Publisher Interview: What to Expect when Publishing Your Book
PUBLISHER INTERVIEW: WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN PUBLISHING YOUR BOOK
The fairytale version of finishing a book goes something like this: You dramatically pull a final book page from the typewriter carriage, stack it on top of a huge pile of papers, stuff it into a bulky package, rush ship it to your favorite publisher, and immediately get a call praising your book and offering you top dollar. Of course, we all know that’s not how it really works.
With the advent of self-publishing, authors have a significant amount of choice in their publishing process, and with so many traditional, self, and niche publishers to choose from, the publishing process looks different for everyone. So what should you really expect when publishing your book?
To help us understand how to separate the publishing fairytale from the reality, we recently spoke with Ella Hearrean Ritchie from Stellar Communications, a company that specializes in helping authors through the publishing process.
What are the pros of traditional publishing and self-publishing, respectively?
Let’s start with traditional publishing. This is where you take the time to research the publishers that may be interested in your manuscript, send them a query letter, and wait to find out if they will represent you and your book.
The pros here are the publishing house often bears all or most expenses. Also, you and your book have instant credibility as well as an instant audience for broader reach, which could mean greater royalties.
At the other end of the spectrum is self-publishing. As a self-published author, you own the rights to your book, and you stay in full control of the content and marketing.
What would you consider to be some of the cons of traditional publishing and self-publishing?
The cons of traditional publishing include waiting to hear back on whether your book is accepted, which can take a while. And because many people are vying for a chance with the publisher, the chances of being selected are slim. The publishing house might also have additional stipulations, such as required attendance at book events.
Some of the downsides to traditional publishing are that you are working with a really large team, and are ultimately accountable to the publishing house itself. Expect to ask someone for approval every time you want to make changes or conduct an outside-of-the-box marketing campaign. You’re not necessarily an entrepreneur, but more of an employee.
The downside to self-publishing and making every decision on your own is that you may not be making the best decisions. This path can also feel pretty confusing and overwhelming at times because of the hundreds of big and small decisions that come with creating a book on your own. Unfortunately, a telltale sign of a self-published book is when quality is sacrificed for the sake of the budget. Readers can often spot a “do it yourself” book and won’t take the writing seriously. This takes away from your credibility and can hurt your marketing efforts.
You can, however, engage a project manager to help coordinate the process. This option is more costly than self-publishing completely on your own, but may prove a worthy investment in the long run.
What is the first thing someone should do before approaching a publishing company to self-publish?
Picking the right publisher, for you, is the first step to a peaceful process. Take the time to list your goals and expectations as the driving points for your conversation with any publishing company.
Beyond your list of goals you’d like to accomplish, if you’re a first-time author, it can be difficult to know what to look for and what to avoid in a publisher. Before you approach any company, talk to other self-published authors about their experiences. Educate yourself on any potential pitfalls or areas of concern, and then you’ll be better prepared to ask the right questions.
What are the most common misconceptions you hear from people when a writer approaches you about a potential project?
One common misconception is that a quality book can be quickly and easily produced. While it’s true that “printing on demand” has made book publishing more accessible than ever, the reality is that a lot of time and attention to detail go into each step of the publishing process. When an author tells me that there’s “not much to do” to develop a manuscript into a book, there is always a little more to do. Whether the remainder is really big or small, there’s always another detail.
Another big misconception is that books reap profits. The truth is that it can take a lot of time and money to produce and market a book, and there is no guarantee that an author will recoup the investment.
What is the biggest initial hurdle to starting the publishing process with a new client?
One thing that I notice in manuscripts is that great detail is taken when preparing the manuscript itself. But, the overall marketing of the book and the cover concept hasn’t been given much thought. Most authors come armed with the body of a manuscript and maybe one or two additional elements, and it’s often the job of the publisher to create a complete marketing plan and cover concept, and show how this can enhance the author’s overall story. Most authors don’t realize that their manuscripts are not complete when they are submitted.
What should an author expect to do to make his or her book successful? What does a successful book look like?
A successful book is all about being clear on your goals and expectations.
Some authors want a family history book that captures their legacy for future generations, so a beautiful, durable hardcover book that is printed for the family is their definition of success.
Other authors want to spread a message to as many people as possible, so an affordable paperback book with appealing content that is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble is their definition of success.
It’s really up to the author’s vision.
What are some of the stereotypes that you’ve run into when approached by writers?
Some of the negative comments that I’ve heard about self-publishers are that they take money without fulfilling promises, that they’re unresponsive, and that they don’t pay attention to details that matter to the author. The comments seem to boil down to one stereotype, which is that publishers don’t care about the author. Unfortunately, there is some truth to this stereotype. I’ve heard some horror stories and have experienced a few disappointments myself. This is why it is so important to take the time to choose a publisher that is right for you and your book.
*Stellar Communications is a book publishing team that delivers quality content on time to nonfiction authors, business leaders, nonprofit organizations, and federal government agencies.
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