Your one-stop creative-fulfillment shop for the entire book-writing and -publishing process ~ from Spark to Finish.
On this page, you will learn the very basics of what you need to know about publishing your book. There is more to learn, but this will give you a taste for what’s involved. As you get closer to making publishing decisions, if you are considering engaging me to help you we can discuss your situation and options so you can make the most beneficial decisions.
Publishing means the process of getting your manuscript into book form and then out to your readers. This process sounds simple, even inevitable. But it has lots of moving parts and branching choices. So it helps to have a Publishing Guide. And that’s where I can come in.
There are hundreds of details involved in publishing a book. It’s a very different journey from writing the book. Some people love this part, and others would just as soon dive under the covers. I used to be one of the latter. You might say that I learned the ropes because I believed enough in my own books and my clients’ books to seek ways to get them into the world that honor the person who wrote the book as much as possible.
Once your book-development work with me is concluded, you are free to take the next steps on your own. But if you would like to enlist my expertise and support to get your book into the hands of readers, then this page will give you an idea of what “Spark to Finish” might look like for you in terms of book publishing.
Coming up: (I) Publishing Options, and (II) Book Marketing and Promotion
I. PUBLISHING OPTIONS
Self-Publishing/ Traditional / “Indie” / Innovative and Hybrid
What’s involved in each option ~ What to do next ~ How I can help
One of the major decisions is what kind of publisher to reach out to. There are primarily 3 sorts of publishers at this time, although the technology of publishing is moving rapidly and more options may open up in the near and longer-term future. These 3 are:
Traditional publishing ~ the larger, more established publishing houses (sometimes known as “The Big 5”), such as HarperCollins, Random House, and so on.
Independent (“Indie”) publishing ~ small presses and hybrid publishing (i.e., publisher-author arrangements that share responsibilities and rewards in different ways and proportions from traditional publishers).
Self-publishing ~ you do all the work; you have all the responsibility; you reap all the rewards and all the glory. If you like DIY, this may be for you. And if you don’t, I can help you or do it for you.
I will now go into these briefly, in reverse order ~ because I believe that every author should know about self-publishing. You may decide not to do it, but you deserve to know that you could if you chose to.
Publishing Option #1: SELF-PUBLISHING
What it means: “Self-publishing” means just what you’d think: You publish your book yourself. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you literally do every facet of the operation yourself. Most people don’t have the facility to do book design and typesetting and illustration and printing, and book marketing and promotion (and so on), themselves. Instead, you can hire specialists to do all the necessary aspects for you (or hire someone to coordinate all that on your behalf, thereby freeing you from making all those decisions other than approving them).
What’s involved: Here are just some of the details involved in self-publishing:
- Interior book design
- Cover design
- Cover illustration
- Back-cover copy writing
- Getting endorsements / “blurbs” for the back cover and/or inside front pages
- Author photo
- ISBN (International Standard Book Number~ a 13-digit number, used internationally by booksellers, libraries, book wholesalers, and distributors to identify: each book that is published; each edition of the same book; and the publisher of the book)
- Deciding on trim size, paper color and weight, gloss or matte cover, binding
- Setting a retail price, getting a bar code
- Printing the book (Print on Demand online, or POD, makes this quite feasible)
- Book marketing and promotion
- And so on.
Whew, right? Given all this, why would someone choose to self-publish? Wouldn’t getting someone else to publish you dispense with all this hassle on your part? Well…
~ Total creative control. When you publish your own book, you have total creative control of your work. You can have it say whatever you want, and look like whatever you want. You don’t have to “buck the system” in order to fit your unique book into some external publisher’s line or idea of what will and won’t sell. With self-publishing, you can have as little or as much creative input as you like, depending on how much you do yourself and how much you hire out. This creative control is one of self-publishing’s big appeals.
~ Shorter time-gap between completing your manuscript and seeing it in print. Once your book is ready to start on the publishing trajectory, you can have it in print printing in a matter of months (vs. years) ~ possibly even weeks, if you decide to make it your #1 priority.
