If writing is an art, then publishing is a business, and like any business, it takes careful planning to succeed. Today, Stephanie and Angela begin a series of discussions on what happens after a book has been written, including dressing your book up for its first “interview,” thinking like a critic, budgeting your time and money, and, of course, marketing.
Stephanie: Angela and I have been editing collectively for 31 years, and in this podcast, we try to take some of the confusion out of writing and publishing your book.
Today we are discussing writing as a business. I know a lot of authors get caught up in the creative phase of writing their book, and sometimes they never give any thought to who’s going to read their text or how they’re going to get their book to the attention and awareness of their audience. But that’s really something you need to consider very early on. Of course we’ve talked before about the importance of determining your audience, and we’ve hinted how that can be used in marketing, but again, you have to have a long range plan for that. And just as important as that is having a plan in mind as early, in drafting phase, as possible as well. I know. Almost like a business plan.
I know that can sound really scary. And I’m not talking at the traditional business plan. But you have to think about who you’re going to publish with, how you’re going to publish, whether it’s traditionally or self-publishing, you have to think about how you’re going to distribute and market the book, and how you’re going to pay for any of this. Because even, say, if you go the traditional route, some marketing may be left to you and you may have to foot the bill for your transportation or whatever. So you have to start taking a long range view of things.
Finally, you have to also think about how you’re going to create your author brand, which is the public face of you as a published author. So, I know that’s a lot to cover, but Angela and I wanted to bring this up because, again, so many authors do get caught up in the creative phase. We want to bring to your attention that there is so much more for you to be thinking about now that you’ve written your book.
Angela: How in depth are we going to discuss the business side of things like marketing, and researching publication options, and things like that?
Stephanie: We are not going to talk about that a whole lot. I have a business background, but certainly a lot in publishing, the business side. There is, of course, the Editor’s Corner blog, but then Dog Ear also has the Publisher’s Corner blog. They have a lot of articles out there that are superb at getting you started in thinking about all of these things. So really, I think that you and I, if you agree, we should stick to the writing and editing aspect.
Angela: I think it’s probably a good idea. Like you said, the Publisher’s Corner, it’s got a huge amount of articles. Everything from pre-production to actual production to post-production. So everything from writing and editing tools all the way through royalty checks. I definitely think listeners should go and check that out. It’s available on the Dog Ear website under the blog link at the very top on the right hand side.
Stephanie: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And I highly recommend those articles. Again, I don’t … Sorry. I got lost there. I’ve read all of them, and doing my own research as well, for writing my own book. They’ve been very, very helpful in helping me to think about those things that I … A couple of times, hit myself on the forehead and went, “Oh my god, I can’t believe I never thought about that. That’s important.”
Angela: Right, right. Well, publishing has changed so much. It changes all the time, but even in the last ten years with e-books and just the cost of production of books going up, it’s just … it’s almost … I want to use the term it’s grown into a monster. Not to be, “Oh my god, it’s so scary.” But it’s just become this huge forest, and there’s so much to learn and even-
Angela: … yeah, traditional publishing companies. It’s just not like it used to be. There’s a lot, I think, everybody has to get caught up on, and thankfully there are tons of ways to do that. And making it easy like going through the Publisher’s Corner articles, it’s probably pretty helpful, because there is definitely a lot to think about.
Stephanie: Right. And it used to be, if you wanted to be a published author you went to the bookstore and you got one or two or five or 20 books telling you how to navigate the publication world. And now, a lot of people still have that idea in mind, that you just submit your manuscript to a traditional publisher and they like it. If they like it they buy it and you get money, you get royalties, and they take care of everything for you. That’s really just not the way it works.
Angela: No. Not anymore.
Angela: You’re even, most of the times, required to submit a marketing plan to traditional, even large publishers. Yeah. It’s not as easy as it used to be.
Stephanie: So, yeah, self-publishing is great for those control freaks among us. And like you said, Angela, we are now at that point where an author really needs to consider every aspect of the book as a business anyway, even if going the traditional publishing route. So like you said, if you have to know that anyway, why not learn it all? There’s a lot of stuff out there on the internet, again, the Publisher’s Corner is a great place to go to get started on that. Because you can think about writing your book, and you’re writing your book and you’re creative and you’ve got it all written, and you’re like, “Yes! I’m done and I can publish it.” But then again, you do have to consider, “Okay, now the real work begins.” Because the creative part was the easy part.
Angela: Exactly. Well, the better educated you are about all these things … it’s going to save you time. It’s definitely going to save you money. It’s definitely going to save you effort. We’re talking about everything from, like you said, creating a budget, what kind of publication options exist for the book that you’ve written. Gosh, even avoiding publication scams, because there are certainly fly by night publishers that are out there to make a really quick buck. Your book covered, advertising, social media, royalty checks, all those things, there’s a lot to consider. And it’s really great to have the knowledge to help you through it, because you are going to have to go through everything. Traditional publisher or self-publisher, all of it is going to be at your door waiting for you. The more you know, the better off you’re going to be.
