Monday, June 19, 2006

If You Need A Book

Each month I read Fast Company as one of the magazines that comes into my home.  In the May issue, I was intrigued with this column from Stirling Kelso called My Book, by Me. He describes the easy-to-use online service called Blurb which offers free software to make your own book.

For an experiment, Kelso took his journal entries from a year in Spain and mixed it with his photos. With a day of effort, Kelso created his own commercial-quality book for under $30 that he called Espa´┐Ża (follow the above link and you can see the book).  Of course, the cynical question in this article, who will read it? Is it another way to create more poor-produced books? I hope not.  Here’s an important detail buried in this article, “It’s not as if there aren’t enough books out there already: Nielsen BookScan reports that 1.2 million titles were sold in the United States in 2004, and just 2% sold more than 5,000 copies.”  You can certainly make as many books as you’d like to make but who will read them? How will they be sold and to which market?

This weekend, I received a pitch from a would-be author who has teamed with another author/ illustrator.  In a generic email, she pitched her children’s books. The irony is that I don’t acquire children’s books.  While the email was sent to my personal publisher email address, it  had nothing addressed specifically to me in the body of the email. I could have been the only person who received it—or it could have been massively submitted to many editors at the same time. I suspect the majority of that type of submission will be deleted without any response.  As an editor, I sent a response to this author at least explaining her futility of such a blasted email and encouraging her to read the publisher guidelines and follow it for a better response rate.  I may or may not receive any response from this submission but in a small way I’m trying to help the author—and also do something to stem the tide of these unnecessary submissions.

While almost no one wants to hear it, traditional publishing takes time. It takes effort to shape a book proposal so it will capture the interest of publishers. This book proposal can help you capture the attention of a literary agent. Then the literary agent can market your proposal to different publishing houses. Even after you get a book contract, it will take time for that title to get on the publisher’s schedule and get sold into the bookstores and available to the general public. 

Anyone can use a company like Blurb to take the short cut route and make a book. But do you reach the audience with a quality product? It’s highly improbable from my experience.

2 Comment:

At 4:20 PM, Blogger Cindy Thomson Left a note...

It occurs to me that this might be a good option for people who publish genealogy books for family members. I encourage people to put their family history online in a narrative format, but this would be good to share with non computer users, and cheaper than the traditonal options. People who want to share their life stories with their loved ones might like to know about this.

But for most everyone else, you're right. Don't be tempted to take a short cut.

At 4:21 PM, Blogger Shelley L. MacKenzie Left a note...

It seems that even in the literary world that people have a 'fast food' mentality. They want it their way, in their timing and they want it done yesterday.

Sure, it would be great to have one's book printed up and ready for sale in the blink of an eye, but it just doesn't happen that way - typically.

For myself, I think I would rather go the traditional route to have my book published and printed and put on the market. I don't think that if I were to publish and print a book myself that it would be too successful. No, I'll let the professionals do it


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