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Getting A Book Published—The Most Important Question to Ask Yourself Before You Make Publishing Decisions

The Dilemma

As a writer, you are confronted with a dizzying array of publishing and self-publishing alternatives, including: commercial houses; specialty/independent houses; print-on-demand (POD) companies; and e-book companies. Many firms offer a mind-boggling variety of packages for pre-publishing, marketing, and distribution, with prices from almost free to $11,000+. Your royalties will depend on the price of your book minus the preparation, publishing, distribution, and other fees. The number of options is enough to make your head spin. How do you make sense of it all?

As a writing coach at AuthorAssist, I often get this question from perplexed writers. I help them determine an appropriate publishing strategy based on the answer to this most important question.

First and foremost take stock of yourself as a writer–and be true to your goals and expectations. You are less likely to be disappointed or waste time and money if you know the publishing biz and are realistic about your writing.

What kind of writer are you?

1. A serious nonfiction writer with a goal of traditional publishing. You are determined to build your career and establish yourself as an expert in your field through your book-and you want to publish with a traditional commercial publisher. You hope for all of the benefits: an advance, reviews by top reviewers, the chance for national television and radio exposure, and the chance to grab the gold ring. You know it’s a long shot, but others have done it–and so can you! You realize that quality is paramount and want to work with the best professionals to prepare your book proposal and query materials for literary agents and publishers.

Suggested services:
1) Pre-publication: coaching/concept development; developmental editing;
2) Nonfiction query materials: comprehensive nonfiction proposal, query letter, agent contact list, and directions for submitting to agents;
3) Pre-promotion: marketing plan showing an author/business web site, blog site, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, other related professional sites; expert articles/guest blogs, web traffic/readership development, preliminary PR for endorsements and reviews, sites for distribution and sales.

2. A serious fiction writer with a goal of traditional publishing. You aim to build a career as a writer and get your novel published with a traditional commercial publisher. You know it’s a long shot, but it’s your dream and you cannot be happy unless you give it a try. You realize that quality is paramount and you want to work with the best professionals to map your strategy and prepare your query materials and marketing plan.

Suggested services:
1) Pre-publication: Pre-pub: manuscript review/substantive editing, copy editing, proofing;
2) Fiction query materials: synopsis, query letter, agent contact list and directions for submitting to agents;
3) Pre-promotion: develop a marketing plan to include creating reader interest on Facebook, blog, Twitter, other related sites; expert articles/guest blogs, etc. preliminary PR for endorsements and reviews. Develop a presence in online communities where you might sell the book.

3. A serious nonfiction writer aiming to self-publish (Be Your Own Publisher)–You are focused on using your book to build your business and establish yourself as an expert in your field. You want to publish your book in a timely manner with complete control over its contents, looks, price, and distribution. You know that quality is paramount and you want to work with the best professionals to publish your book.

Suggested services:
1) Pre-publication: Developmental editing, copy editing, proofing;
2) Imprint name: Your own, ISBN, etc.;
3) Cover and interior design: custom;
4) Promotion: author/business web site, Facebook, blog, Twitter, professional/other related professional sites; expert articles/guest blogs, web traffic/readership development, preliminary PR for endorsements and reviews; Format: hardback; paperback; e-book; Distribution: wide-Ingram, Amazon, B&N, outlets specific to your topic, etc.

4. A serious fiction writer determined to self-publish (Be Your Own Publisher)–You are dedicated to building a career as a writer and are willing to take the time to develop a fan base/readership. You want to publish your book in a timely manner with complete control over its contents, looks, and distribution. You know that quality is paramount and want to work with the best professionals to publish your book.

Suggested services:
1) Pre-publication: Developmental editing, copy editing, proofing;
2) Imprint name: Your own, ISBN, etc.;
3) Cover and interior design: custom;
4) Promotion: author/business web site, Facebook, blog, Twitter, other related genre sites; expert articles/guest blogs, web traffic/readership development, preliminary PR for endorsements and reviews;
5) Format: hardback; paperback; e-book;
6) Distribution: wide-Ingram, Amazon, B&N, etc.

5. A serious dabbler willing to try it out with standard self-publishing. You have written a manuscript and are not sure how good it is or whether you have what it takes to be a career writer. But you want to give it a try and are willing to spend a reasonable amount of time and money on the effort-to see what happens.

Suggested services:
1) Pre-publication: Copy editing, proofing;
2) Imprint name: publisher;
3) Cover design: professional;
4) Format: paperback; e-book;
5) Distribution: wide-Ingram, Amazon, B&N, etc.;
6) Promotion: Facebook, author blog, Twitter, other related genre sites, Fan base/readership development.

6. A hobby writer who does not care who reads your book, perfect for friends and family self-publishing. You could care less about building a writing career or a readership. But you would like to share your manuscript with a few people, mostly friends and family and are willing to spend a bit of time and money to create a quality “read.”

Suggested services:
1)Pre-publication: proofing;
2) Imprint name: publisher;
3) Cover design: stock photos; template; custom;
4) Format: PDF, e-book, paperback (optional);
5) Distribution: narrow-to friends and family by e-mail (or from blogs, publisher sites );
6) Promotion: Facebook, blog, Twitter (optional).

From the array of requirements and services described, it’s obvious that having a clear sense of your goals and expectations will help you to make the best decisions regarding the type of publishing and range of services you require.