Stephanie: Absolutely. Yeah. You’ve got your manuscript written, and now what? You’re looking at it going, “Oh my gosh, now I have to worry about business?” Start with the idea, okay, figure out who you want to have edit your book. Some publishing houses will do that for you. And by publishing houses I also mean self-publishers. Some publishers will include that, some won’t. Maybe you know somebody who will edit it for you. Maybe you know someone who is a really good editor, not just who’s really good at English or reads a lot. We’ve talked about that before. Which is not to knock their skill, but there are particular skills as an editor that you are trained in.
Angela: Which makes it sound like a Liam Neeson thriller movie. We have very particular set of skills. Yes. Keep going.
Stephanie: That makes it sound so much more elaborate.
Angela: Yes, it does, doesn’t it? Yes, we’re very cool that way.
Stephanie: Writing as a business.
Angela: Finding the right editor. Yep. Finding a good editor.
Stephanie: So yes, find your right editor. And sometimes that’s going to be your deciding factor in who you’re going to publish with, right?
Stephanie: Maybe that’s going to be your most important focus. If you know that you are really, really, really good at writing and you don’t need as much focus on editing, all the publishers out there have different strengths and weaknesses just like individuals do. And if you know that your weakness is going to be in … maybe you’re an introvert and you know your weakness is going to be marketing and promoting your stuff. Maybe you’re going to want to make sure to get a publisher who can really focus on that marketing for you.
This is the kind of stuff that you need to start thinking about early on, because it’s going to affect your budget. As we said, depending on who you choose for your publisher and what you need done, where your weaknesses lie and you need someone else to do more of that for you, you’re going to have to pay, right?
Angela: Exactly, exactly. I think of it as almost like researching for a job interview. You have to research your prospective employer. You want to know what kind of people that you’re going to be dealing with, what kind of environment you’re getting into, what they expect you … I … dressing up your book, making sure it’s spell-checked, it’s been critiqued, and everything’s ready, and you’ve got your nice suit and tie, and you’ve asked enough questions so that when you go into that interview you have your feet under you. You know what you need, you know what the company is going to be able to provide you, and you’re there to make sure everything is as you think it is.
Stephanie: Right. I like the comparison you use as thinking of it as an interview, because you also need to consider that, most likely, you’re going to be working with these people for months.
Angela: Oh, yes. Yes.
Stephanie: You could maybe go the Amazon route. I don’t even know if this is still the way it is, where you submit files and they just publish it. That used to be a thing. I’m sure there are still groups out there that do that. In that respect, you might not be working with people for a long time, but you will still have designers, marketers. There are people you’re going to be working for a long time.
Angela: Well, even self-publishing from start to finish takes, what did we read about? 12 to 16 weeks once the book is submitted? It is … self-publishing I think of … it’s probably a little bit easier of a publication process than a traditional publisher. I keep thinking of the statistic that it can take a year at a self-publisher. Have you heard that? That from the time that you submit your book to the time it’s finally in print.
Stephanie: I had not heard that, but I’m not surprised. Again, I’m not involved in the full process of production, but I do see more of things than just the editing side. And I know that some books come back to us. Sometimes they come back for review of the edits from the author, and it’s been months, their production. Your book gets laid out, and then you have to look at it, and make sure you like it. Yeah, I wouldn’t be at all surprised by a year.
Angela: Right. So I guess that’s the thing, too. You have to be in it for the long haul. You’re going to get sick of it at some point. That’s the same way you get sick of writing your book when you’re working on it, but I think that’s the best part about being able to find that the company you want to work with, that the publisher you want to work with, that even those times that you’re having a tough time sticking with it you know that in the long run you’re going to be okay.
Stephanie: Right. And you want to make sure … For some reason this popped up. Some publishers … I don’t know … are there some who try to rush you through? So that if you do need to take three months to work on your book, are they going to be hassling you to hurry up, hurry up, hurry up or are they going to allow you that time to really make sure that you’re focusing on quality?
Angela: Well, I think on the same token, if you have this absolute desire, you want it out to be ready by the Christmas buying season, that you have a publisher that will work with you to make that happen. Because-
Stephanie: Right. And so that is another thing that’s very important when you go into that interview, I love using that phrase now, is that making sure to ask them, “Okay, realistically, here’s my goal. Is this going to be possible?”
Angela: Right, right. Yeah, because it’s not just … I think everybody thinks, or not everybody, but a lot of people think of publishers as these titans of industry, these giants and untouchables. But these are just people and you have to work with them, and you’re putting in a ton of time and effort and sometimes even money. So if you aren’t comfortable with them, if you don’t like what they have to say, then you don’t have to do that. You can find somebody else. You’re not stuck.
Stephanie: Right. And there are lots of options out there.
Angela: Oh, yes.
Stephanie: I don’t want to say, “Hey, do a lot of research so you’re caught in indecision.” But you do want to make sure … I think it would be easier to take a little more time up front to find who you’re comfortable with and who can answer your questions, and does so in a timely manner and on time that it feels comfortable to you, so that you don’t end up wanting to change down the road. I would think it would be easier to go the right way the first time.