~ Getting to keep the net profits. Also, you get to keep all the net profits. Traditional publishers usually pay their authors an advance against royalties upon signing the author/publisher contract, and then royalties on book sales (but only once the book’s sales exceed the amount of the advance given). Author royalties tend to run to around 15 percent+/-. In contrast, in self-publishing, the net profits are all yours. Of course, you may have to put in the time and work to make that happen; but it can, and it feels great.
~ Ease of ordering (and storing) copies. Thanks to Print on Demand (POD), you no longer have to deal with overflowing boxes of books in the garage or attic, but instead can order just as many of your books as you want at a time (starting with just one and increasing in volume from there). The self-publishing movement has grown exponentially, in part due to the presence of POD printing.
~ Support from distributors and online POD printers who take self-publishing, and its burgeoning increase in recent years, quite seriously. Self-publishers are the market for POD printers and distributors, and like other businesses, they make it a practice to court you and bring you to their business rather than someone else’s. That means they offer discounts, tutorials, and all the other marketing methods employed in business-to-business and business-to-customer. So you have the opportunity to learn as you go, and take advantage of relevant deals and promotions.
Self-publishing has come a long, long way in the recent past. There’s no longer any stigma attached to it, and if you like to get your hands into your projects, it can be the way to go. Virginia Woolf and Walt Whitman thought so. Leaves of Grass would never have reached us if Whitman hadn’t published this now-classic himself, back in 1844. And how would we know about Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway if she and her husband, Leonard, hadn’t published it with their own Hogarth Press in 1925?
Disadvantages: While this is a shorter list, what’s in it can be daunting: you have to do all the work yourself, and/or pay to have it done. And as the bulleted list above should make clear, there are a great many things to know about, to do, and to do well.
What to do next: The good news is: If self-publishing appeals to you, I can help you do it! That way you can have the best of both worlds: the total creative control, the reaping of all the next profits, and the not having to do it all yourself (unless you want to).
OPTION 1: I do it all for you.
How it works: In this scenario, I will handle for you all the many book-production details (see the bulleted list, above) that are involved in turning your manuscript into a quality book. I have a “stable” of wonderful, quality vendors who can fulfill all the needed aspects. I also have a background in visual art, and experience designing and typesetting books using an ingenious template. You can see some fruits of my artistry on this very website: I designed, implemented, and illustrated all of it (as well as drawing or photographing most of the images). So I come to this service with talent and expertise as well as the desire to help you get your book into print.
You can hire me to do it all and/or coordinate it all for you. Then, once your book is set up on the Print on Demand site in an account in your name, you can order as many or as few books as you like at any time.
As for book marketing and promotion, my colleague Dana Watt specializes in deep marketing and promotion. This means that, as with my own book-development work, who you are is at least as important as what you have produced. Together, you and Dana (and me, if you want my involvement in this phase) would explore which promotional avenues fit not only your book but also your own temperament. Out of that loving inquiry then comes a detailed, personalized marketing roadmap, which you can follow with impunity and integrity to reach those readers who are perfect for your book. And I can support and join you in that as well, if desired.
OPTION 2: I teach you how to do it.
In this version (less expensive; more hands-on), I educate you as to what’s involved; introduce you to my favorite vendors to support your process and progress; am available for consulting as needed and agreed-on; and you learn what to do to publish your current book and any others to come. Conferring with my colleague Dana Watt (same as above) would be a part of this option, as well.
OPTION 3: A hybrid of Options 1 and 2
Maybe there are some parts you would actively enjoy learning how to do ~ and maybe there are other parts you’d just as soon pass on. That’s fine. I can show you what’s involved in self-publishing your book, and you can choose just those aspects that you want to try on, yourself, leaving the rest to me and my great team. You get to choose what you want.
If self-publishing is starting to sound potentially appealing to you, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone me at (510) 465-3935 (Pacific Standard Time). We can explore Options 1, 2, or3 (or all three).
Publishing Option #2: TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING
Scribner’s Building, New York
What it means: There are also certain advantages that you don’t get to have with self-publishing, which traditional publishers do offer: a monetary advance against royalties; a marketing and sales team on hand; worldwide distribution; a certain “clout” in being chosen for publication by a reputable publisher; and so on.
