Dog Days – Finding a Publisher |

The first step is to do your research. Thoroughly. The objective is to identify the publishers in your genre who are likely to consider your book. Smaller publishers tend to specialize in certain areas, while larger publishers are divided into imprints – divisions that concentrate on certain types of books. The best way to find these publishers is to purchase a guide such as the Literary Market Place or subscribe to an online database such as Using these references, you can identify publishers that work in your genre, accept unagented submissions and work with debut authors. Compile a list of at least twenty publishers. Most will have a website describing their capabilities (I’ll come back to this).Rank the publishers and begin sending out query letters, maybe a couple each week. The query letter has to be a great piece of writing, since it represents you and your book to the publisher. In one well-written page, introduce your novel, provide a one paragraph bio, and offer to send your manuscript. The query must conform to the publishers requirements, which should be on their website.Most publishers receive hundreds of queries each week, and reject well over 95% of them, so it has to be persuasive. And if you’re expecting this to be a fast process, forget about it. Most publishers take two weeks to four months to reply. If you wait for a publisher to reply before you send out the next query, you should complete the process sometime around 2015. That’s why you send out a couple of queries a week.Then the magical day occurs — a publisher calls and says she wants to publish your book. It’s all over, all you have to do is sign the contract and let the publisher take care of everything.
Wrong.Even though you have found a publisher, don’t be too quick to sign on the dotted line. Here’s a nasty little secret: some publishers aren’t very good. Signing with such a publisher would lead to a mess. I’ll explain.A writer I know was offered a contract by a small, newly formed publisher. The publisher was enthusiastic about his novel and had a nice website, so he signed. Well, it turned out that the publisher was a novice in publishing and, even worse, underfunded as well. It was a disaster; the publisher provided little of the marketing that had been promised and then went out of business. Not a great situation for a debut author.So it’s important to check out a publisher thoroughly before you sign. First, look into the publisher’s financial stability and professional success. How many years has she been in business? Her most successful books? Are the key marketing, editing, cover design and operations performed by employees? Will she provide any financial information?Find out if the publisher has a distributor, which is an organization that sells and stocks the books. Without a distributor, it’s difficult to sell to libraries and bookstores, leaving Amazon and the other online booksellers as the only outlets. Independent Publishers Group is one of the top distributors.To sell through bookstores, the publisher must allow returns. If the book doesn’t sell in a few months, the stores will ship them back to the distributor for a refund. It’s a crazy system, but if your publisher doesn’t allow returns, you won’t see your novel in bookstores.It’s essential to learn if the books will be printed in manufacturing runs or POD (Print On Demand). POD books are printed one at a time as orders come in, which is expensive, but keeps the publisher’s investment to a minimum. A manufacturing run of five or ten thousand books is less expensive per book, and it illustrates a greater investment by the publisher in your book. From an author’s perspective, manufacturing runs are far more desirable.On-line marketing is critical in today’s marketplace. Although it’s important to obtain pre-release book reviews in the major trade publication such as Booklist and Publishers Weekly, social networking, blogging and other online activities are critical. If a reader hasn’t heard of your novel, he can’t purchase it. The importance of getting the word out, getting readers interested in your work, can’t be overstressed.Check out the publisher’s website and blogs, which help build buzz around the books. The website should have a Google Page Rank of at least 4. This means a decent number of sites have links pointing at the website, which is a good indicator of site quality and traffic. The publisher should also have several blogs — the more the merrier — each with a Page Rank of at least 3.Unless you are a marketing guru, it’s important to select a publisher that provides leadership in the complex world of internet marketing. Does the publisher encourage her authors to join MySpace and other social networking sites. Do the authors each have websites and blogs? An Amazon Profile? Do they participate in popular blogs and forums? Does the publisher provide video trailers?And, of course, check out the sales history of the publisher’s books similar to yours. Go to a website like TitleZ and review the sales history. If similar novels are not selling, maybe this isn’t the best place for your novel.Of course, advance money and contract terms are important. However, an advance to a debut author is usually pretty small, and frankly, you probably won’t have much success in negotiating contract terms. Just make sure that the terms are not completely out of line.That’s a quick overview of the steps to find a good publisher. Working with a publisher you respect is enjoyable and can be quite profitable. A bad publisher, however, is pure frustration.

