blog. I think he did it in the hope to gain readers and a following and to use this to convince publishers to give his book a chance but I think gaining a large following is probably as hard as finding a publisher and I don't see it happening soon.

Surely there must be a big market for a book like this.

My question is, how can he find a publisher?

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Just curious ... you mention he "is well on his way of writing a unofficial/unauthorized biography of Steve Jobs", but then you said that "He has since published the book as a blog". Is the book finished, or is it still being written? I suppose what I'm getting at is, if the book's finished, and is up on his blog for free, I wonder how many publishers would want to pick it up for publishing ... –  Craig Sefton Aug 26 '11 at 12:43
    
I AM the friend in question. Firstly, thank very much, Patrick, for helping me in this critical time. Thank you, Steven, for affirming my suspicions that it would be important to promote my book NOW to American agents who are at the coalface of this historical milestone. This should prove a more fruitful proposition than pursuing local Australian agents who are preoccupied representing critically acclaimed but innocuous books that no one reads. My own answer to this question I have put into action. I am promoting my blog in the comment fields of online articles in select publications that scor –  user2532 Aug 26 '11 at 23:59
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My guess is a publisher would NOT be interested if it has already been "electronically published" for free. –  Joshin Aug 27 '11 at 15:58
    
No, he isn't finished yet and yes he did put his current progress online. There seems to be a debate whether or not this is a bad thing. –  Patrick Klug Aug 28 '11 at 23:43
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2 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

The fastest way to take advantage of the current publicity that is focused on Steve Jobs would be to self-publish your book. You can go to Amazon Kindle to get it out as an e-book and have it available to sell within a few days. If you want to make it available in print format, you can use CreateSpace (also an Amazon company). Either avenue gives you a quick and inexpensive means of getting your book published quickly.

Having said that, I would caution your friend to make sure that he includes in the title that this is the unauthorized biography. Even as such, there are a lot of people who may be interested in learning more about the man, especially since he is garnering so much attention ion the press right now. He really needs to take advantage of that.

At the same time, it would be a good idea for him to put together some sample chapters and a query letter to sedn out to some agents here in the US. Because of the fact that Jobs is so newsworthy right now, they might have a chance to sell this manuscript to a traditional publisher. In the meantime, if he is selling it himself as an e-book, he may be able to start getting some interest stirred up in the book and maybe even make a little money while waiting out the traditional process.

There are some who would caution that self-publishing as an e-book will prevent you from obtaining a traditional publishing contract, but that is not true. There are more and more authors today who are making this kind of move and proving to be very successful at it. The key is in having a quality product ready to sell, and from the little bit I read, I believe he does.

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And OP's friend should get his team of lawyers ready for the inevitable lawsuits. –  Robusto Aug 26 '11 at 15:56
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Robusto: I think Jobs can afford better lawyers than the OP. ;) –  Ralph Gallagher Aug 26 '11 at 17:07
    
That is indeed a serious risk. There have been plenty of unauthorized biographies that have been published, but the key is making sure you've verified all your sources. If it's a flattering approach, then Jobs may let it slide. However, if it takes a negative slant, then be prepared for battle! –  Steven Drennon Aug 26 '11 at 17:54
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The official Steve Jobs biography is about to come out. There is no way that he would let an unofficial one slide. –  Joel Shea Aug 28 '11 at 16:50
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Look for an agent. Don't give up until you've exhausted everybody who's a good fit. And look beyond Australia.

Be sure you're querying agents that actually represent the type of book you're trying to sell. Google found me a list of agents who represent biographies; you could start there. Another great way is to look up books similar to what you're writing, and check if they had an agent representing them (who is open to submissions). I'll add that my first name, chosen at random asks for sample chapters right with the initial query, so I don't think the "no previous publication" barrier is as insurmountable as you've made it out to be.

Publishing online is a mistake. That keeps him from being able to sell first publication rights; that can be a total and immediate deal-killer unless his blog is astoundingly successful. Again, since I think you've still got a good shot with an agent and publisher, then blog-publishing is an act of desperation. Damage-control as much as you can, if you're still hoping to land a publisher.

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