Home > Editor's Corner Podcast > Editor’s Corner Podcast: Writing Is an Art; Publishing Is a Business, Part II

This week, we continue our journey into your book as business, with a focus on how and why to research the publishers you’re considering and what is expected of you-especially what you’re going to have to write AFTER you’ve already written your book.

Stephanie: Welcome to Dog Ear Publishing’s Editor’s Corner, in which we explore all things editorial. I’m Stephanie, the Managing Editor at Dog Ear Publishing, and here with me is my colleague, Angela.

Angela: Hello, everyone.

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. Last week, we gave you an overview, admittedly a little scattered.

Angela: Yes, it was.

Stephanie: Because we were having some issues, about viewing writing and being an author as a business venture, rather than just as a hobby and what that entails. This week, we’re going to go into a little more detail, talking about first, what’s going to be expected of you by the publisher, and fans as well, once you’ve written the book.

Second, as a specific aspect of that, what you’re going to have to write after you’ve written the book because you’re not done just once you’ve written the book. First in all this, the key is finding out what is expected of you so you can budget both your time and your money throughout this whole process.

Angela: Exactly. I guess the easiest way to describe that is research, research, research. When you are trying to figure out who the right publisher is going to be, what type of publisher are you going to go with. So say traditional or self-publishing or any number of other options, the best tool, research it. Internet, talk to people, go to the local library and just start getting a feel for what’s going to work best for you.

Stephanie: Absolutely.

Angela: It goes into such specific detail. I mean, we’re talking about everything from what they require for their submissions to, at the very end, how their royalty fees are structured, right?

Stephanie: Yeah. A lot of this you can find online, but I think we’ve talked before about how there’s a lot of hype language on websites.

Angela: Right.

Stephanie: It’s not always clear what publishers will do and what they won’t do. Sometimes your best bet may be actually to call and really talk to somebody and really keep after them till they answer every specific question you have.

Angela: Right. Probably the best place to start, I would say before I actually start I guess focus calling a publisher, I would actually see how far into the submission process I could get. If I submit my novel and I’m starting to get feedback from them like, “Yeah, we’re looking at it. Yeah, it’s starting to look really good. We’re considering it.” That’s when I would start really asking some questions.

Stephanie: Right.

Angela: They shouldn’t be rushing you through the process anyway, so you’re going to have time to kind of gather your thoughts and do some research, but I definitely don’t suggest calling them and calling them going, “Hey, I have a manuscript. Hey, I have a manuscript. Hey, do you guys want my manuscript?”

Stephanie: Right.

Angela: Until you have some clue that they’re interested in it, because we don’t want to turn them off from the get-go, right?

Stephanie: Right. You also don’t want to waste your own time. You don’t want to ask these questions of publishers who aren’t going to work with you anyway I suppose.

Angela: Right, right.

Stephanie: There’s just no point in spending all that time chasing anybody down and asking those questions. Yeah, so it really is best to do that. What would you say … You know what? Never mind. Forget I said anything.

Angela: Okay. That was an easy question to answer. Thank you.

Stephanie: You’re welcome.

Angela: I feel very skilled at the moment.

Stephanie: You’re like, shoo, I dodged the bullet.

Angela: Exactly, exactly. That’s probably like the easiest question I have all day. Why don’t we talk about like some of the questions that authors need to be thinking about while the publisher is considering their manuscript. Would that be all right?

Stephanie: Sure, yeah.

Angela: Okay. We want to talk about things like you’ve gotten past obviously the requirements for submitting your novel. The format it needs to be in, if they want any extras like a bio, or sending in any images that you want to include in the book. After it’s at the publisher and you’re waiting those, sometimes so long. I mean, we’re sometimes talking six to nine months waiting for something back, start researching things like how the publisher assists in production and post-production.

Who takes care of writing the cover copy? Who does the cover art? Do they have in-house artists? Do you get to help choose what the cover art is going to look like? Who takes care of marketing? How long they expect the publication process to take, where the book is going to be sold, what the book is going to ultimately look like?

Overall, who decides those things? Who pays for those things, and how much wiggle room do those things have for negotiation? Say, we pick the cover art. Well, that’s okay, but do you get to at least have some kind of input? I mean, it’s your book, right? You kind of have to decide how important those things are based on the answers to the questions that you’re asking, right?

Stephanie: Right. We’re looking at this when you still got several publishers in mind, correct?

Angela: Yes, exactly.

