It’s important to discover the right publishing strategy for you and your books. You have more opportunities and options to publish your work today than ever before. This also means you have more decisions to make. Today, Literary Change Agent and Author Advocate April Eberhardt explains how to make your publishing choices and to find assistance on the self-publishing path, should you decide this is the right one for you. NA
There is no better time than now to grasp the reins of your publishing career and consider independently publishing your work. Why? Self-publishing is quickly becoming the New Normal as traditional publishers become more risk-averse and acquire far fewer books for smaller advances—and put little if any marketing dollars into promoting books, especially those written by unknown authors. In fact, most major publishers now monitor the growing stream of indie-published books online to pick out the fastest-selling ones and offer those authors publishing contracts. Some even have dedicated sites (like Harper Collins’ Authonomy) designed to enable unpublished authors to upload their work, and the site tracks manuscripts’ popularity, the aim being to pick the winners.
Even if you have published traditionally, you may want to consider a hybrid approach and publish some writing independently—for example, if you’ve written something in a different genre than your usual work, if you have a short or experimental piece, or if there’s an excerpt of a work in progress that’s particularly timely and you’d like to get it out now. So why not jump into the stream and begin finding your readers right away, along with increasing the odds that you’ll hit the big time sooner?
But wait! Before committing to self-publishing, be sure you “know what you don’t know.” As Holly Payne, author of the award-winning indie-published book, Kingdom of Simplicity, says, “‘Self-publishing’ is anything but ‘self.’” Effective, high-quality, error-free publishing requires a set of skills and an understanding of how things work to move a manuscript from Word document to published book.
If you decide to do it yourself, commit to doing it right. That means learning the publishing business, including knowing what makes a good book stand apart from the millions published each year. Be prepared to devote time to mastering the craft, doing a few practice runs, and making some mistakes along the way. Set your patience level to High, your frustration meter to Low, and plan to invest time and money in doing a high-quality job, as well as fixing the errors that inevitably occur while learning a new skill set and process.
If you’d rather focus on your writing, and are in a position to hire the expertise, consider finding and investing in a publishing intermediary or consultant. Publication consultants, a relatively new breed of professionals, include former publishers, former editors and even agents who understand the indie publishing business and can fast-track you through the process, helping you navigate smoothly and efficiently the myriad of decisions you’ll need to make at each step in the process.
A good consultant will ask focused questions up front to understand your goals and preferences, and based on those, will help you devise an overall publishing strategy. She will suggest an approach that meets your objectives and budget and will then guide you through the process so that the book you end up with, be it an e-book, a p-book, or both, will be the one you wish to share with the world with pride.
Expect a publishing consultant to advise you on:
- choosing or setting up a publishing entity
- editing, be it copyediting, line editing or developmental editing (and to define what each of these encompasses, as well as how much it may cost)
- book design, both cover and interior
- marketing and promotion, including activities you may wish or need to do yourself, as well as what expertise you might buy elsewhere
A publishing consultant in effect acts as a general contractor, identifying discrete resources who offer particular expertise in areas needed and planning and managing the overall process to the desired outcome.
Before beginning with a consultant, ask him about the approach he plans to take. Understand and agree in advance on what the costs will be. Ask for a contract, and spend time reviewing it to be sure you’re comfortable with its terms and costs. Ask for references from other clients. Very importantly, trust your instincts. Like any group of professionals, publication consultants differ in their strengths and approaches, and your goal should be to select a partner with whom you can work openly, comfortably and with full trust.
Many have asked why I as a literary agent would encourage authors to consider independent publishing. After all, historically an agent’s role has been to place an author’s manuscript with a traditional publisher for an advance, thereby earning the agent a commission on the sale. The answer is this: In these changing times, it’s much more difficult to find buyers for work, even for high-quality manuscripts and particularly for first-time authors such as the many I represent. I want to be able to offer authors a viable Plan B. After exhausting the traditional possibilities, which sometimes entails querying 50 or more editors, I encourage my clients to consider publishing their manuscript independently. If done in a high-quality manner, publishing one’s own work can, at the least, be a route to sales, modest market visibility, and delight in seeing one’s writing out in the world. At its best, indie publication can lead to major sales, substantial market visibility, great satisfaction, and even a traditional publishing contract—if in fact that’s what an author seeks. (Given the choice, some authors decide to continue publishing independently, due to bigger profits, better control, and greater overall satisfaction with the process.)
So think it over. With indie publishing rapidly gaining credibility and respect, you’ll want to consider all your options and develop a strategy that suits you and your goals. And if you do go indie, consider asking for assistance in navigating the confusing array of choices available to indie authors. With the right partnership in place, you’ll be prepared to step into the new world of publishing with confidence.
About the Author
A self-described “literary change agent,” April Eberhardt founded April Eberhardt Literary to assist and advise authors as they navigate the increasingly complex world of publishing. She understands both the traditional and electronic marketplaces, along with the evolving options for agent-assisted independent publishing. She represents clients worldwide, and divides her time between San Francisco, New York and Paris. Read more about April Eberhardt at http://www.aprileberhardt.com/
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