As a published author of nine books and avid blogger, I am often asked, “how did you do it?” and “what do you suggest I do?” Read on!
I’ve been in the publishing industry for over 20 years. During that time, I have handled just about every aspect from acquisition of authors to product development, marketing and PR as well as sales. In 2004, however, I was introduced to the role of author. I decided that since I had published so many others and helped them become successful that I wanted my “day in the sun.” I now have seven published books out in the market. Here’s my story and how YOU can get published.
Just because I had contacts and knew the right people didn’t guarantee me as a “shoe in.” I still had to work the system and submit manuscripts, receiving a ton of rejection letters before finally being accepted after four years of work. My first word of advice to you: Toughen up! You will need to handle rejection and criticism and become VERY patient. So do you want to get published? Why? You must hold on to your why in order to sustain the process. And your why will determine which route you take: traditional publishing, self-publishing or hybrid models.
If you are a speaker and want to have books for the back of the room, you desire to spread a message out to the masses, you have limited financial resources or you are a writer but not a marketer, then the traditional route is for you. The publisher takes all the risk and pays you a “fee” or advance to write the project. You are given a deadline and a set amount of words to provide to the publisher on the agreed topic, of which they can edit and change. You are the author, but they own the product. They will create a nice cover and hopefully market and sell your book to the masses. They have the contacts and staff, in theory. You aren’t responsible for selling the book but can buy books at a discount to re-sell. You are not permitted to sell to their accounts. Remember, a traditional publisher is in it for the money! This is an investment that they hope will pay off.
Traditional publishing has changed dramatically through the years, and the budgets are even smaller. Manage your expectations and realize that unless you are a BIG name, you will not be given much exposure or attention. Be thankful for your published book and do what you can to promote it.
The best way to get a traditional publisher is A) Get an agent, which many want to only work with published authors, thus the Catch 22 scenario. But, get a copy of Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents, and you will have a wealth of information on who you can contact that is looking for new, fresh blood. Ten years ago, you didn’t need an agent, but any more, publishers prefer agents. I am seeing another shift taking place, so don’t give up if you don’t have one. Publishing are still looking for long-term, solid relationships with good writers. B) Self-agent and submit query letters. Most publishers will not accept unsolicited manuscripts, but start establishing a relationship and pitch yourself and your idea quickly and effectively. For a phenomenal way of pitching your book, contact me for a Book Proposal form and coaching through the process. I guarantee that this process will be more difficult than writing the book itself, but you will be equipped to sell yourself and your idea to a publisher with a good chance of at least getting considered.
If you get to the next level, non-fiction book publishers will need to see some sample chapters. Don’t write any more than three because they could change the direction on you. Save your energy. But, if you have a fiction book, then you will need to submit most of the manuscript for review.
If you just want to publish a book to say you did, need back of room products for speaking, are looking to gain some credibility in a field you know, are a marketing machine and have some money to spend, then you can self-publish. Self-publishing has come a long way and has gained respect through the years. It used to be that you could tell that a book was self-published, and many key accounts (Barnes & Nobles and the like) wouldn’t stock them. Today, however, books are done well enough to see shelves in national chains. Be warned that with self-publishing, you are taking the risk and the one responsible for marketing, promoting AND selling your book. If you only want them for your garage and BOR sales, then you are set. You can print on demand at a reasonable rate. If, though, you desire market penetration, then you will need to pick up a copy of Guerilla Marketing for Writers by Jay Conrad Levinson, Rick Frishman and Michael Larsen. You can’t be shy about marketing and promoting your own book if you want to get it out there.
It is relatively easy to find a printer. Check out the World-wide Web. Shop and compare to find the best deal: price per book, turn around time, etc. One important factor to consider is availability for key accounts. In order for them to agree to sell your book, they will require special terms. You will need to give them a steep discount with the ability to return books. You will also need to ship books to them in a hurry if they order more. Make sure you or your printer can fulfill the demands. Each key account has a requirement sheet you can obtain from their buyer. Manage your expectations by knowing this is a hard road to travel. But, once in a while, someone does an incredible job of selling their self-published book to the point that a big publishing house contracts them for more books. You never know! Always keep a positive attitude.
Hybrid Model Publishers
If you are a marketing machine, high energy, have time to dedicate to promoting, want BOR sales and desire market penetration, then the hybrid model will be a great option for you. This model did not even exist 10 years ago, but self-publishing led the way. People found themselves able to print their books but didn’t know what to do with them once they had them, thus the “I’ve got a garage full of books” syndrome. A hybrid publisher will not only print your books (again, you are taking the risk and paying for them) but they will off Ala Carte services such as marketing, PR and sales. You basically buy what you need. If you are better with a checkbook than sales, you can purchase a team to support your project. It will cost you, but you will get key account representation and book promotion.
Check references on your hybrid publisher and ensure that they do have the contacts you seek. If your book is in the health and fitness genre but your publisher has contacts in the automobile industry, that isn’t a fit. Matching your product with your publishing will be key. Another option that I have offered to authors is self-publishing and then hiring an industry veteran like myself to sell and promote. The beauty with the hybrid model is you can be creative! Work with your strengths and hire out the rest.
Once you select the route you will take, no matter who you are, here are my suggestions to you:
Want to write? Read! Read all kinds of books, different genres and different styles. The more you see, the more you can develop your own style
Stay positive and surround yourself with positive people
Join a writers group at your local B&N
Hire a consultant like myself to coach you through
Hire an editor to help review manuscripts, which I can also assist you with. I always have someone edit my work before I submit it to my editor at the publishing house
Keep a Thesaurus handy
Learn the Chicago Manual of Style, which most publishers use
Don’t lose sight of everything else…you must still balance the other things of life. Dedicate time to write and block out time for promoting, but do not give more than 10 to 20% of your day to it or it can eat you alive!
Manage your expectations. We can’t all be Stephen Kings.
On that note, I would say that if I had the money, I would go the hybrid route. Currently, I have used the traditional model of publishing but have been disappointed with their service and efforts. But, they did produce awesome covers and got my books national exposure. Every option has its pros and cons.
I believe everyone has a book in them, but not every one can write a book. Further, not everyone who even writes a book can get published. Give it some thought and sleep on it. If you find yourself thinking of writing when you aren’t writing, then you should pursue it. Writing a book isn’t as romantic as the movies make it to be, but it is THE most rewarding thing I’ve ever done, especially when a reader contacts you to say you changed their life for the better. My best to you in your endeavors, and I hope my story helped!