A “traditional publisher,” these days, usually means one of the larger publishers that take on authors exclusively through literary agents. The monetary compensation in traditional publishing tends to be around 15% of net profits of sales, after the amount of the advance has been earned and paid back through book sales. (The monetary compensation in Indie Publishing may be more, depending on the structure of the individual publisher. But then again, the distribution reach might be less.)
I know people in the field (such as a book-proposal writer of my acquaintance) who believe there’s no longer any reason to go for a traditional publisher ~ especially since, these days, authors have to help market and promote their own books no matter who publishes them. On the other hand, getting published by, say, HarperCollins, or Penguin, or Random House, or a good academic press can confer a level of credibility on a book (and, by inference, its author) that the author may value. It may depend on the role the book has in your life and career, and the distribution avenues you are hoping to make use of. So this is worth studying a bit, and making an informed decision. I had a client who had sterling sales credentials by dint of his career, and could have easily self-published and sold impressive lots of copies. But he wanted both the clout and the distribution capabiility of a larger publisher, so he made the decision to go that route, and he did.
What’s involved: When you aim for a traditional publisher, there are conventions and procedures that you (with rare exceptions) need to follow.
~ The book proposal. A book proposal is an intricate document, doubling as a marketing and sales pitch, that enables you to interest a literary agent, who in turn believes that it will interest a publisher. (It has also been called ~ and for good reason ~ much more challenging to write than the actual book.) This book proposal has very defined elements that must be followed fairly closely, at the same time that it needs to read well and have the ring of your book’s style. (A little like rubbing your belly and patting your head at the same time.) These elements include things like the Overview, the Hook, the Market addressed, the Competition (other books on your subject that are both good sellers but not as good as yours), your Marketing Strategy and Platform, a good deal more, and one to three sample chapters.
~ The query letter: Once your book proposal is in shape, you will be querying literary agents (and, in lesser instances, publishers directly) to interest them in your book, based on your informed knowledge of its place in the book marketplace and its fit with the particular agent you are sending the letter to. The good news is that there are lots of books and articles with examples of winning letters. And the websites of literary agents are quite specific about the kinds of books they are looking for. If you make a good match, you could be in for good things ~ especially if your agent sincerely loves your book and is willing to bring his or her expertise to perfecting it in light of what publishers seek to boost their particular lines of books and commercial successes.
The order of what you need to do, in this case, is as follows:
- Conceive your book.
- Do what you need to (perhaps with my book-development help) to get enough of a sense of the book to write a few chapters, and to synopsize the unwritten chapters.
- Write (or commission) the book proposal.
- Research likely literary agents and perhaps also publishers.
- Write (or commission) an all-purpose query letter.
- Customize the letter for each individual agent you contact. Adhere to that agent’s guidelines for submission.
- Be ready to follow up ~ if requested to by the agent’s response to your query letter ~ with the book proposal.
- Rinse and repeat steps 6 and 7, as needed, until you land “the one.”
Advantages of traditional publishing:
~ The hard part is getting to the publisher, making the deal, and getting the manuscript to the state that the editor at the publishing house thinks is best. But once you are there, you may be the recipient of a wealth of services and supports beyond what you could do for yourself. Large publishers are likely to have editors, sales people, marketing staff, designers, and distribution outlets. Although it’s true that you’ll need to take a strong hand in promoting your own book, they may help you with that in various ways, from well-placed ads to book tours, and so on. And as mentioned before, being published by a known, traditional publisher has clout.
~ If your book is non-fiction, you may not need to write the complete book before submitting it to an agent, and from there to a publisher. The book proposal does most of the work for you (mind you, it is work!). Said proposal needs to contain only one to three sample chapters, and a synopsis (a paragraph to 1 page) of the other chapters yet to be written. So while you would need to put time, effort, heart, and mental gears into coming up with a book idea and its associated chapters, you wouldn’t have to write the entire manuscript (unless you wanted to) until you had a publisher and a contract. (Note that this is true only of non-fiction books.)
~ (Following up on the previous advantage), once you have a contract with a publisher and are assigned an in-house editor, it’s quite possible that the editor (and even your agent) can help you flesh out the book’s unwritten chapters, and suggest strategies and trajectories you might not have thought of on your own.