Stephanie: I kind of want to stress that. You haven’t picked your publisher yet, and then you’re finding this stuff and then maybe possibly going, “Oh no.” You’re like, this is once you … For each publisher I guess would be the best way to say it, who is looking favorably on your manuscript for you to consider. It’s kind of like you’ve done your research like when you’re going to college, you’ve done your research. You know which schools you’ve applied for.

Angela: Right.

Stephanie: Then maybe you’ve gotten their offer or you’re pretty sure you’re going to get an offer, then you start finding out all of that information, housing, how much it’s going to cost, financial aid possibilities, all that stuff.

Angela: Right.

Stephanie: These are questions to ask each potential publisher, each promising publisher. Uh, I like that, promising publisher. It’s fun.

Angela: I like that word too. That’s a very positive hopeful way to put it. I’m thinking too, we’re talking about researching publishers and stuff, but a lot of traditional big house publishers, say like Random House, or some place like that, they’re going to be asking you to use an agent. They’re not going to be accepting submissions just from the person on the street.

Stephanie: Right.

Angela: If that happens and you do have to have an agent, that’s actually great for you because then you get to ask the agent these questions.

Stephanie: Yes.

Angela: That agent can go and do the work for you, right? That’s what they’re there for. They have to know their stuff, and they are in constant contact with the publisher, whereas you may not be able to have that one-on-one contact for miles down the road. If you have to have an agent, that’s absolutely fine, and definitely use it to your advantage.

Stephanie: They’ve been at this before, benefit from their experience absolutely. That’s what you’re paying them for.

Angela: Exactly. Just make sure you do the research on the agents too before you choose them, which is probably a whole different topic.

Stephanie: Yeah. That does come into play. Okay, somebody else you have to quote higher, but maybe that’s what you want to do.

Angela: That’s true. It can make it a little bit easier on you too. Along with all those questions, we need to find out what is going to be expected of us as authors. If we’re asking the publishing company, “Okay well, who takes care of marketing?” They say, “Oh well, that’s your job.” Well, that’s great to know. Now you’ve got to figure out is that something I can handle? Again, more research, local library, business class, something.

How the publishing company expects you to handle things like public speaking engagements or book signings. Just basically what’s going to be expected of you, not necessarily how much work you’re going to put in, but the type of work. That is going to be different for every single publishing company.

Stephanie: Absolutely.

Angela: Even maybe every imprint of every specific publishing company.

Stephanie: Mm-hmm (affirmative), right.

Angela: Yeah.

Stephanie: Yeah, I’m just thinking of all that can possibly be involved. There are probably millions of combinations that could evolve. If you have to come up with a marketing plan, well that’s another step you have to cover.

Angela: Yeah.

Stephanie: You know, again, we’re talking about looking at your publishers, some are … That might be a deciding factor for you. If you know that you have no marketing experience and that it’s something that terrifies you, maybe you’re going to go with a publisher who can help you with that or maybe they offer it as an extra fee or whatever.

Angela: Right.

Stephanie: Maybe they have the service available. It can definitely be daunting, but maybe it’s something that intrigues you and you’re like, “All right, good. I can do that myself. No problem.”

Angela: Right, exactly. Think of it as like maybe you actually want a publishing company that takes a little bit more control, because it’s your first book and you still don’t know really what you’re doing yet and that learning curve is just so huge, you may not feel confident in being able to get to where you need to, to do the best for your book and your audience at the time.

Stephanie: Right, so maybe you just want to dip your toes in and get the feel for things and ease yourself in. Yeah, that’s definitely one of the reasons you ask these questions, so that you do know what’s required of you.

Angela: Exactly. I have to talk about this. This has been on my mind since last podcast. We talked about, okay, what do you do if you’re an introvert? I think of artists in general, and maybe this is incorrect, but I think of artists in general as kind of maybe shyer or quieter people. We start talking about this and going, “Well you know, you may have to do book signing, you may have to do public speaking and stuff,” and all that introverts out there just wither and go, “No, no, please don’t say that.”

I guess that’s another place that the research is vitally important. You have to pretty much be absolutely sure that the publisher you’re considering understands where you’re coming from. They get that you’re a shyer person. They’re willing to work with you. Maybe even work with you in a way that you hadn’t considered. Maybe they go, “Yeah, we get it. We have got this great public speaking class that we can send you to that’s going to help you build your confidence and make you better at it.” Maybe that’s something that kind of gets you out there more.

