April 8, 2023

Takeaways from My Publishing Experiences

When I finished my first book, I was beyond excited. It was an older child/younger youth book that boys and girls alike would love. At that time, I thought that if a book was excellent it would sell, and I knew that Jake and the Heavenly Host was an exceptional book for its targeted audience. It was action-packed, portrayed both the physical and spiritual realms, contained a kidnapping, the CIA, and terrorists. But once the book was finished, I wasn’t sure which direction in the publishing world to turn. I began sending out query letters with a copy of the manuscript to various companies then waited. The companies who read the book commented about how good it was and encouraged me to not give up on finding a publisher (the book wasn’t their publishing genera), but others returned my material with no comments or standard rejection letters. After dozens of these letters, I began calling myself the queen of rejection (I didn’t discover until recently that at least one other author referred to herself by this same title).
While waiting for a company to pick up my book, I continued writing. Three additional books in this series—all of which turned out every bit as good as the original—were completed during this time. Finally, in 1995, I decided that if my book was going to be published, I would need to do it myself. I contacted a printing company, but they didn’t do any marketing so that was left to me. At that time, I was living in a publishing dream world. I didn’t have a clue that hundreds of books were being produced daily, and I thought that the most excellent books would be picked up and fly off the shelves. I quickly learned that getting my books into the hands of traditional publishing companies and onto those shelves was the biggest problem, and that marketing was a monster of its own. I learned that even if you put a boatload of money into marketing, your book might still only sell to relatives, friends, and a few strangers. I also learned that some publishing companies are more interested in your outreach abilities than the quality of your book. Someone who has a ready-made audience (television program for example), even if their book is mediocre, will have less problem finding a traditional company than an excellent book with no audience. For those of you who don’t have a ready-made audience, I have the following suggestions:
First, be aware that the quality of your book is extremely important. If your book hasn’t been edited by a professional developmental editor, then that should be step one. As my first editor said, “Even an editor needs an editor, because we tend to read in our mistakes. We know what should be there, and that’s the way we read it.”
Second, knowing the market is important. For instance, a lot of readers are no longer readers but listeners. If you don’t have the money to publish a paperback book, or if you do but want a larger market, have your book recorded on audio. Don’t limit your audience.
Third, be willing to spend a good amount of money on marketing but try to eliminate strategies that make money for the marketer but not yourself. This can be a trial-and-error process effected by your genre.
Fourth, there are a lot of excellent books out there waiting to be published. So, ask yourself, “What is unique about my book?” There needs to be something about your book that sets it apart from others. Center on marketing that uniqueness.
Finally, if you have a ready-made audience, then you don’t need a traditional company to pick you up. But if you don’t have that audience and want your book picked up by a traditional company, you need to find an agent to represent you to those companies. Many, if not most, traditional companies won’t give you the time of day unless you have an agent. But be careful in this area, because you don’t want to hire an agent who will take your money and run. A good way to prevent fraud or laziness in this area is to find an agent who is willing to take a percentage of your profit once your book is picked up instead of an upfront payment. That way, if they don’t obtain a publishing company for you, they don’t get paid. But if they obtain one, they will make more money in the long run. In my way of thinking, I’d rather pay more money to the agent in percentage of books sold than never get my books published by a traditional company.
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February 2024

3 Responses

  1. I too would be scared to pay such an amount but if you do have the right agency/company who is willing to do the best for you, I’d say go for it! It’s an investment either way

  2. Hard to believe how everything have changed so quickly, the market for books is always changing and you’re just going to have to keep up

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