The following book excerpt is taken from the book Publishing Architect’s Blueprint: Self-Publishing Fundamentals by Sherrie Wilkolaski. This is the first chapter of the book titled, “Setting Expectations”.
Sherrie Wilkolaski is a leading expert in the independent publishing market, having consulted with more than 15,000 authors throughout her career as the Publishing Architect™. A bestselling author, radio talk show host and content strategist, she has studied at the Yale Professional Publishing program and George Washington University.
The Publishing Architect’s Blueprint: Self-Publishing Fundamentals is a no-nonsense roadmap to publishing success for the author and small publisher alike. Both fiction and nonfiction authors will utilize this book as their publishing guide for print, e-book and audio titles. It maps the most direct route to publishing success in the most cost-effective manner, providing the indie publisher with the skills and approach of a traditional publisher and marketing strategy of a bestseller.
Even if a book has already been brought to market, Publishing Architect’s Blueprint: Self-Publishing Fundamentals provides pragmatic insights on how to strengthen a book’s publishing, distribution and marketing foundations.
Book Excerpt from Publishing Architect’s Blueprint: Self-Publishing Fundamentals
Photos not included in the book version of this excerpt.
My fingers are poised over the keys of my laptop and Beethoven’s 5th Symphony plays over and over in my mind. The first note the audience hears sets the tone for the rest of the piece of music. I jump on YouTube and play the masterpiece. My heart races along with the music, and I am ready to compose what I feel is the most important chapter of this book.
When you drive up to the Taco Bell takeout window, your expectation of the meal and experience will be quite different than that of having dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant. Expecting the Taco Bell franchise to have a sanitation grade of “A” hanging in the window, hot food, a cold Pepsi, and service with a smile—all that is what the customer should expect. Estimated investment per person: $5.13. Guests who dine at Paul Bocuse’s three-star Michelin restaurant in Lyon, France are looking for an upscale experience. White-glove service from the moment they arrive and throughout the meal. Complimentary apéritif and amuse-bouche are a given. Table-side visit from the chef is hoped for, and the caliber of the cuisine should be superb—the best food that guests have ever tasted. Estimated investment for a prix-fixe meal (not including wine): €190.
Authors, I have experienced and enjoyed both of the above restaurant scenarios. As you move through this book, I will share with you the level of service you should expect in each phase of the publishing process and with specific vendors and publishing professionals (i.e. editors, graphic designers, etc.). Throughout your independent publishing journey, keep your expectations in check, based on the publishing path that best suits your needs and budget.
Establishing Realistic Expectations
Let’s be clear. If you’re reading this book, you’ve decided to move forward and self-publish your own book. Bravo! You are more than an author, you’re a rogue warrior. Most important, you’re a publisher. Yes, you read that correctly. Self-publishing = publisher. Independent publishing = publisher. Don’t let this designation overwhelm you. This book is designed with you in mind. We’ll work together to identify and develop the right publishing path for you. One step at a time.
The amount of money you have to invest in publishing your book like a professional will make an impact on the final book product. Do not worry. I will walk you through the entire process: editing, formatting, cover design, ISBNs, distribution, printing, marketing, and more. You will walk away with a tailored publishing blueprint that is the most cost-effective route to producing a retail-ready product that can stand up next to any competitive book on both the literal and digital shelves.
10 Expectations Authors Should Reconsider
Throughout my publishing career given the volume of authors I’ve worked with, covering all aspects of the publishing process, all genres, both fiction and nonfiction, I’ve gained some insight into where authors are coming from. Additionally, I’ve worked with small self-publishing imprints with a handful of authors, mid-sized indie publishers handling thousands of authors, industry leaders with self-publishing platforms, as well as traditional houses. It doesn’t matter the genre, the author budget, or whether the book will be self-published or published in a traditional manner. Authors are uniformly alike. For you, this is an emotional experience. Your book is your baby. You’ve invested so much of yourself, dare I say, blood, sweat, and tears. I get it. As the publisher, you’ll need to put your emotions aside. There will be times when you will need to access the author-in-you during the process, but these times will be limited.
Before moving to the next chapter, prepare yourself mentally for your publishing journey. Read through my list of 10 Expectations Authors Should Reconsider below and absorb them. You may have to realign your thought process; consider this a valuable mental publishing exercise. You’re getting ready for your own personal publishing Olympics. I’m your trainer. I’ve worked on over 20,000 different books and I’m a bestselling author myself. My advice comes from the heart and from much experience. Deep breath in. Deep breath out. Let’s do this!
Here are the top 10 expectations authors have that haven’t changed in well over a decade, even with the advances in publishing technologies:
- My book is going to be a New York Times Best Seller. Um…yeah. Let’s worry about this after the book has actually been published and after you have committed a marketing budget in excess of $100,000+. Along with the financial commitment, you’ll have to quit your job and do a massive book tour throughout the US and overseas. Before you get too discouraged, please know that I can get virtually any book to be a bestseller on Kindle, as I’ve accomplished this time and again. However, New York Times best sellers are rare for the average indie author. Fact of life. It’s not personal, it’s business. Let’s move on to unrealistic expectation #2.
- There has never been another book written like mine…ever. Wow! Really? It is extremely unlikely that your book isn’t similar to another book that has already been published. To come up with a brand new idea, a brand new concept, is highly unlikely. As passionately as you believe that your book is completely original, it’s likely that it is similar, on some level, to other books that have already been published. That’s actually a good thing. If you want to sell your book, it must be similar to others. Readers are looking for books on topics that interest them. Whether it’s a thriller or a book on gardening, your book needs to fall into a main genre and then take on sub-categories within that genre to reach a more diverse audience. This is critical in the retail market listings, for distribution purposes and to help capture the end user—the reader. With that in mind, what I would like to hear from authors is that they have written a thriller with a unique plotline, thought-provoking characters, and a story that will continue to engage readers for so long that it will become a classic.