~ A publisher with deep-rooted resources who showers you and your book with them is incomparable. It’s like staying at a 5-star hotel, complete with fresh towels, a spa, room service, and the works. Hard to pass up. If your publisher says, “We’ll book you on a 10-city tour and pay all expenses,” and “We’ll take out an ad in the New York Times Book Review,” you know you have clout on your side. And most likely, as a self-publisher, you could not afford such luxuries. So it’s a good life, in that case. Plus, imagine arriving in a new town where your book is all over the window of the bookstore, and tickets for your reading are sold out. Pretty intoxicating!
~ Some of the same things that I mentioned as “advantages” may also have their flip, disadvantageous side.
~ ~ ~For example, not having to write the whole book until you see which way the wind is blowing would save you some time and effort on the front end, but not so on the back end.
~ ~ ~ Likewise, having to tailor your writing to a publisher’s idea of what will sell (unless you land a publisher with true publishing integrity) can derail you from your original passion for writing the book. You may end up with a published book that you scarcely recognize as your own. It has happened, in publishing history. Authors have found it demoralizing, when that happened.
~ ~ ~ There’s actually an advantage to writing the entire book and then trying to sell it more or less as-is (with grace notes for flexibility and humility in light of an agent’s and publisher’s suggestions). When you write the whole book, the pieces show you the emerging whole ~ and the emergent whole then tells you what to go back and revise so the book has a seamless coherence. If you had to stake your claim on your book on some good ideas-turned-into-three chapters, with the unwritten ones all waiting in the wings, you might find that your own sense of things has evolved, and now you’re committed to an early, not very fleshed-out idea that you can’t wholeheartedly subscribe to.
~ Sometimes, for all the clout and resources publishers have at their disposal (if they do), they don’t fully give them to your book. Sometimes publishers don’t take out ads for their authors’ books, don’t set up book tours (or will help do that but you’re on your own financially and otherwise), and in other ways fail to support your book in the way you would have wished. At that point, you really might think, “Why didn’t I publish my book myself? At least I would have given it the best I had.”
What to do next: If you opt for a traditional publisher, there are some ways that I can help you (though less extensively than for self-publishing). Here are some of the things I can do to aid your success:
~ Listen to your thoughts, needs, and desires to help you get clear on what you want and are ready to do to get a traditional publisher (e.g., the balance of DIY and hiring professionals).
~ Refer you to good books and articles on writing a book proposal and query letter.
~ Connect you with excellent, reputable book-proposal writers of my professional acquaintance, who can either write the entire proposal for you (based on your input, of course), or critique the proposal that you write yourself. Some of these people have connections to agents, and some do not. These same people can also help you with your query letter.
~ Research likely agents and publishers for you to send your query letter and book proposal out to. This screens out the non-relevant agents, leaving you with just those with whom your book could have a chance. Each agent and publisher wants to feel that you know what they do and don’t handle, and that you have researched them well enough to speak their language. Knowing you and your book as well as I will by that time, I can research and screen relevant agents and publisher information for you, which you can then accept and prioritize or dismiss in favor of replacements.
~ Use those modest connections I do have to publishers on your behalf, if appropriate.
Unlike with self-publishing, my contribution here would be basically to refer you to experts and to help you by screening out non-relevant from relevant resources and connections. You may not even need this. But if you are new at this end of things, and would appreciate some friendly, more-knowledge-than-you’ve-currently-got help, contact me to discuss your needs, wants, and resources. Email me at email@example.com or phone me at (510) 465-3935.
Publishing Option #3: INDIE PUBLISHING
There are also what’s called Indie Publishers (“Indie” for “Independent,” and usually smaller presses), which may set different, and sometimes more flexible, conventions than their larger counterparts. A bit of definition may be helpful for distinguishing among traditional publishers and self-publishing. When an author is published by an independent publisher, this is not self-publishing. Here’s how a Wikipedia article on “small press” puts it:
The terms ‘small press,’ ‘indie publisher,’ and ‘independent press’ are often used interchangeably, with ‘independent press’ defined as publishers that are not part of large conglomerates or multinational corporations. Defined this way, these presses make up approximately half of the market share of the book publishing industry. Many small presses rely on specialization in genre fiction, poetry, or limited-edition books or magazines, but there are also thousands that focus on niche non-fiction markets…. Small presses tend to fill the niches that larger publishers neglect. They can focus on regional titles, narrow specializations and niche genres.”
