If you’re a new author starting a book project from the ground up, looking for guidance online, you may notice something right off the bat. Many “publishing guides” for new authors are ultimately just sales pitches for a specific publisher. They don’t provide a real business plan, they don’t walk you through the process, instead working mainly to convince you to choose a certain publisher. Whether their company can help you or not, you’ll need more than their “publishing guide” to really get started. What about a real publishing guide? What should you expect?
A publishing guide should show you how to run your book like a business. Particularly for new authors coming into the industry fresh, a publishing guide should not lose sight of the big picture. A guide should help you understand the publishing process, taking you from the thousand-foot view to the specific, so you can construct a realistic business plan after using the guide. You should be able to take that plan to another publisher, and have it still be relevant and usable. It should be easy to understand for someone who is taking their very first steps toward writing and publishing their first book. And perhaps above all else, it should offer a realistic way to run your book like a business to make sure that all of your hard work ultimately earns you money, rather than costing you.
Your Book Business
This means clearly laying out what kind of sales you will need to see a return on investment. For example, if you invest 25,000 in your book, and it sells for 3 dollars each, you will need to sell 8,344 copies to start seeing a return on your investment. If you go into the process knowing these figures ahead of time, you will understand how much is wise to invest, and what kind of sales plan you will need to start earning money back. There’s no need for any of this to be guesswork. Planning it all out in advance will ensure you know what you’re getting into, how much money you should spend, and ultimately, what kind of sales you will need to achieve with your marketing and promotion campaign. The earlier you start looking at these figures the better, and a good publishing guide can walk you through every step.
Money matters can drive your business plan, but you also need to know what you’re going to be investing in, and why. A publishing guide should walk you through processes you might never have thought about: when and why do big publishing houses use more than one editor, and should you? How do publishing houses go about finding cover designers, how do they test design concepts, and how can you best replicate that process? A publishing guide should help you through these decisions by explaining how the big publishers do it, and extending those concepts so they fit the scale of the individual author and self-publisher.
A Publishing Guide is NOT an Ad
The information should not stop once you’ve paid the publishing house! A good guide – not an ad piece dressed up as a guide – should help you with marketing and distribution as well. Without it, you might not consider things like whether or not to produce an audio book – and it should help you figure out how you would do that. It should help identify marketing channels, and ways to publicize your book: it should provide advice on how to get mentions in your local press, radio opportunities, reaching out to local businesses, for example. There are tried and true ways to reach your most likely audience, and a good guide will pull all that information together in one place so you don’t have to research all of it on your own.
Authors Have Different Strengths and Weaknesses
Self-publishing authors should not assume they can, or should, embark on the process alone. Writers should not be expected to be editors, illustrators, designers, and marketing experts. A good publishing guide will help you figure out the areas where you will need the most help, and will point you towards finding that help. There’s no one size fits all answer for this. Perhaps you are an author with marketing experience, but you are in need of a great editor. Perhaps you have design skills, but don’t know the first thing about promotion and distribution. A good publishing guide will help you zero in on those areas and take the next steps.
A good publishing guide will take you from completion of the actual writing, through editing, design, production, distribution, and marketing. It will direct you in developing your business proposal, and then help you turn that proposal into a plan. Most importantly, that plan will be portable: you can take it to any self-publisher and make it work for you. If you choose wisely, your publishing guide should be your friend and adviser, your roadmap through the sometimes complicated world of publishing a book.