Finding a book publisher takes a lot of TLC: Talent, Luck, and Connections

Looking for a royalty-paying publisher for your book?

Ask yourself whether your writing skills and your ability to organize and express your ideas are up to taking on a book-length project. Tackling a book is different from putting together an article or an advertising piece: there’s a great deal more structure and development involved. If you’ve done some writing previously, ask others whether they believe you’re equipped for the task. The better your writing, the easier it will be to place your manuscript with a publisher. Do you have the talent required?

Whom do you know, and whom can you meet? If you have writer friends, can they introduce you to an agent or a publishing house editor? On your own or in collaboration with your publisher, you’ll need to contact media outlets, wholesalers and retailers, publicists, and possible readers because nowadays much of your success will be DIY–do it yourself. Being comfortable with multiple levels of social media is essential. What are your present and potential connections?

Talent and connections will get you a long way, but they’ll also have to be accompanied by a lot of good fortune. Will your book hit the market at just the right point in time to ensure sales? Ideally it will impress all (or at least several) of the people who matter in your field, and you’ll receive praise that will help you sell copies. The bridge between your talent, your connections, and sales is a large measure of luck. JK

Price your book at what YOU, not Amazon, think it’s worth.

No one knows the value of your book better than you and your publisher, so why shouldn’t you have a say in how it’s priced? And shouldn’t you be the decision maker who determines how long your book remains at its stated price? Of course you should.

You decided to write your book. You did the research and planning. You put the words together. It doesn’t make sense for a marketing company to tell you how much all that effort is worth. That’s your decision. If your decisions are disregarded, you have the right to walk away

If you believe in your book’s value to your audience, then you should set its price as a paperback, hardcover, or electronic book. Your time and your effort have very real value, and you deserve to receive as high a return on that investment as you think is fair and reasonable and salable.

Imagine coming up with an idea for a new household product, something unique and revolutionary that’s never been seen before.  You do all the research and development, design, and manufacturing, and decide that a competitive retail price for your product–one that will help you recover the investment of your time and effort and make some measure of profit–will be $39.95. You turn to Sears, Walmart, and Macy’s to market your product, and they tell you they’ll put it in their stores, but they plan to sell it for $3.99–or $7.99–or $9.99. Even at their highest price, you stand to lose thirty bucks on every sale made. Who would agree to such a foolish deal? You’re certainly not going to “make it up on volume” and will only go deeper in the hole with every item sold.

There are really are only three variables to consider when offering a product (your book) or service for sale: Time, Quality, and Cost. You know the time and effort that went into your book. You know that you’ve produced a quality book that fulfills a need your readers will see as a benefit. And so it should be you who decides what the cost of that book should be to your readers.

Seven questions to ask yourself about your writing

1. Is my tone correct? Readers react most strongly to a writing tone that is warm but not effusive, conversational but not chatty, informative but not pedantic, professional but not stiff. Talk to your reader as if he or she were sitting across from you.

2. Does my writing flow smoothly? Well organized writing moves logically from beginning to middle to end, with appropriate transitions and logical conclusions.

3. Is my writing economical? Overly wordy, pretentious, and patronizing writing quickly becomes tiresome. Readers have limited time and patience. Brevity and clarity best convey ideas.

4. Is my writing style interesting and engaging? Varied sentences–some long, some short–evocative language, properly used vocabulary, and active verbs give strength to writing.

5. Is my writing mechanically correct? Poor grammar, misspellings, misuses, “insider” language, jargon (especially when incorrect), and cumbersome construction all detract from the message.

6. Is my message clear? Readers want and deserve to know a writer’s purpose, point of view, and whether the writer advocates a particular course of action. They should not be left wondering where the writer stands.

7. Does my writing grab the reader? Effective writing involves the reader not just at the outset but throughout the book, again and again.

You Ought to Write a Book

Find out how at www.sallychapralis.com/blog.

Are you a page turner or a button pusher?

“‘[M]ateriality matters.’ The reading experience includes manual activities and haptic perceptions (what the skin and muscles and joints register), and so as activities and perceptions of that kind are changed from one kind of reading experience to another because of the object, the reading experience, too, will change.”

There’s an interesting article in the Chronicle of Higher Education that compares reading, especially textbook reading, to reading a physical, printed, ink-on-paper book. Conclusion? One effect . . . is that the digital text makes us read “in a shallower, less focused way.” That, I think, is a critical factor for all writers to consider as they write both for print and for on-screen media. JK

 

A cool fact for a hot summer day

Next time you’re cruising down the road in air conditioned comfort or sleeping soundly on a hot, humid night, take a moment to give thanks for the publishing industry. Willis Carrier invented air conditioning in 1902 to combat inking problems for his employer, the Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing & Publishing Company in Brooklyn, New York. Believe it or not, its initial intent was not to improve comfort levels for people but was instead to control humidity so ink would adhere to paper more consistently. TK

Some thoughts about e-reading

Writing in the New York Times,  Verlyn Klinkenborg sings the praises both of electronic and traditionally produced ink-on-paper books. Of printed books, he appreciates that  “[t]hey do nothing. . .what I really love is their inertness. . .The book is the book, whereas, in electronic formats, the book often seems to be merely the text.”

Regarding e-books, Klinkenborg confesses, “The truth is that I need. . .help to keep reading, especially as much as I always have. The question isn’t what will books become in a world of electronic reading. The question is what will become of the readers we’ve been—quiet, thoughtful, patient, abstracted—in a world where interactive can be too tempting to ignore.”

Are there so many bells-and-whistles distractions inherent in electronic books that our abilities as readers are diminished? JK

From Stet, the newsletter of the Independent Writers of Chicago

July Meeting Reprise
There wasn’t an empty seat in the room as two-time IWOC past president Jim Kepler told a rapt audience how we could take material we might have already written, put it together in book form, publish it, and then use the book to promote ourselves for other jobs. He had a solution for those who don’t have enough related clips too. It started with “Take a box…” (or a virtual box, i.e., a computer folder). From there he gave us step-by-step instructions on how to compile materials on our topic of interest, how to define our chapters and our focus, and so on. Kepler also had a myriad of tips for shameless promotion using our newly minted book. Hint: if you’ve never written a press release, now would be a good time to start. He advised starting small by sending press releases to local civic and social organizations and offering to be a speaker. From there, you can parlay the little fish into bigger fish. To find out more about this excellent presentation, you can download or read the detailed handout on the members-only landing page.

[Not an IWOC member? Click on http://www.adamspress.com/, add a note under “Comments,” and I’ll send you the article and handouts. JK]

O Muse, Where Art Thou?

If you’re a writer waiting for inspiration to strike, follow the advice of Huffington Post’s Gretchen Rubin:

Don’t.

Rubin’s 13 Tips for Actually Getting Some Writing Done are among the best I’ve seen. One I especially like is “[T]ry going for a walk and reading a really good book.” Hard to do simultaneously perhaps, and that walk stuff may be way too healthful for some, but reading a book is wonderfully therapeutic for sufferers of writer’s block. There’s something about allowing thoughts to percolate in the back of your mind while reading the well crafted words of a good writer that actually helps you discover precisely what you want to write and how you want to express it.

Take a look at Rubin’s tips. It’s well worth the read. JK

BookWords

The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.

—Agatha Christie (1890–1976)

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