And according to Dave Hood, in “Publishing in the Small Press”:
The small press can also be referred to as the ‘independent press’ because publishers are not multinational publishing companies who dominate the book publishing industry. The small press often fills niche book publishing markets, which larger publishers ignore. Since profit margins are narrow, the small-press publisher often has other motives for publishing, such as ‘promoting poetry’ or ‘literature’ or certain types of ‘genres.’ The small-press publisher does not charge the author for services. Instead they sell the books to the booksellers, and then pay the author. The small-press publisher also makes much smaller print runs for a book or poetry collection than the big publishers. The print run for a small publisher can be in the hundreds or print on demand.”
Since I don’t have direct experience (although a lot of admiration) of small presses other than my own tiny one, I’m relying on a few valuable articles to illuminate your beginning learning. These articles are: (1) Eliot Peper, “Publishing with a Small Press: Straddling the Indie-Traditional Gap” (on Jane Friedman’s website (janefriedman.com); (2) Robert Lee Brewer, “The Pros and Cons of Publishing with a Small Publisher” (Writer’s Digest); and (3) Dave Hood, “Publishing in the Small Press” (blog).
Here are some of the advantages these writers list (the number in parentheses refers to the writers enumerated above):
~ More flexible contract terms than the Big Five [traditional] publishers (e.g., a 50/50 royalty split and retention of many subsidiary rights to your book). (1)
~ Small presses run the production and distribution processes for you. They handle the editors, proofreaders, designers, typesetters necessary to produce a high-quality book. They also invest the capital required to cover the associated costs.(1)
~ Small presses can kickstart your marketing and aren’t afraid to think outside the box. (1)
~ Greater editorial control [in the case of this columnist, 100%]. (1) Usually allows the writer to participate in all aspects of the publishing process, including layout and cover design, marketing and promotion. (3)
~ More willingness to take risks on projects they believe have artistic merit. (2)
~ Continued marketing and support years after the book is released. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” (2)
~ More attention from the editor, designer, publicity department, publisher = a more rewarding relationship. (2)
~ They accept books by writers who don’t have an agent. (3)
~ Most have narrow profit margins = small budgets for marketing and promotion of new books. (3)
~ The number of copies you can expect to sell depends on the nature of your book + the press’s distribution and marketing support. (2)
~ Writers have difficulty getting their book widely distributed. (3)
~ They usually don’t give an advance against book sales. (3)
What to do next: You’re probably not expecting my first option, but here it is:
Option 1: Do it yourself
If this publishing option interests you, you might just take things into your own hands and not need my help at all.
And then there’s:
Option 2: Engage my help
If you feel you would benefit from my guidance and support, given my expertise in and familiarity with the publications field, here are some of the ways I could be of service to you:
1. Research relevant Indie publishers so that you end up with a curated menu of viable choices for what fits you and your book best. Often, the requirements for submitting to an Indie Publisher are less stringent and/or formidable than for a larger traditional publisher.
2. Contact the Indie publishers of your choice directly, as a colleague in the field, to find things out for you, make potential connections for you, and so on.
3. If you need a book proposal and query letter, I can offer you the same services as for authors seeking traditional publishers:
- Listen to your thoughts, needs, and desires to help you get clear on what you want and are ready to do to get a small publisher (e.g., the balance of DIY and hiring professionals).
- Refer you to good books and articles on writing a book proposal and query letter.
- Connect you with excellent, reputable book-proposal writers of my professional acquaintance, who can either write the entire proposal for you (based on your input, of course), or critique the proposal that you write yourself. These same people can also help you with your query letter.
Contact me to discuss your needs, wants, and resources by e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org or phoning me at (510) 465-3935.
Publishing Option #3A: HYBRID OR INNOVATIVE PUBLISHING
As publishing continues to evolve and innovate, you may find non-traditional options that fit your needs. There are publisher/author arrangements where the author funds most or all of the publishing, and the net profits are split between the author and the publisher, enabling the author to receive a larger proportion of the net profits. I can guide you in this direction, as well.
