Publishing the hard way – 10 things I wish I had known before I became a Publisher

Jo Parfitt is a cracking editor and taught me most of what I know about editing books – what she doesn’t know about creating, writing, editing and publishing is not worth knowing.  This is her advice on publishing a book.

I have written 28 books and had them published every which way.  I’ve been published by the big guys (Macmillan, Octopus), published by the small guys (Zodiac, Bookshaker) and run my own publishing company since 1997 (Summertime Publishing).

I have published my own books, offer both paid for and traditional publishing services to authors and have published over 50 books ‘not by me’ as a result. Thanks to the rapid advances in technology and such things as Print on Demand, online bookstores, Kindle and iPad, my learning curve has been exponential.  Luckily I also recognise that the best ways to learn is by my mistakes.

I am happy to share with you ten things I learned the hard way.  I hope that they will stop you from making the same mistakes.

  1. Everyone needs an editor.  You cannot proof read your own books; no, not even if you are a really good writer.
  2. You do judge a book by its cover.  Yes it is worth paying an expert to design yours!
  3.  Know your genre.  If you know where your book will sit in a library or bookstore you will find it easier to sell.
  4. Bookstores do not like Print on Demand books.  The wholesalers don’t like dealing with the small guys and the small guys don’t like dealing with the wholesalers. They want 60% discount to hold your book in stock so it can be very hard to make a living from bookstores unless you print a few thousand copies at a time which will allow you to give the wholesalers that 60%.
  5. If you want to sell your book online via POD, it means you don’t need to hold stock, the book is printed and posted each time someone orders it.  All you do is collect the profit.  The downside is that the unit price of printing each book is a little higher.
  6. Converting the PDF of your print ready book to Kindle is not expensive (I pay 25cents a page).  So if you are going to produce a physical book it is a no-brainer to do it for Kindle too.
  7. The best way to make money from a book is to sell it at the ‘back of the room’, directly to your audience or students.  It makes sense – no bookstore takes a commission.
  8. You need to start blogging and building a following a year before your book comes out.  Ideally your blog and your website should share the same title as your book.
  9. One of the best ways to market your book, apart from social media of course, is to write and place articles in print and digital publications.  Learn to write useful, objective articles in your specialist topic and you will effectively earn yourself free advertising!
  10.  Consider finding a sponsor or advertisers for your book.  Consider branding certain editions for your clients and selling them 100s at a time. You only make a few quid from selling a single book. So find ways to sell 100s at a time instead.

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Jo Parfitt is owner of Summertime Publishing and she offers a complete mentoring service for new authors from ‘brainwave to bookshelf’.  She specialises in personal development and expatriate titles and her books can be seen at www.expatbookshop.com.  Visit the Tool Vault at www.joparfitt.com and help yourself to free gifts.

Same but different

This is a guest post by my friend and writing colleague, Jo Parfitt.  I’ve recently read her new book and loved it so much I wanted to let my readers know about a book full of Sunshine!

Same, but different

As an author, I know how hard it is to write a book.  I know the heady feeling of excitement that is experienced when I first get my ‘brilliant idea’ and I recognize the thrill of producing those first few pages. I also know the familiar thud of despair when I near the finish line, usually about 95 per cent of the way through and suddenly lose all my confidence. Despite my latest book, Sunshine Soup, being my 28th book, I have discovered that things often do not get any better and that even though I crossed genres, much stays the same.

This was my first foray into fiction. I knew that fiction was way too much like hard work and so I focused, instead, on writing non-fiction – articles, how to books, cookbooks and guides, even a volume of poetry. Like the child who leaves his spinach on his plate, I saved the worst til last, knowing that it would ultimately be better for me.

And so I crossed genres. I defected to the other side. Along the way I discovered that writing fiction was every bit as hard as I had thought it might be and while my finished product was totally different from my earlier books, fact and fiction had much in common.

Comparing fact and fiction

  1. Both fiction and non-fiction need to be compelling. The reader needs to be persuaded to keep turning pages. Fiction does this with plot, pace and character. Non-fiction uses interesting examples, case studies and stories that illustrate the point you are trying to make.
  2. Just as a novel needs to have a plot and a definite order in which events occur, non-fiction needs to have carefully crafted chapters that appear in a logical order, each building on the one that went before. I believe that fact and fiction both benefit from being written to a formula.
  3. The author’s expertise should lend authority and authenticity to the book, either because of his experience or because
  4. of in depth research.
  5. Both fiction and non-fiction authors should know their reader. If their reader may not have English as a first language then the vocabulary and sentence construction should be easy to follow, not simplistic, but clear.
  6. Whether you write fiction or non-fiction your book should still adhere to at least one of the following:
    1. It should inspire
    2. It should inform
    3. It should support
    4. It should entertain

Writing is writing as far as I am concerned. And while the rules and methods are similar across genres, some forms of writing are simply much easier to produce than others, while others, owing to the blood, sweat and tears that are required, are way more satisfying.

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Jo Parfitt  – author of Sunshine Soup, nourishing the global soul. Out now. Price £8.47 and available on Amazon. Find out more at www.joparfitt.com,  www.summertimepublishing.com and www.expatbookshop.com

 

Writing a book to promote your business

You may have heard various ‘quotes’ about writing a book. “It’s the best business card you could possibly have,” and “Everyone has a book in them,” are two that spring to mind. If you have aspirations to become an author, you’ll need to be prepared to do some homework before you put pen to paper.

Writing a non-fiction book is as much a process as it is creative. Yes, you need to have an idea of what your core subject is going to be, but you will also need to decide what your unique approach to it will be. There is very little that is unique in today’s world, but every author is a unique individual and it’s your ‘spin’ that will make your book different.

People who are interested in a particular subject will often buy several books on the same subject to get an in-depth understanding of it, so, just because someone has already written a book about the subject doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write another one. However, it is important to have a good knowledge of what has already be written about your specialist subject to ensure you are adding to the knowledge base, not just presenting the same material in a different form.

This step is essential and, if you are planning to try and get a contract from a conventional publisher, they’ll want to know what research you’ve done into other books in your field – don’t skim this stage!

If you’re in a crowded subject field, a good way to make your book unique is to use real life case studies from your own experience to illustrate your points.

As far as content is concerned you need to plot out your book in a reasonable level of detail before beginning the writing process. This means knowing the subject for each chapter and the order of the chapters in your book. Then having a clear plan (I call it a recipe) for the chapter structure so every chapter follows a similar structure. This means your readers don’t suddenly disengage when Chapter 2 starts in an unexpected way, when they’ve just got used to Chapter 1.

Fill out each chapter following your chapter plan with the subheadings, anecdotes, case studies, quotes, facts, etc. Then you’ll have a sound writing plan that will ensure you don’t get writer’s block as long as you follow the structure you’ve created.

If you’re an aspiring author look for more blogs about getting published, the editing process and marketing your book.
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