- My book doesn’t need to be edited. Typically what follows this sentence is: “My friend is an English teacher and she/he took a look at it.” All writers need to be edited. Preferably multiple times, whether they are writing books, magazine articles or blog posts. Editing is the most important investment in the publishing process. Perversely, it is the one item that authors do not want to spend money on. Marketing is the second. I have stopped counting the number of authors who have told me they wanted to wait for the book to sell first, so they could raise enough money to go back and then have it edited. Your book needs to be edited by a professional book editor, one who is actually trained in the art of editing books. Professional book editors will make your work shine, and they will do it in your voice. If you are not willing to invest in having your book professionally edited, then don’t bother moving forward with publishing. The rest of the time and money invested will be wasted. In fact, your book will probably need multiple edits, and even after it is published, you will still find mistakes. It’s just the nature of the beast.
- I’ll publish an e-book first and then “really” publish later.Publishing an electronic book is actually publishing a book. Just because the book is in an electronic format doesn’t mean it isn’t real. Many authors still do not recognize that publishing an e-book means their book is published and out there for the world to see. The work that goes into creating the electronic file requires just as much care and consideration as it does when the goal is having the book in print. It still needs to be edited, formatted, a cover designed, etc. Is there a strategy for publishing an electronic-only version of the book before the release of the print version? Yes, but don’t just throw your work out to the world and hope it sticks. Distinguish your objectives for an “e-book only” and make sure they are sound. If you want feedback on your work, collaborate with a writers’ group or use an online platform like www.wattpad.com. When authors tell me they want to go “e-book only,” that translates into, “I do not want to pay to have my book edited.” We’ll cover the benefits of publishing a book in all available formats later on in this book. For now, open your mind and think beyond e-book only as a publishing option.
- Amazon is the only place I’m going to sell my book. Amazon is absolutely a must as an online retail outlet for selling a book, but why limit your distribution options? There are so many other sales channels where an author’s title can receive exposure. This goes for print and electronic formats alike. Yes, Amazon’s self-publishing division CreateSpace provides a print-on-demand option for authors to get their books listed via Amazon.com. Their KDP Select program is Amazon’s electronic book division, again providing the platform necessary to publish an e-book on their site. But why invest in creating a product and then only offering it to a portion of the world’s consumers? What type of book are you publishing? How well does that genre sell on Amazon? Are there other distribution channels that might serve your book better? All authors should be publishing in as many distribution channels as are available to them, for each format of their books. Distributing your self-published title is simple and cost-effective. We’ll cover this in the chapter on distribution.
- I don’t want to self-publish because I really want to be picked up by a traditional publisher. The publishing landscape has changed, dear author. Traditional houses are looking at content that has been self-published, particularly books that have been successful. They want authors who already have established audiences. In this market, it is advantageous to be a hungry author willing to invest in self-publishing his or her work. Caveat, it has to be done properly. If your goal is to be acquired by a traditional house, I recommend setting a deadline for yourself to pitch your title. Give yourself eighteen to twenty-four months, and if your work is not picked up, then have your self-publishing plan ready to roll out.
- People don’t read self-published books. False. As a reader, do you only read or purchase books published by select traditional publishing houses? People are looking for content first. They take recommendations from friends or read reviews. At the end of the day, if the content is good, it doesn’t matter to most readers how the book came to life. Readers do not like books by self-published authors who throw their work up as free or cheap e-books that haven’t been edited or formatted properly because the authors used a free e-book conversion platform. Focus on the value in the content and the fundamental steps appropriate to bringing a book to market. Among the self-published authors you may have heard of is Virginia Wolf, who started her own Hogarth Press with her husband, James Redfield, who self-published The Celestine Prophecy; and Pride and Prejudice wouldn’t have made it to our English literature classes if Jane Austen hadn’t invested in her own work.
- Marketing isn’t needed, my book will just sell. A book is a product. Marketing is paramount. Just because a book is listed on Amazon or with other retailers doesn’t mean that it will sell. It needs to be promoted. Marketing and public relations (PR) should commence during the pre-production phase, continue through the launch of the book and be ongoing. A book must be promoted. Yes, there are the stories of the author who didn’t market and became a big seller. There are always stories like that out there, but they are rare. Book sales are are result of marketing efforts and the process will take time. Marketing will be a part of your overall publishing road map. If you’re thinking that you can avoid this process by going the traditional route, think twice. Publishers these days require authors to provide marketing plans and to invest in their own marketing. There is no way of getting around it.
- My friends and family will buy (and read) my book. This doesn’t usually happen. First, the people closest to you will expect you to give them a copy. Second, the chances of their actually reading the book are going to be diminished by the number of books they already have sitting on their bedside tables. They will probably glance through your book but may or may not actually ever get around to reading it. Third, there is the possibility that they may not like the book. I’ve talked with many supportive friends and family members of authors who have told me that reading their sister’s romance novel or friend’s book on gemology is not at the top of their list. Accept their support, but don’t assume those closest to you will dive into your work as enthusiastically as you might prefer.
- I am going to self-publish, I can do everything myself. This is potentially the biggest misconception of all. It takes an army of people to publish a book. There are many components involved in building a book. Be smart about the resources you utilize and let the professionals do what they do best. Authors who self-publish should be project management-focused, keeping their team of publishing experts working through one task at a time. You are the general contractor, managing your vendors and tradesmen.
Are You Ready?
Self-publishing fundamentals is only a page away. Let’s go! To purchase a copy of Publishing Architect’s Blueprint: Self-Publishing Fundamentals go to Amazon.