Contact me to discuss your needs, wants, and resources by e-mailing me at email@example.com or phoning me at (510) 465-3935.
II. MARKETING AND PROMOTING YOUR BOOK
In today’s publishing world, all authors must actively participate in Marketing and Promoting their books.
Whether you opt for self-publishing, traditional publishing, Indie publishing, or something in between, these days the author is responsible for a great deal of the book’s promotion. This is obvious with self-publishing, where you are the publisher. But these days the author’s participation is required even with traditional publishing. Every author is expected to put in time and effort (and sometimes, funds) into getting potential readers to know about and buy the book. The days of sitting back and letting the publisher do it all are over.
Frequently, people who write the books are not intrinsically eager to market the books. Sometimes it’s a matter of temperament, sometimes of experience. In either case, not marketing and promoting your book is not an option.
But as part of the “From Spark to Finish” spectrum, you will not be left behind. Although I am not a professional marketer (and would not claim to be), I am blessed to have a colleague, an awesome marketing partner who can provide deep marketing for my clients. Dana Watt has a generous heart, an inspired mind, a bold forward thrust, a knack for marketing (the same articles that I force myself to read, she eagerly looks forward to poring through for fun), and a genuine interest in who the person is, not just what they have produced.
You can see why I chose her!
What is “deep marketing?” As with my own way of approaching book development, deep marketing is a highly person-centered, collaborative process. You will not be treated like a “product,” just because your book is in that phase. Instead, the vision and sensitivity that went into writing your book will be honored in helping you market and promote it.
When you engage the “Spark to Finish” track of my services ~ whether you choose to self-publish, seek a traditional publisher, or approach an Indie or hybrid publisher ~ Dana will help you come up with a custom-fitted plan that honors:
- Your book (aka, your “product”)
- Your needs and wishes
- Your personality and temperament, and
- Your truest vision
This marketing plan will not require you to do anything you don’t want to. You are the source of your book, and you come first. If you don’t like cold calling or standing up in front of a room of strangers, for example, there are many other ways to get your book noticed by the right people. Dana will work with you to determine what you are willing, even eager to do, as well as good, fitting ways to go about it. Once you have chosen a book-promotion roadmap, I can support your efforts if and as desired.
NOTE: If you opt for self-publishing, be prepared to spend at least 6 months prior to your book’s publication date (the book “launch,” or “grand opening”) doing the groundwork of book promotion needed to bring your book to public notice. And you’ll need to stay with the book-promotion process post-publication, so that your book’s presence in the world sees the light of day, grows well, and brings you back real benefits and rewards: not only abundant sales and terrific reviews, but also letters of gratitude from your readers; interviews; opportunities to speak to interested groups; more clients and customers (if appropriate); and generally a win-win-win for you, for your readers, and for the world.
Contact me to discuss your needs, wants, and resources by e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org or phoning me at (510) 465-3935. And when you’re ready to discuss your book marketing and promotion needs with Dana Watt, you’ll be put in touch with her as well.
When you get close to completing your book and start thinking about publishing, you will undoubtedly have a lot more questions and uncertainties to clarify than you do at this point. But if having a conversation about publishing now would put your mind to rest and/or mental wheels into gear, feel free to contact me sooner rather than later.
What’s important is that you trust that your book has a welcome in the world, and take the steps you are guided to take to make that happen. E-mail me at email@example.com or phone me at (510) 465-3935. We can discuss it all.
Helping you bring the book of your heart into the world, “From SPARK to FINISH ”
- (noun) The inner experience of desiring to write a book.
- (verb) To draw forth the book of your heart’s desire; to get and keep the sustaining passion going.
- To bring your manuscript to completion, in a way that is (a) deeply satisfying, and (b) publishable.
- To publish your book and share it with the world. (An option offered exclusively to my book-development clients.)
♥ READY TO START? ♥
Schedule a free phone consultation with me. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call me directly at (510) 465-3935 (Pacific Standard Time).
I look forward to the genuine privilege of helping you birth your book and bring your wisdom, creativity, beauty, and healing influence to readers across the world.
It’s your turn to be heard, now.
Let’s listen to you, together.