A four-part series on book publishing! Today, we bring you our intro to this project. In a couple of weeks, we’ll look closer at social publishing.
The world of publishing makes me think of Harry Potter — though not for reasons you’d think.
Specifically, I think of the sub-franchise Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them because — and hear me out — the world of publishing is home to just as many mysterious beasts.
And by “beasts” I mean the sheer amount things aspiring authors need to know.
We’re going to break down the fantastical world of publishing in four parts, starting with this overview. Soon, we’ll tackle the next section — social publishing.
This series aims to remove some of the mystery behind publishing, ideally bringing you closer to writing that book.
Self-Publishing or Traditional Publishing?
For a long time, publishing a book meant getting an agent, writing a query, and hoping a publisher would offer you a contract for your book. In recent years, though, other kinds of publishing have risen in both popularity and accessibility.
“Now, more than at any other time in history, there are more opportunities and possibilities to write, share, and publish a story — and interact with an audience,” according to the Writer’s Digest. “Whether you are after the traditional publishing experience … or want to self publish your book, it’s completely within your grasp.”
Put simply, traditional publishing does not require the author to pay to publish their work. Rather, they’re offered a contract from a traditional publisher who will take care of the printing, distribution, and marketing of the book itself.
Self-publishing squarely places the responsibility on the author — publishing, distributing, and marketing. There are plenty of ways to self-publish — from entirely DIY to paying for specific services (printing, editing, etc.) as you go.
You just have to find what works for you. Check out Janet Friedman’s The Key Book Publishing Paths for a helpful breakdown and analysis of publishing options.
Keep Calm, and Query On
If you end up going the traditional publishing route, there are tons of great resources to help you with one of the most important steps: Writing a great query letter.
“In essence, a query letter is a marketing page that talks up your book, without overselling it,” according to NY Book Editors’ blog on query writing. “You must walk a very fine line between selling your manuscript without coming across like the parent who knows his kid is the best player on the bench.”
Here are some general tips for query writing:
- Do your homework. Address your letter to a specific editor, and do some research on them so you have an idea of their work, and what they’re looking for. Know the genre your book fits into, and what kind of audience it could appeal to.
- Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Editors expect queries to follow a certain formula. Follow it. Channel your inner Hemingway. Keep your paragraphs and sentences concise. Some editors won’t even read queries that are longer than a page.
- Only add info that enhances your letter. Won an award for your writing? Mention it. If not, that’s OK. Don’t try mentioning that you got a story featured in your high school lit journal in hopes that it’ll make up for it.
This may be the hardest letter you have to write, but where there’s a will — and a template to follow — there’s a way.
Pick up Some Marketing Chops
No matter the kind of publishing you decide to go with, having some general marketing knowledge can help authors have an edge.
Indie author Karen Myers talks about the importance of cultivating some general business knowledge in order to find success as an author.
Her biggest recommendation? Finding balance between writing, and the business of writing.
Overall, no one expects you to be a marketing guru. But, having ideas about the audience your book is for, and the kinds of ways you can reach them can be extremely valuable to a publisher, or when self-publishing your book.
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Jennifer (Davids) Flynn is a customer content specialist at PR Newswire. By day, she reads releases and advises clients on content best practices. By night (and weekends) she spends most of her time reading fiction and hanging out with her puppy.