People think what I do is glamorous and super cool – publishing. When I was a recruiter we used to use “Publishing” as a headline to attract talent for our open positions that were basically secretarial jobs or filing clerks. There used to be editors and publishers who were almost like celebrities in the New York scene. Books were launched with parties at trendy venues, lucrative deals were made at Book Expo, and everyone was looking to discover the next Salinger, Hemingway, Roth, Asimov, Morisson, Kerouac, or any other writer you admire. Sounds like fun, right?
What I’ve said so far is what the audience sees. Most people in the industry don’t expose the magic by showing you what happens backstage. It’s not all that interesting, but these things must be done to publish professionally and competitively.
In the indie publishing world, I see repeats of wasted opportunities and misinformation about how things work that can be cleared up by remembering a few details and rules. As a publicist, and, now, a publisher, I’m going to wear both of my hats and dish the dirt on what you need to know.
- Format: Proper formatting is a very basic aspect of putting a book together. When I was an editorial assistant we called it front and back matter. I don’t know if that’s what the managing editors are calling it these days, but it still works for me. These are the pages at the front of the printed book including a title page; copyright page; dedication; acknowledgments; author’s note; and predetermined blank pages. The title page and copyright page are mandatory, while the others will or won’t be added depending on the author. My advice is to look at books from traditional publishers to see what they are doing with their pages and copy the format.
- Identification: There are identifiers your book needs. Without them, it doesn’t exist in the market and can’t be sold. They are ISBNs, bar codes, and a Library of Congress number. Most everyone seems to know how to get the first two, but the latter is still often missing. I was taught that it is necessary, especially if you want libraries to find, recognize, and shelve your title. Check out this site for information on how to get your number(s).
- Accessibility: If you choose to publish exclusively with Kindle Direct, independent bookstores, and probably the chain stores as well will not know about your book, nor will they want to stock it. When you sign up with Amazon’s publisher only, your sales channels are those that Amazon covers. To have your book recognized in the trade market, you need to upload it with a national wholesaler such as Ingram, which is now the only wholesaler that distributes to independent stores. You can also try to solicit wholesale orders through your website, but that still won’t give you the credibility you need with the trade market. I recommend doing all of the above.
- Credibility: Bookstores and publications will look to see if your book is listed in Ingram’s database. I’ve had conversations with editors at publications who will look up the book and if they don’t see it in Ingram they won’t cover it. Why? Because some bad apples in the indie publishing world convinced these people to review books that never made it to publication. The quote I’ve heard is, “I’ve been burned before”.
Book Marketing and Publicity
Regarding promoting a book, there are two major issues I keep coming across.
- You have to consider timing. I won’t belabor the point here because I’ve said it many times before. If you have written a novel or memoir, you will need three to five months ahead of your publication date to send out review copies and allow for publications and bloggers to read and schedule reviews of your book. For a prescriptive non-fiction title that has “news you can use” there is a bit more flexibility, especially if it is tied into your career or field of expertise.
- Printed review copies are necessary. In indie publishing, we often use the finished book as a review copy and have it stickered or printed in a way that indicates it is a preliminary version. The publication date is printed on the book or sticker so that it is clear when it will be for sale. You can register with Net Galley, offer a watermarked pdf, -mobi file or ebook, but 90% of the reviewing public wants a hard copy. I know it’s an added expense but you will be better off in the long term doing it the correct way.
For more resources and information I recommend the Independent Book Publishers Association website. It’s not that expensive for a membership, which will give you full access. Also, I suggest visiting Jane Friedman’s website. She is a veteran in the industry, a professor, editor, and a published writer.
“Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.”