Write a Book, Then Build a House?
It’s a typical conversation. I’ve had it with many authors. They work really hard on a manuscript only to find out that it doesn’t work as a book. The conversation goes something like this:
AUTHOR: [confused, frustrated] I don’t understand why this doesn’t work. I’m an intelligent person. I should be able to do this. Why am I so stupid about this?
ME: First, stop the self-torture. I’m better at it than you are. Your intelligence shows everywhere. You’ve just never done this before.
AUTHOR: [disappointed] But I read. I’ve written two dissertations. I’ve managed policy documents for entire organizations.
ME: Yep. That experience helps, for sure. But think about this. I’ve lived in a house. I wear shoes, drive a car, and have 1.5 million miles on airplanes. I can’t build any of them.
AUTHOR: [cheerfully sardonic] And your point is?
That is the moment at which I get their attention.
12 Cold Truths about Publishing
I understand an author’s feelings of confusion, disappointment, and frustration. Something about using books all of our lives, gives us an intimate relationship with them. Well, we think the relationship is with the book, but really it’s with the content. That’s where the misconceptions start. Here are some cold truths publishers wish every author realized.
- “Great” content doesn’t mean much, if no one reads it. Great content has to be written and presented well. Then it has to sell.
- The value of a book is not in the idea. The value is in the execution.
- If an author doesn’t care enough to prepare a manuscript according to industry standards, a publisher has no reason to think the author would care more after work has really started.
- The content has to fit into a book-size container that can be efficiently manufactured. Manuscript that won’t do this doesn’t stand a chance of getting read.
- Published books are more rigorously organized and more literally consistent than most self-published documents produced for a small, homogenous group.
- Anyone who knows you has no credibility as a critic.
- Placing a book with a publisher is a business deal in which the book is the product/work.
- A book manuscript should be offered to a publisher that is already selling books to the manuscript’s target market.
- Design and editorial choices are made to serve a national or international market. Editors and designers are paid to make such choices.
- People do judge a book by its cover. A great cover and design will sell the first book faster than the most compelling content. Fine writing and solid content gets the repeat sales, evangelists, and loyal fans.
- Don’t leave messages for a publisher who doesn’t know you. Don’t send registered packages. Don’t think a FedEx will impress. All of these are 3-D world spam.
- Publishers dream about authors who do their homework, know the competition for their idea, and come to the process ready to join a working relationship.
Publishing is a business.
The 2 Proofs Every Publisher Wants
So what does it take to get published?
You can overcome these cold truths with two proofs.
- Prove that you can write a professional manuscript readers will want to buy.
- Prove that you’re an author, who is a pleasure to work with and brings value to the process.
Want to get published? Are you willing to prove it?
–ME “Liz” Strauss
If you’d like Liz to help you make a plan to meet your goals, click on the Work with Liz!! page in the sidebar.
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