Books Front Matter

Are You on the Right Publishing Path?

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The publishing industry is constantly evolving, and what was good advice yesterday may not help you achieve the results you desire today. Whether you’re looking to get a book on the best-seller list or sell a few hundred copies to those in a niche market, here are a few misconceptions you should relegate to the trash bin so copies of the next manuscript you choose to publish don’t end up there.

Authors have the perfect topics or storylines for books. Once those ideas are in your hands, their book deals are just around the corner.

Probably not. Before authors put pen to paper, they need to research — and so do publishers. Last year’s hot topic may have cooled or have too much competition, or a particular genre may no longer appeal to a fickle audience. Publishers are in the business of making money, not boosting writers’ egos. Authors need to be able to show publishers that there is a sufficient market for their books. For example, many traditional publishers won’t publish a non-fiction book unless they believe they can sell 10,000 to 20,000 copies. Establish your own publishing guidelines and remember to consider each book from an audience point of view.

Authors must complete their full manuscripts before sending them off to publishers.

That depends. For authors sending in fiction, publishers typically like to see the entire manuscript, whereas if you’re dealing with a non-fiction book, you may prefer to see a proposal or query letter first.

  • book-stackFull manuscript: Make sure you establish submission guidelines for considerations such as preferred genres as well as manuscript length and formatting. Different publishers specialize in different types and genres of books, so it’s important authors understand what you’re looking for. In any case, they should come to you with professionally edited manuscripts — not something Aunt Betsy or the writer’s friend who was once published in the local paper reviewed.
  • Query or proposal: A query is a one-page sales pitch a writer submits to publishers who may then agree to look at the writer’s manuscript or book proposal. A proposal is a 20-30-page business plan an author provides to persuade publishers to enter into a book publishing contract. In addition to an overview of proposed books, you may consider requiring a section that highlights authors’ backgrounds, expertise, and authority. In other words, why would a reader want to read a book this author wrote?

Whether you require a complete manuscript or a query letter or proposal, be prepared to spend some time with it — often months — before giving a response. It’s not likely you’ll have only one book to review at a time, and committing to publish an author’s work is a big decision. And get ready to offer rejections: many of them. If you see a common thread or trend, you may want to review and update your publishing guidelines.

Once you publish the book, you’ll be responsible for handling all the marketing and PR.

Nope. Major publishers might help minimally with PR when they first publish a book — if it is designated in the contract. Small publishers and independent agents may be more apt to handle some of the marketing, but that means the majority falls to the author.

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In fact, today’s authors must be willing to do everything to promote their books. That means starting or updating a related website, blogging frequently, being active on social media sites to engage the community and show authority, holding book signings, going on promotional tours, and anything else to get the word out. After publishing is when the real work begins for writers.

When it comes to publishing, you make the rules — and also take on risk. With basic knowledge of what authors might send your way along with strong publishing guidelines, you can lessen that risk. However you choose to publish and with whom, there is a plenty of help available if you know where to look.

Contact your Sheridan representative for a consultation.

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