The Traditional Publishing Roadmap
Selling your manuscript for an advance on royalties is a dream come true for the thousands of authors whose works line the shelves of bookstores around the world. What’s really involved in traditionally publishing your book? Here’s a look into that process.
The details involved in traditional book publishing seem like a labyrinth for many authors. But really it’s rather straightforward, requiring only some common sense, focused attention and a bit of work.
Let’s delve into the nitty gritty – what it takes to build and publish your book.
Building Your Book, One Stroke at a Time
Now that you’ve connected with an agent and inked the right deal with a publisher, you’re ready to build your book. Getting an editor involved is usually the first step preparing your manuscript for publication. A professional editor will know your genre and marketplace far better than you do, and they can provide feedback you might not have considered.
Ernest Hemingway refined his manuscripts 30 times or more before calling them good. Many authors agree that the majority of the writing process is rewriting, and it’s a lot of work!
Even though you may feel that your book is finally finished now, don’t put the brakes on this process. Your editor will add refinements that will take your work to a whole new level. Every best seller starts with a great manuscript, so don’t be discouraged when your editor requires rewrites.
Once you’ve got your final edit, now it’s time to consider the title, sub-title, and cover art. You may have concepts for them worked out for yourself, but once again, be sure to get professional help with these all important features. What’s inside your book won’t matter if your book’s title and cover don’t entice the book shopper to buy.
Now that you have a final draft, you will need to have it proofed again – check for typos, spelling, grammar and word choice. Almost invariably, the layout process introduces errors into your manuscript. Using a professional to proof your book layout will pay you dividends down the road and will save money in the long term.
Countdown to Launching Your Book
Once you’ve written your book, you’ve completed 10% of the work involved in the publishing picture. Launching your book truly takes a full-court press. Many authors dislike this part of the equation, but the work is necessary for the ambitious author.
This piece of the book marketing puzzle usually falls onto the shoulders of the publisher. However, that doesn’t mean the author has no responsibility in launching the book – far from it!
Publishers do run ads on billboards and buses for their most successful authors, but this is a kind of attention that has to be earned.
Launching your book involves making the Trade aware that your book exists and demonstrating why it’s worth stocking on their shelves. This involves getting the word out to retail buyers, library buyers, book critics in trade publications and bloggers.
Getting your book into the marketplace is complicated, especially when you consider all the many types of outlets for your book. The most common outlet for selling books is the retail bookstore, but there are several other outlets for selling books as well.
For example, libraries are an often overlooked source of revenue for authors. They buy in volume, and they require more durable bindings, such as hardback. Connecting with these choice book buyers is not hard, but it does require an in. Usually the best way to start is through publicity in trusted publications like The Library Journal.
Corporate buyers are also a hotbed of sales for non-fiction authors. Developing these relationships require time and trust, which is often one of the tradeoffs you choose to make when working with a traditional publisher who have pre-existing relationships with dozens and dozens of professional book buyers.
It’s up to the author to generate a bit of buzz and heat about their book through press releases, social media and live events. Many of the most widely known authors have hired a publicist or agency to manage the bulk of their book launch. They are widely known because of the choice to invest in building awareness for their book.
One Made for Success author in Australia, the CEO of a credit union, hired a publicity firm to launch his book. His PR representative was successful in booking the author within the in-flight programming with Australia’s largest airline. This is one example of a hidden opportunity found by a PR professional to generate awareness with a relevant audience.
One way to promote your book with a splash is to do book signings in stores and libraries. This means you appear at a bookstore, give a brief talk about your book, and sign copies for attendees. In certain circles, it’s a glamorous kind of event – nerd chic. In any crowd, it’s a great way to make the buying public aware that you are launching your book.
Wagging the Long Tail
There are two phases in the life of a published book: The Front List and the Back List. Each one has its merits and its own economy.
Front List Titles – These books are fresh off the press, and the publisher is actively promoting them. The author is in motion promoting the work as well, doing bookstore signings, media interviews and public appearances. This period is typically two to three months.
Back List Titles – This is the life of the book after its initial launch, often called the long tail. A quality book may produce royalties for the author for years to come if it’s handled properly. The beauty of this stage of the publishing business is that if you’re an author, your work is mostly done. You can rest on your laurels if you like and simply collect royalty checks.
However, the wise author will continue promoting their books even after the titles move to the Back List. One truism about the consumer market is that if someone likes your work, they will want all of you. Promoting your writing to book clubs, professional associations or through speaking engagements is a great way to ensure that your royalties remain high and that your Back List titles remain active.
Writing and publishing your book can be a long process. Even after you land that all-important publishing contract, the timeline to build your book and get it into the marketplace is a long waiting game. It can take eighteen months or more to see your precious work on the shelf.
This is a great time to promote your book, book speaking engagements, write your next book and keep the hits coming!
Bryan Heathman is the CEO of Made for Success Publishing and the host of the Book Publishing Success podcast show. Bryan works with best-selling business authors, including NYT best-selling authors Chris Widener and Tom Hopkins, plus up-and-coming authors including Todd Stottlemyre. Bryan is the author of #1 Best Seller: Book Marketing Reinvented, a marketing book on how to successful launch book to #1 best seller. Bryan’s Fortune 500 experience includes Microsoft, Eastman Kodak and Xerox.