But there are so many ways to kind of mitigate that too, because you have so many online platforms now, blogs, I mean any kind of social media, even websites where you can do guest blogging or whatever you need to do. I feel like as an introvert, it’s just not as scary when you’re online because you don’t actually have to talk to people face to face, right? You’re kind of like hidden from the world.

Stephanie: I think everybody has their thing. Some people are afraid to speak in person, like you said.

Angela: Yeah.

Stephanie: But they don’t mind so much online. Some people the online just kind of bores them to tears, but they’re okay in cozy, small settings. Even if there are not many people that they know, but smaller groups. Whereas some people even introverts can feel okay in front of a huge group of people, but they get nervous in the small settings.

Angela: That’s true.

Stephanie: Really I think the key is to find out what works best for you. Of course, it’s always good to push your boundaries a little, but that’s how we learn. But absolutely, try to figure out the best way. That’s something when you’re talking to someone who’s helping you create a marketing plan, even if you’re doing it yourself, that’s something to consider what are the ways you’re going to market.

Because like you said, there are so many ways available out there now. You can go do book signings at bookstores. You can do public libraries. You can do just community things in your area. You can do so many things. Then there’s social media that allows you to reach the entire world.

Angela: Yeah. Then I guess it comes back into how much time do you have to do those myriad of options, and how much time the publisher will expect you to. I mean, if you’re talking about … I keep seeing some of my favorite graphic artists who are on the road and doing speaking engagements, I mean, it seems like a third of the year.

Is that something that you’re going to have time to do or are you just working your full-time job like most of us are and kind of doing the author thing on the side for a while. It just really depends upon where you’re at in your life and what you’re able to take on. I think especially monetarily, when you’re looking at self-publishing, it gets expensive.

All of the things that you have to do in order to get your novel out, even without self-publishing, it can get expensive, if you’re talking about finding a good editor. But when you’re saying, “Okay I’m going to publish my book through this company, and I’m going to pay them to do it,” it can be a huge monetary commitment. You have to kind of know going in what you are willing and capable of handling.

Stephanie: Right, yeah. You also have to look at it and realize that the more promotion you do, the more likely you are to sell. But sometimes life doesn’t allow you to get involved in the promotion.

Angela: Right.

Stephanie: If you are working full-time elsewhere, that’s fine. Obviously it’s your book, but you might have to figure out how you’re going to approach that. Some people hire virtual assistants, which there are lots of virtual assistants out there and some people swear by them. There are virtual assistants and there are people who can write for you, even if you’re not on social media and you don’t have the time.

Angela: That’s true.

Stephanie: There are people who can do that for you.

Angela: Even Dog Ear offers ghostwriting, don’t we?

Stephanie: Yes, actually occasionally. I don’t think on your website so much, although I’m actually not sure about that. Again, depending on how introverted you are or how much time you have or don’t have, there are many, many options out there, but you do, again, have to step back and look at this all as a business and say, “Okay, this is something that is going to have to be covered. So how am I going to cover it and what’s the best option going to be?” Remember, not all businesses are run the same.

Angela: That’s true. I think especially with smaller, independent companies, you may get … This doesn’t happen all the time but it does happen, getting halfway through the process and the company not being able to continue and having to fold, and then you start the process over. If you’ve got all your research done, that’s not going to kick you back as hard. You know exactly where you can go to next.

Stephanie: Right.

Angela: I keep thinking like if I am a completely type A personality, which I am, I have got a spreadsheet with the name of my publisher, and then every single one of these I guess fields is filled out. So do they cover the book cover art with a Y or an N next to it, so that you can go through easily and kind of keep track of everything. You’re not trying to find all these notes that are kind of hidden around everywhere.

Stephanie: Right. Okay. I think we’ve kind of talked about now budgeting that time and money.

Angela: Right.

Stephanie: I think the big thing we’ve been mentioning this too is that marketing aspect, right?

Angela: Oh yes, yes.

Stephanie: Again, you’ve probably never or just barely considered it before, but you’re going to want to start considering it as soon as possible once you’ve began working with a publisher, because, again, book signings and social media and travel, it can take up a lot of time and money. So, definitely you have to think about all the aspects, create your plan, create your marketing plan.

A few things that you really do want to consider are your online presence specifically, because no matter if you go out there and travel and get your face out there, you’re still going to want an online presence, again, because this is how you reach people that you can’t travel to.

Angela: That’s right.

