Is Book Publishing Like A Marathon or a Sprint?
Many writers want to publish a book. From my many years in publishing, I find few of them have thought about whether the process of publishing a book is like a sprint (something with a burst of speed) or a marathon (steady and consistent to complete the task). I often see authors who want to sprint to publication or sprint to get a book contract or a bestseller. Reality is that often it takes consistent, hard work to produce anything of excellence—the writing or the marketing. Authors are not overnight successes but instead spend years in the trenches faithfully working to get their work noticed and sold.
This week a young author outside of the U.S. wrote and asked if a decision had been made on his manuscript. It had been less than two weeks since I had corresponded with this author and it took a number of emails until he gave me what I needed to submit his work. I told this author if he wants a “no, thank you” then I could do that right away but if he wants a “yes” with a publishing contract then that takes patience and time.
While there are many keys in book publishing, in this article, I want to emphasize four important areas.
You Need A Great Product
Too many authors want to dash off something and rush it into the marketplace. I've seen it in my own work and the work of others. Haste often makes waste or mistakes. Take the time to write an excellent book or book proposal. The book proposal is your business plan for your book—whether you are writing nonfiction or fiction—whether you are self-publishing or traditional. You need a plan and it is important to build the plan with a great manuscript. The writing has to be excellent. You need others to affirm that excellence before rushing it to the market.
The devil is in the details. Are all of the details in place for your book before you take it to the marketplace? Does it have a great title? Does it have an attractive cover? Does the first page make me want to turn to the second page? Does the copy on the back cover, draw me to going to the cash register? This week I was a full-color children's book which had no descriptive information on the back cover. Yes it had a barcode and the name of the publisher but nothing to draw me to buy the book. It is a huge omission and lowers the standard for this product. Don't make these basic errors because you are eager to get your book to the market.
You Need to Build an Audience
You've poured a lot of energy and effort into your book. Will you have readers or people who want to read your work—and who are excited about it that they tell others? When someone tells another person about a book, that is called “Word of Mouth.” It is golden when it happens and takes work from the author. As an author you can't lean on your publisher to market your book and build your audience. You have to take your own responsibility for marketing your own book. I understand the reluctance—and I've been there too but I tell every author as an acquisitions editor at Morgan James that they have 80% of the responsibility. Our publishing house will sell the book into the bookstores but all of those books can be returned if the author doesn't promote their book.
I have much more detail and many more ideas in Platform Building Ideas for Every Author which is free (just use the link).
You Need to Have Patience
The majority of book publishing is not quick. You send your material to editors and agents yet do not get a response or receive a response months after your submission. The reality is that it takes time to build consensus among colleagues to issue a book contract or to make a contract offer to publish. As a writer you want to follow-up and make sure the editor or agent received your material and everything is in process. But in contrast, you do not want to push because most of the time when you push, you will nudge that professional toward sending you a polite “no thank you.”
Instead of pushing for a decision, you are better to begin another project. Write a one page query letter for a magazine article. Pitch a magazine editor to assign you to become a columnist. Begin a new book project or book proposal. This effort will remove your focus on the project which is under consideration.
You Need to Have More Than One Project
If you have more than one proposal or one book, you will be less anxious about the submission and be able to shift your focus to the new project or new writing assignment. It will increase your own productivity in the writing world. Recently I was interviewed on this topic of productivity. I encourage you to listen to Productivity in Writing on the Northern Colorado Writers Podcast. It's about a 35 minute session about how to become more productive as a writer.
How do you view book publishing? As a marathon or a sprint? I'd love to have your comments or any other way I can help you with this process. As an acquisitions editor, I'm constantly looking for good books to publish. Don't hesitate to contact me and my work contact information is on the second page of this link.