Stephanie: Of course you’re going to learn lessons.
Angela: You remember that we’ve had, recently actually, dealt with manuscripts coming in from a company that went bankrupt, which we will not name, obviously. But that people had gotten almost all the way through the publication process, the company went bankrupt, and they had to start all the way over again. So, nothing disparaging about those authors, because I am sure they have been through the ringer and just done with it, but if you can get a solid idea of where the company that you’re wanting to work with stands … it doesn’t always work. Things pop up that completely unforeseen.
Stephanie: Right. Things happen.
Angela: Yeah, exactly. On the same token, too, you may have your manuscript back and be in the middle of revisions ready for publication and something happens on your side. A family member gets sick, or you have to work extra hours for a couple months, and that derails things a little bit. But I think the better prepared you are in the beginning, as with anything in life, you’re going to spend a lot less time and money on what you’re trying to accomplish.
Stephanie: Yeah. Absolutely. I was just thinking about that and considering all of the things that we have talked about, thinking as a business prospect writing a book can be scary.
Angela: Yeah. It can.
Stephanie: In traditional publishing, a lot of times, you would submit a manuscript and then you lost control of it. So what ended up getting published may not have been your work at all. But you knew that something probably reasonably close to what you had written was going to be published.
Stephanie: And so now, that’s changed somewhat. With self-publishing, now you have more control over the content, but maybe not quite so much control … how do I want to say that? You have to also be more involved in the rest … Oh my gosh, I completely lost that thought. Oh, this is terrible. Read my mind, Angela.
Angela: Yes. I was going to say, I’ve been thinking about it in terms of … We’ll, control is kind of an interesting term, because I’m not sure there was ever control. Especially if you’re sending out to a traditional publisher in, say, the 1950s and they choose the cover artist, and they choose the editor, and they choose the person that’s writing the cover copy and what the cover copy’s going to say.
Today it’s not like that. I think a lot of publishers are wanting you to be involved in it as much as possible. But I don’t think, necessarily, that it’s because they want your input as much as it makes it easier for them. That the more you’re involved, and you say, “Yeah, I’ve got this great marketing plan.” That’s less work and money and time for them to spend. So they’re able to make more money and yet spend less. Do you know what I mean?
Stephanie: Yeah. Thank you. I think that was really [inaudible 00:18:09]-
Angela: You’re welcome.
Stephanie: … was trying to go with that was that, yes, you now have more control over some things, in self-publishing, especially compared to traditional publishing. You now have more things that you have control over, but that can be so scary, thinking, “Well, I’m responsible for this now. I can’t just hand it over and trust that somebody’s going to completely care for this baby.” It’s where we have to step back and look at our writing and our book not as a baby. We still want to handle it with kid gloves, but we do have to respect that it does need to be marketed and we have to dress it up. You’re nursing it along.
Angela: Yes, exactly.
Stephanie: I’m saying, you have to look at it not as a baby, and then I’m talking about how to treat it as a baby, right?
Angela: I was going to say, all of the men in the audience just go, “Nursing? What are you talking about? We don’t do that.”
Stephanie: Nursing it along, though, right?
Angela: Figuratively speaking. Yes, figuratively speaking.
Stephanie: Right. It really is like being a parent. You do have to let it go. You have to do all of this planning at the early stages to set it up for success in the final stages. So as a child, while it’s a child, you have to do all of these things. Figure out what you’re going to do for marketing, what you’re going to do for publishing, how you’re going to create your voice, and how everybody’ going to see you. And you have to get that all set up early on so that as it progresses, it can just take on a life of its own and you’re just nudging and hinting here, like when it’s a teenager. Don’t get too involved.
Angela: Well, it’s funny. Yes. I think that’s the perfect description of it. It’s like raising a kid. You’ve got this thing that you’ve created, and you think it’s the awesomest thing ever. Nobody else’s is nearly as good as yours, obviously. So you have to take care of it, nurture it, and get it ready to go out into the world, and hopefully the world will see it in the same beauty and light that you see it.
But that’s again a lot of research. Like what schools do I want to send it to? What’s the best food for it to eat? All those things. So maybe an interview isn’t the best metaphor. Maybe it is just think of it as raising a kid, and at some point you’ve got to let the kid go because it has to get out and see the world. There’s so much out there, and other people want to be able to experience it as well.
Stephanie: Right. So there you go. We’ve given you a couple of metaphors now.
Angela: Exactly. Yes. We worked very hard on these, let me tell you.
Stephanie: I think, probably, before we add any more metaphors, we should probably call it a day.
Angela: Good idea.
Stephanie: I think next week let’s come back to this topic, and we’ll … We kind of meandered today, but I think it’s really been one of those issues of trying to show you how much, how related, all of these different aspects are. So we didn’t stick as much with writing as a business, but I think next time we’ll come back to this and try to focus a little bit more on specific details. And then we’ll go from there.
If you have any questions in the meantime, please, as always, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And until next time, keep writing.