Stephanie: It’s how you stay in touch with people who you do meet out at book signings. There’s a lot that can be considered here, right?

Angela: Yeah, that’s the perfect time, because I’m thinking too I think of traditional publishers as probably having templates for websites and blogs. That comes into if you’re not going through a traditional publisher, who’s doing all the designing? Who’s setting it up? Who’s writing for it and finding all the photos and making the weekly content? Then it gets another really good question, so you start asking very early in the process.

Stephanie: Absolutely. It can be very easy to set up your own blog, but it can also be very complicated.

Angela: As we know.

Stephanie: Or as complicated as you want it to be.

Angela: That’s exactly, exactly true. Stephanie and I have both been through that recently, and I think she will tell you that it is not always as cut and dried as you would hope it would be.

Stephanie: Yeah. Again, easy things to do, also some very complicated things.

Angela: That’s right.

Stephanie: Maybe you want to leave it to somebody else. I don’t know that you have to have a blog, but I really think that especially for writers, I think it’s kind of expected.

Angela: Yeah.

Stephanie: You can do a video blog. It doesn’t even have to be a writing.

Angela: That’s true. That’s true.

Stephanie: If you’re like, “Oh my God, it’s so much effort to write. I don’t want to write blog posts, or that’s not my thing. I prefer long stories.” That’s fine. You can definitely do whatever you want. But remember that this is the way that your fans are going to be able to keep in touch with you and they know what’s happening. Oh my gosh, a long time ago I think authors used to have … Sometimes they’d send out newsletters. They’d physically mail out newsletters, right?

Angela: Yeah, exactly.

Stephanie: If you ever wrote to an author, then you’d be on their mailing list or whatever. That kind of brings me too to something else to consider is your mailing list. This is something that I think a lot of people have never … They think of big corporations having mailing lists, because you get all those junk mail in the mail.

Angela: Yeah, exactly.

Stephanie: But mailing lists are wonderful to have. Electronically, they are so easy to do now. This is how your fans stay in touch with you. I should say, this is how you stay in touch with your fans. You stay in their eye. You can write a newsletter or you can just make this a blog post or whatever that you send out weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, however often you do it, but even with social media out there and as prominent as social media is, not everybody is in the same place. With a mailing list, you get right to somebody’s mail box.

Angela: Exactly.

Stephanie: That is a really big key to keeping your audience involved, to keeping your fans involved, to building excitement if you’re planning on writing more books and building an author presence and a brand, you’re really going to want to keep people involved. Email is really the way to do that.

Angela: I think the audience these days has changed too. I think I wasn’t alive during the 1940s and ’50s, okay? Let’s just get that out of the way, first of all. But from what I have read, there was such a big distinction and wall between the audience and the author or the actor or the musician.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Angela: That wall is not there anymore. Audiences expect, and we’re not going to say one-on-one contact, but a feeling of one-on-one contact.

Stephanie: Right, absolutely.

Angela: We see it all the time. Artists like tweeting back and actually speaking to their fans. It’s vitally important. I can’t imagine that you’re going to be able to get away with just going, “Well, that’s all technology, and I don’t agree with technology.” That’s fine in theory, but your audience has to have some way to interact with you and feel like they’re kind of a part of this world that you’re building.

Stephanie: Right.

Angela: That doesn’t mean you have to break down and tell your deepest fears and hopes.

Stephanie: No.

Angela: It just means you just have to kind of give them a way to interact with you in a way that is I guess timely. They expect it like maybe every month you send out something and that’s they get, but it also feels real. They’re not just getting bombarded with ads and, “Hey, buy my next book.” They’re getting some kind of almost insider information.

Stephanie: Right.

Angela: I love your idea too about that it doesn’t have to be a traditional blog. I would love to listen to like podcast blogs or video blogs. Number one, it’s easier. Number one, you can kind of take them wherever you go. If you don’t have time to sit, read, you can listen to a podcast anywhere you’re at. I think there are a lot of different ways to do it, but I do think it’s something that kind of has to be done in this day.

Stephanie: Absolutely. Like you said, you don’t have to get down and give people all sorts of intimate details. Be yourself ultimately, because they’re already a fan of your writing. So they’re interested in you, and it’s building that relationship that really does that. It doesn’t have to be a close relationship. It can just be an acquaintance relationship like from the people you see on the street and exchange a few words with.

