Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Value Of Publishing Experience

Where can a writer turn for good advice? It's hard in the world of competing voices to find someone with a great deal of publishing experience to recommend to others. Often I see it in the writer's conferences. Someone has published one book or even five books and suddenly they become an "expert" and are teaching at various conferences yet they've just burst on the scene. I've attended some of those workshops and words like surface and shallow spring instantly to mind. It's one of the criteria that I use when I go and listen to someone else teach about publishing. I'm looking at their credentials and experience because I know firsthand the lessons from publishing are continual.

In the nonfiction area of book publishing, it is a challenge to find fresh teaching. Why nonfiction? As I've written about in the past, if you study the numbers of books sold from traditional publishers, nonfiction substantially out sells fiction hands down--year after year. I've watched many writers gravitate toward fiction because they believe it's "easier." Basically they are fooling themselves with this line of reasoning because fiction is not easier. Overall there are less fiction slots than nonfiction and many more people trying to write fiction than nonfiction. If you choose to write only fiction, then you are intentionally targeting the most crowded area of the marketplace within traditional publishing. That's my case for nonfiction in books so back to my original question, where do you turn for some seasoned advice?

The publishing marketplace is diverse and no single individual has all of the answers or insight. Yet I've read a terrific resource, You Can Write! by Sheryl Fullerton & Naomi Lucks. Several years ago I met Sheryl, executive editor at Jossey-Bass, at a writer's conference. You can see more details in the "About Us" section of their website You Can Write. Look around this site because it's another resource to know about and study.

You Can Write! is loaded with sound wisdom and I want to give a small example. In Chapter 13, Fullerton and Lucks give the Nuts and Bolts of Book Proposal Format and Style. A sub-section is called "Take a Good Last Look" and they suggest hiring a professional editor before you send out your proposal and sample chapters. Then say, "If you can't afford to or don't want to hire a professional editor, go over the whole thing very carefully yourself. Ask a couple of intelligent friends to do the same and invite their candid comments (and sharp-eyed proofreading skills). Here are a few things to watch out for:

-Look for obvious mistakes--we all make them. Missing words, typos, and other common errors are easy to miss when you're familiar with your proposal.

-Use your computer's spell-checker, but don't count on it. Your spell-checker doesn't know if you meant "there," "they're," or "their," but you do."

Then they include three more valuable insights but you get the point. This book is loaded with insight and the voice of experience. It is well worth your time to read and study it.

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1 Comment:

At 6:47 AM, Blogger Kristi Holl Left a note...

Calling yourself an "expert" is along the lines of calling yourself "award-winning" and "best-selling" when it's a real stretch. It's funny, but even after selling 35 books, I don't ever recall feeling some expert. I think part of it is the constantly changing marketplace. What worked and sold five years ago isn't always what works today--much less what worked twenty-five years ago when I started. We should always be learning!


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