Self-Publishing – Avoid the 5 Biggest Mistakes Authors Make When Self-Publishing |

Self-publishing a book is growing more and more common these days. It may in fact be the only way new authors can get published.There are lots of reasons for that. Commercial publishers are pulling back on the number of books they are publishing. They are less willing to take risks on new authors. In fact, increasingly they are looking to successful self-published authors rather than first-time authors who approach them.Technology also makes it more attractive to self-publish. No longer do authors have to order thousands of books upfront, just to be published. (Requiring a huge minimum order is a red flag that you’re dealing with the kind of company you want to avoid.) “Print on demand” technology means the book does not need to be printed until it’s actually sold. An author’s upfront costs need not be astonomical, nor do authors need to be stuck with a garage full of books they may or may not sell. (Publishers themselves are using POD technology for the same reasons.)Given these realities, self-publishing can make a lot of sense, especially for first-time authors.However, self-publishing is full of potential traps.If you’ve ever done a search on Google for ‘self-publishing companies,” it gets even more confusing. The top search results are from self-publishers themselves, who of course will attempt to woo would-be authors with glowing promises. Many make it sound as if they offer the services similar to traditional publishers, when nothing is further from the truth.Into this mix comes a welcome book by Mark Levine, The Fine Print of Self-Publishing: The Contracts & Services of 45 Self-Publishing Companies–Analyzed, Ranked and Exposed.Now about to be released in its Third Edition, the book does authors a great service in ranking some of the most popular self-publishing companies, exhaustively going into the finer points of each company’s contracts and ranking them in terms of how author-friendly their terms really are.In a recent interview with Mark, we discussed the five biggest mistakes authors make when looking into a self-publishing company.Mistake #1: Not knowing who the book is really for. As a book publishing consultant, I can’t tell you how many times people say, “My book is for everyone.” It may be, but “everyone” is simply too big a category.Think about your own book-buying habits. What persuades you to buy a book? Aside from the number 1 persuader–a recommendation from a trusted source–don’t you go by which author appears to solve the particular problem you have? If you had a self-help book you wanted to publish, would you be more likely to buy a book called “How to Successfully Publish Your Book” or “How to Successfully Publish Your Self-Help Book”? You might argue that the first title would appeal to every author who wants to self-publish a book, but in fact, a more targeted title and book will outsell the more generally targeted book.Whether you self-publish or go with a traditional publisher, knowing your audience is key. A commercial publisher won’t even consider you if you don’t have a clear, demonstrated audience for your book. However, when you self-publish, you are free to write an unmarketable book. Nobody will stop you. You’ll just be stuck with a garage full of unsalable books.Mistake #2: Unrealistic expectations as to how many books you really can sell. Yes, all authors want to be the next big blockbuster phenomenon, but unrealistic expectations could make you vulnerable to spending too much money, especially in cases when you pay less per book if you order large quantities. So what if you pay $5.60 per book for 1000 books instead of $7.80 for 500? You’re still out $5600 instead of $3900, and now you have to figure out how to store and sell 500 extra books.Mark Levine says of his own expectations, “I’m happy if I can go out to dinner at a really nice restaurant once a month on the royalties for my book.” A book can be a lot of things: a means of commanding higher speaking or consulting fees, an introduction to your knowledge that you can sell in other, more profitable ways. But in itself, a book is not the most profitable way to earn income.Which leads to …Mistake #3: Not expecting to invest in marketing (time or money). In researching for this article, I was surprised at the number of people who warned against self-publishing because “they will not market your book.” As if traditional publishers do. Yes, good ones usually do some kind of launch, but they concentrate their limited marketing dollars on authors they know will sell. Any author needs to accept full responsibility for promoting his or her book.Traditional publishers now demand it. They won’t even consider authors who are not interested in marketing their own book. Self-publishers don’t demand it, of course. Some will offer marketing packages, but be very careful and very clear about what you will actually get for your investment. But do expect to invest something–if not money, then “sweat equity” in terms of getting the word out.Mistake #4:  Not getting your book professionally edited and designed. Personally, the biggest giveaway to me that a book is self-published is the interior design. Amateurish artwork, sloppy layout (especially in terms of narrow margins), and unproofed copy will kill sales. A retailer (bookstore pro) can usually spot such a book and will reject it.  A potential reader may not be able to put a finger on exactly why a book doesn’t appeal, but an unprofessional-looking book will be passed over.You simply cannot skimp here. Get professional editors (a content editor and a copy editor–they are two separate things) to edit you. And a professional book designer to design the exterior and interior of your book. Make sure these people work with books, not other products.Mistake #5: Getting published by the wrong publisher. There are good publishing companies with fair terms–and quite the opposite. The biggest way publishers gouge authors is in the printing markup, Mark Levine says. “Anything more than 15 percent markup on printing is simply not acceptable, unless you know what it is for and don’t mind paying more than you should.’To find a good publishing company, do your homework well. Don’t be afraid to ask the publisher tough questions (this is how Mark Levine researched his book). Ask other authors their experiences, but be aware that they themselves may not have known there’s a better way than what they chose.  Self-publishing can be a wonderful way to get your message into the world–or a sinkhole of time and money with disappointing results. With eyes wide open and the right knowledge, you can make your dream of becoming a published author come true.