It’s kind of like that with the emailing list, social media, any of this stuff. But it does require some writing, or even if you’re doing a vlog, you’re probably going to want to plan out. You’re going to write a few drafts of what you’re going to say, or at least an outline. Yeah, that’s really how you keep your readership involved and let them know, “Hey, I’ve got this upcoming book signing,” or, “Hey, because you’re on my mailing list, you get to preview this chapter that I’ve written.” It’s a great way to get feedback, right?

Angela: That’s a brilliant idea. It makes people feel so involved and kind of like special that way too, because they’re getting that insider information, you know.

Stephanie: Right. Ages ago, I was on the emailing list of an author and he decided to write a book, chapter by chapter obviously, but each time he would finish a chapter, he’d send it out to the mailing list and get feedback.

Angela: That’s kind of cool.

Stephanie: He would adjust based on feedback. It was kind of like we were alpha readers almost.

Angela: I like that.

Stephanie: It was really neat. By the time the book came out, I really couldn’t wait to read the book.

Angela: Well, because you’re so invested in it, right?

Stephanie: Yeah.

Angela: Yeah, you’ve already put in time. Yeah, I can totally understand that.

Stephanie: It was really fascinating to buy the book and see how much it had changed from the initial concept.

Angela: Yeah.

Stephanie: I mean, it was years later, because he really was sharing it from the very, very beginning. It was absolutely fascinating. That is a really … I mean, he built me. I was already a hardcore fan by that point, but absolutely anytime I hear that he has anything out, I immediately purchase it, anytime.

Angela: This is a genius move on his part.

Stephanie: Yeah, it really was. It was fascinating. He ended up he was going to have a movie deal, so you’re on the mailing list, you get to hear news about the movie, the movie deal if it fell through or if it didn’t.

Angela: Right.

Stephanie: So you’re cheering along, right?

Angela: Right, exactly.

Stephanie: Going, “Yes, that’s so exciting. I can’t wait to see this as a movie.” Then you say, “Oh, it fell through, but you know.” Readers really do get involved I promise.

Angela: Yes, they do. That just makes me instantly think of fan fiction. Do you know what I mean? Like you’re so involved that you want to be a part of that world and so you kind of start creating your own way.

Stephanie: Yes.

Angela: Yes, it does get published all you Fifty Shades of Gray fans.

Stephanie: Right, exactly.

Angela: It can lead to good things.

Stephanie: Yeah. When you’ve got that mailing list, if somebody likes what you … If they really like what you’ve written, they might forward that email onto someone else. I just received the other day an email from my mother-in-law who follows an author, and she sent this email that he had sent to his mailing list. She said, “Hey, you might be interested in reading what this guy has to say. You might like his books.”

Angela: Yeah.

Stephanie: Instantly, that’s a referral. I’ve got the email. I know how to get in touch with him, because his website address is on the bottom. There’s instantly I have a way to find this guy that I have never heard of before.

Angela: Exactly, exactly. It’s just so easy to forward emails and even forward blog posts and stuff these days too.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Angela: I’m thinking too like a lot of the author, not a lot, but I would say … I can’t put a percentage on it. I’m just going to stay with a lot, but many authors that we work with are older and may not feel like they have the same kind of social media or internet savvy that somebody that’s younger and has kind of grown up with it has.

Stephanie: Sure.

Angela: But there are so many people out there that are willing to help you kind of come up to speed. I mean, their libraries carries books on them. They hold classes for it. Community colleges have classes for it. A grand kid, a grand nephew, there’s an infinite amount of people who can help you get to where you need to go to get comfortable with working with blogs and social media and online ads and things.

Stephanie: Absolutely. Oh my gosh.

Angela: Yes.

Stephanie: Honestly, I think we’ve covered everything. We’ve covered everything that I think is in my brain for the day.

Angela: That works for me. We ran a little bit longer today, folks. But you get passionate about a subject, and this is what happens.

Stephanie: Right, and we were focused today. We didn’t get lost like we did last week.

Angela: That’s right, yes. We appreciate you sticking with this through that one, because that was an interesting time for sure.

Stephanie: Yeah, definitely. That was definitely an interesting day.

Angela: Yes, it was. It will go down… for me.

All right, so join us next time when we are going to be discussing book beginnings, especially the differences between forewords, prefaces, introductions, and prologues, which a lot of authors seem to have problems keeping straight. I’ll admit, I do too. That’s why I have my Handy CMS on hand at all times.

Angela: Exactly.

Stephanie: So, join us next time. Until then, keep …