Writers should plan to publish so we don’t leave the power of story to people such as Donald Trump, who want to dismiss, distort, distract, and divide. Our job is to find something we love and share it with the rest of the world, to open doors to what it means to be human. To do this we’ll need to do more than write about it in a book.
To plan to publish we need to have developed ways to pitch our book to publishers and the people that are waiting to read it. This includes blurbs, synopses, and titles. It is not hard to get people to ask what we are writing about, but we should develop an answer, which grabs people’s interest. It is much harder to come up with a pitch for our book after we have finished our masterpiece.
Get ourselves out there
To plan to publish, we must get out there and attract a community. This is essential in, for example, developing our promise to our readers. The zeitgeist is always changing. The ideas we curate in our writing should be original and give our book its takeaways. How we do this should be part of our promise to our readers.
I hope the trend for stories about strong men with swords and horses is coming to an end and the trend for strong female characters with intelligence and technology has started. When I say this to my friends and they don’t scoff, I might be right. And how else could I know?
When we are ready to publish, we should position our pitch just in front of a developing trend. Our pitch should promote both our brand and the edge of the book (the selling points). This will be much easier if we have a well-developed promise to our readers and know what our book’s takeaways are.
Hemmingway did this without the internet when he went to Paris. Joining bohemia in Paris may not be an option for us, but now the internet gives us many other ways we can create a community. Some of the opportunities will suit us, and our creative goals.
In the time before Google, getting a publisher could be the beginning and end of our plan to publish and market our books, but now self-publishing is practical and self-marketing is essential. To become popular authors, we’ll have to venture into the enormous massless playground that is the internet.
We’ll need different pitches for different publishing methods and types of work, such as novels and short stories. As with any journey, the better we know the landscape and the destination, the better prepared we can be. for a more extensive explanation of these ideas see Book Marketing Strategies, which is available on a pre-published preview
To plan to publish we should find publishers and agents that may be interested in what we are writing, so we can follow them. We should find opportunities to try our pitch out before we have finished the book. Submitting short stories and guest blogging is worthwhile.
Self-publishing has advantages and disadvantages. However, even in this time of Covid 19, the ‘gold-standard’ remains, get a traditional publisher if you can. See “How Credible is Self-Publishing?”
Despite being considered the best option. there are many sad stories from authors that have signed up to unscrupulous publishers (see avoid potential scams). Big traditional publishers can’t afford to be unethical to their writers, but not all arrangements with publishers are better than nothing. Make sure you’ve done your research into any publisher you’ve chosen. Get an independent review such as from The Alliance Of Independent Authors.
To help us navigate the publishing landscape, the strengths and weaknesses of different publishing services are set out below. There are different ways to categorise these services. These are the categories, which are most relevant to writers. They are in order of how much the writer, using these services, would have to do to become an author.
Getting an Agent
Literary agents should be familiar with publishing and promoting books and avoid potential scams. They have connections in publishing companies and should also know the zeitgeist. They should plan to publish our masterpieces while we get on with writing.
They’ll be responsible for promoting and selling our books. They should be passionate about the takeaways of our book and support our promise to our readers.
We should draw up a shortlist of suitable candidates from sources such as Australian Literary Agent’s Association. These agents should represent books and authors within our genre. Many good authors can’t find Agents. In the time of Covid 19, getting accepted is a matter of reaching the right agent at the right time. Good luck.
It is worth trying our pitch with traditional publishers, even if we haven’t secured an agent. They are important influencers, as they can have a much bigger presence in a reading community than a writer. This is a big help in promoting our books to the people who are waiting for them. Publishers refuse many good books. Even if our book is accepted, we’ll have to do most of the promoting work.
Many publishers don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts and you may need to attract an agent first if you’re interested only in traditional publishers.
Publishers that are suitable for our books may provide a window of time where they accept unsolicited manuscripts. This can be a day in a month, or a week in a year. These windows can be hard to find and if you aren’t good at searching the internet, joining a writing group would be a good idea, as these groups should be aware of such windows.
One way of developing a pitch for a publisher is by doing a Market Position plan. I found an illustration of the importance of marketing to a publisher in the article Literary Agents Seeking Fresh Voices.
Here is a template for submitting to a publisher, but different publishers require different formatting, so check what they want. To find publishers in Australia, look at The Writing Cooperative. For a publisher in a Western Australian reading community, Fremantle Press. For publishers by genre, Publishers Accepting Unagented Manuscripts,
Hybrid publishers charge for publishing services. Their services include editorial, design, and production work. They’ll also get a share from profits of book sales. Before we choose this kind of publisher, we need to be satisfied that the hybrid publisher bears responsibility for producing, distributing, and ultimately selling professional-quality books. They should be good value compared to self-publishing.
For a hybrid publisher to help us become a popular author, they should be good to have in our corner. If it is only a business relationship, we would be better off self-publishing. Not having as big an initial outlay, these publishers can be smaller and give us individual attention, but this means they are unlikely to be able to market a book better than we can.
Vanity press is an old-fashioned term that refers to an unscrupulous publisher that invites authors to send in their manuscripts. They make elaborate promises for the books, charge fees or a co-payment to assess and publish them. If you pay enough, vanity presses will print books of any quality without adhering to professional publishing standards. These publishers will take money, take away rights and give no assistance to make us a popular author. These unscrupulous publishers are preying on our love for writing and are responsible for many sad stories, which were not the ones we want to write.
Only spend money on publishers that adhere to the Independent Book Publisher’s Association Hybrid Publishing Criteria, This should avoid Vanity Presses that make money from scamming authors rather than from giving readers what they are looking for.
Self-publishing our books
Web-based publishers such as Smashwords or D2D will accept most books (see Top 10 Self-Publishing Companies: A 2018 Guide for First-Time Authors), but they have a small following and although they are getting better, don’t help much with marketing. Smashwords has a well-written style guide that gives a useful template in which to write books. I published my first two eBooks with Smashwords and would recommend them for writers willing to do the marketing.
In combination with e-publishing our book, we can also plan to publish hard copies of our books using print-on-demand from companies such as IngramSpark. This is a printing technology and business process in which our books can be printed in single or small quantities. Set the price so a single book can be printed and sent without losing money and don’t get too many printed at one time. Around ten is a good number for a new author. (I know, I don’t believe that ten is enough either, but it is what people who have done it tell me).
The Amazon platform now has an enormous share of the book market. If they get it all, it could be a disaster for writers and readers, so please don’t exclusively distribute books through Amazon. Anyway, I distribute through both Amazon and Smashwords and sell many more books through Smashwords.
Publishing directly to distribution platforms
The algorithms of web-based publishers are excellent at converting a manuscript into formats appropriate for book distributors, but if you have time and an aptitude for iThings, you could do it better through programs such as Jutoh. I’m not using Jutoh, but don’t tell my friend, Andrew J Harvey. He has explained how to do this in part two of How to publish an eBook. I prefer to use Calibre and Smashwords, but when I have more experience with block editing on my website, I might change my mind. If you don’t know what block editing is, don’t bother with publishing directly.
There are printing services that print books without any other publishing services. In a printing contract, the author should retain ownership of the master form or template that make reprints easier. If there are graphics, it may not be possible to reprint with the same quality without them.