Think of your favorite book. Do you know who published it? Probably not, because as a reader, it doesn’t really matter to you.
When it comes to books, publishing is probably the aspect most veiled in mystery. Through school visits, meet-and-greets, social media, and even book jackets, readers have the opportunity to peek into the worlds of writing and illustrating. Even a reluctant reader knows a little about how a book is written, but how a manuscript goes from author to reader is much less known, even to writers.
This isn’t a problem for the average bibliophile, but when that reader turns writer, a lack of knowledge can lead to bad deals and disappointment. To help you avoid these downfalls, we’ve compiled a list of a few misconceptions new authors often face when they first start out in the publishing world.
1. The Publisher Handles All Marketing
You just snagged your first book deal-woohoo! Now you can just sit back, relax, and watch your book soar to the top of the sales chart, right? Wrong! Whether you are published by a small, independent publisher, or you have a deal with one of the Big 5, you are expected to be actively engaged in marketing your book. The smaller the publishing house, the larger your responsibility is likely to be.
Why is this the case? While, yes, it is your book that’s selling, it is also YOU. As the creator of the book, you have insight and interest that no one else can--or should try to--replicate. Readers want to know what inspired your character choices, how you came to become a writer, and what you have planned next for their favorite characters. You offer a heart to the story that can’t be mimicked by a marketing professional. Many authors struggle with feeling “gross” or mercenary selling their books, but remember, marketing is just a fancy word for connecting. If you don’t let readers know about your book, they will never get to enjoy it. And isn’t that the whole point?
2. Your Book Will Sell Millions
Many new authors believe that once their book is picked up by a publisher, they will soon be rolling in the royalty checks as their novel flies off the shelf. The reality is that very few books sell millions or make their writer’s wealthy. According to Publisher's Weekly, The average U.S. book sells an average of 3,000 copies over its lifetime.
A publisher can put your book out in the world, but they can’t make people buy it. Even when readers do love your book, it is up against strong and numerous competitors, fighting print, ebook, and audio, not to mention other viers for attention, such as Netflix and Hulu.
This can sound negative, but don’t lose heart. The beauty of the modern age is that there is more than one way to make a living off of writing. Consider blogs, guest articles, selling merchandise related to your book, speaking at events and conferences, or conducting school visits. These are all ways to connect with and build your audience, exercise your writing and communicating skills, and make a little extra cash along the way. Additionally, each book that you sell becomes one more coin in the bank of your brand and your recognizability. The next book you publish will likely have greater traction because readers have already purchased and loved your first book.
3. Your Next Book Will be Picked Up
In the world of publishing, you have to earn each book. Just because a publisher purchased your last title, does not mean they will publish your next. The truth is, publishing is a business and that business must cater to its target audience. Maybe your last picture book on tigers flew off the shelves, but this year tigers are out and your follow-up isn’t projected to do well. The publisher can’t risk a loss, and so they decide to pass. It’s all about finding a fit and a partnership that works well for everyone. You haven’t changed, but the book being sold--the product--has. New product equals new audience equals new consideration by the publisher.
4. If Your Book is Selected by a Publisher, No Changes Need Made
Yes, we know you have written draft after draft, edited, rewritten, and tweaked until your manuscript is perfect, but that by no means signifies it is done being changed. Once a company picks up a book, the hands that touch it go up exponentially. Editors will suggest character changes, plot shifts, not to mention title changes-yes, the author doesn’t always get to title the book! Your book might be your baby, but it is also a product, and that product must be perfectly packaged to sell.
5. It is a Quick Process
See above. There are a lot of people your book must pass through before it hits shelves. Once the manuscript has been finalized, the illustrator must be chosen, illustrations agreed upon, fonts selected, and a cover made. And that’s just the production of the book itself. Then there is a marketing plan to be set, publicity shots, tour schedules, pre-release reviews to be gathered, and more. In reality, most books take around 2 years to reach bookstores.
6. You Get to Choose Your Illustrator
7. If You’re Good, You’ll be Discovered
“If you write it, they will come”
Sadly, this does not apply in the publishing world. While there are one or two stories of authors getting discovered online or a publisher happening to pick up a book by an unknown, love it, and get it to the top of the best seller’s list, these stories are one in a trillion. Publishing is a business and publishers want to make sure their money is invested wisely. They don’t just want to make sure your book is good, they want to know that you are nice to work with, willing to put in marketing effort, and able to build positive relationships with stakeholders and readers. The more a publisher trusts you, or the person pitching your book, such as an agent, the better your chances are for being picked up.
If you want a publisher to notice your book, you have to get in front of them. This can mean pursuing an agent who can help connect you to a publishing house, mailing in queries, or establishing yourself in the industry by attending conferences and participating in conversations. Do you have to have connections to get published? No. But it helps. A miner is much more likely to discover a gem sitting in front of them than buried in the dirt!
The world of publishing is one that most readers know little about, yet it is a vital cog in the wheel that brings to life what we all love--books! In today’s easy-access universe, anyone can write a book and send it out to the world. As a result, some view the publishing industry as a money-hungry vestige of days gone by; however, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
While getting your book out through a publisher might mean longer timelines and the relinquishing of some control, it also means a lot of smart people doing their best to make your book the best it can be.
Going through a publishing house, whether traditional or independent, isn’t for everyone and, like all paths, it has its pros and cons. The important thing is to walk in with your eyes wide open so you can make the best decision possible for your book and get it into the hands of those that will cherish it.
About Laughing Leopard Press
Hello! We are Laughing Leopard Press, an independent book publisher from Akron, Ohio. At Laughing Leopard Press, we’re interested in publishing works that contribute to our understanding of this wonderful world. Through this blog, we hope to add to that understanding with commentary on life, literature, and a few things in between. We hope you enjoy the blog and take some time to talk with us in the comments or on our social media sites. Happy reading!
This is A. Blob by L. A Kefalos. $14.95
$1.00 is donated to charity for each book sold on this site--half to St. Jude's and the other half to PetFix Northeast Ohio.