The All-Time Top Reasons to Pursue Big Publishing, Part 3

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The question was raised by an author who's recently been offered a contract, would it make sense to push for hardcover, the thinking being this raises credibility and importance in the eyes of buyers. Sure, if it's a good size run as well, but it'll be more expense for buyers too, so it's a gamble. And hardcover alone doesn't get you the respect you're hoping for. 

And as I've been realizing and saying in my last posts, the bigger point we're talking about here is perceptions and assumptions. Manipulating them and creating them and respecting them. If we don't understand them, we won't get anywhere. But if we just accept them and adopt them, we'll stay just as stuck. 

It'd be really cool to break down a number of publishing assumptions and dissect the resulting perceptions, or vice versa, but that sounds cumbersome and cerebral. And I'm tired and I want to get moving on the forward motion part of this journey. I'm not impatient, I just want to get going and we can talk about all this on the way. 

But above all, I want to be authentic. The troubles we have with perceptions and assumptions are largely about people not being authentic and careful in how they represent things whether it's their own work (in the case of self-promoting authors), their published books (in the case of publishers and agents), or whatever. Duplicity and selfishness tend to rule the day so there's a lot of garbage piled up in the way of trust and the real insights possible when that trust is there. I want to be trustworthy. 

I'm not going to say things to improve my "business" and I don't care if people don't agree with me. I listen, most the time but not always, to learn and make sure I'm thinking through all the angles. But ultimately, I answer to a higher purpose. I won't sit here and tell you not to pursue big publishing just so you'll come here and join the tirade against big publishing. That's not my goal and I love the people in big publishing. All I'm saying is that some authors have made it their goal to be published with big publishers and that's dangerous because big publishing is a business and businesses are soulless, so you need to take a few steps back before you get hurt. I'm asking people to let go of getting published and start with the necessary steps first.

This doesn't mean those who have taken the necessary steps of researching, writing, editing, branding, building a network, researching online marketing and building a platform aren't ready or shouldn't pursue big publishing. But they need to divorce their hearts from the process and know that it will likely mean changing a bit to fit into that hole, niche, slot, channel, whatever at the publisher. And believe me, if you're not sure what your slot is on the shelf, it means that's probably not you yet. Figure this out before you go and you'll save yourself a lot of headache. 

My "agenda" is largely to be without an agenda here. But as a guiding principle, I will promote the idea that there's a proper time and place for everything–for the writing to sing, you can't be editing and thinking about how you'll market it. Same principle when I see people at conferences taking classes on marketing and branding and such who haven't even finished their manuscript. This should be forbidden and when I'm king, I'll pass the law. But I'm just asking us to think and strategize together, break the steps down, and take them in their due course. Thing is, even if you've had some experience in all the steps, with each book, you have to do them all again, and in the right order, so it'll help to get this clear in your brain no matter where you're at. 

At the recent writers conference in Santa Barbara, I met some great people who were right on with this and I could see many of them doing very well in some of the emerging alternative publishing options. But before we go there, we need to ensure everything is where it needs to be with the book and the message, and then with the platform and presentation, so we can ensure nothing is left to chance or changed by big publishing if and when that becomes a possibility. 

And the exciting thing is, I'm hearing a lot of people agreeing. So while I keep working on this bigger site, let's keep talking about where we're at in our processes. I'd love to hear some stories, build some community. Also, pretty soon, I'll have a few polls and things to look at on the beta site so you can sound off and tell me what's helpful and what's not. It's all underway, but in the meantime, feel free to chime in and introduce yourself, your project and experience, and maybe an insight or two if you're so inclined. 

Oh, and for the record, I told my friend that the risk and the reward of hardcover is that you're betting that more expense will better convey it's value, but other things also work against this perception with buyers, such as the size of the house, the size of the print run, the visibility of the author, and previous publishing history. So while such proof of a publishers' positive belief would be conveyed more strongly with HC, the higher risk the seller is then forced to take mitigates some of that. And if the print run isn't very large, hardcover could undermine it's chances rather than help.

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9 thoughts on “The All-Time Top Reasons to Pursue Big Publishing, Part 3”

  1. For the hardcover question, here’s a reader’s perspective: These days I am unwilling to buy hardcover primarily because my shelves are full of softcover AND many times if the author has future books, they aren’t printed in softcover and then that messes with continuity and uniformity of my shelves.(Not pretty but authentic).
    Several years ago I attended a major writer’s conference (my first) and was so nearly overwhelmed by the business/marketing end of things I almost gave up – despite equally overwhelming encouragement for my work. I needed a “platform” and so bit the bullet and decided to blog. In deciding to blog, I had to choose a theme I could live with for a long time. When I did that, I realized I had found my passion (if not my brand) but I also realized that some of the non-fiction I had been trying to shop around, though well-written, was not coming from the seat of my passion.
    Now, I’m glad I don’t have to live with the “brand” of those books. I now have a novel I’m revising and non-fiction book I am developing but I’ve accepted that this will all take much more time than I ever dreamed. However, the writing is miles from what I was producing before my first conference.
    In fact, the novel is finally taking off because I FINALLY let go of a fear I had about its marketing prospects and let myself write it from the perspective that works (seconded by a recent professional critique of the first chapters).
    Pre-emptive marketing concerns can crush a writer’s voice. Something that should be protected in it’s embryonic and infancy stages and, perhaps, well into a writer’s adolescence where he/she finally has the nerve to tell the world to take a hike.

  2. Mick, I’m getting pretty excited about some of the concepts you’re throwing around.
    The drive towards publication can be sort of a golden calf for writers.
    Sure it’s fine if you don’t mind playing the game of writing for publication, but you have to know it’s a game first.
    But for me and the writers I choose to ally myself with: the ultimate goal is to write at the absolute peak of your ability so that the truth you yearn to speak, your message and meaning and purpose, is in it’s finest, most powerful setting.
    It’s all fine if you can get a big publisher interested. Just don’t expect them to fall all over it because it’s magnificent. They want something they can sell.
    Sure I might accept editorial changes when they strengthen or help cover my weaknesses. But I for one won’t truckle with a publisher if I genuinely feel the integrity of the work would be compromised.
    There are more important things than seeing your name on a book spine above a bigPub logo.

  3. It seems to me, in an age where 35% of book sales go to Kindle, that getting upset about whether or not your book is in hardcover is truly off point.
    The book reading pubic’s behavior seems to be communicating, “the lighter the better.”
    Perhaps energies would be better spent asking for marketing dollars and leave the book format decisions to the one who pays the printer.

  4. Here’s where I am: I have published one picture book and have another under consideration, both with a small niche publisher that I work for. (Working for them didn’t get my work accepted, though.) I’ve written two contemporary/literary novels, one of which deserves to be published and the other does not. I’m currently working on a MG/YA fantasy (not the urban variety). So as you can see, my work would not be easily “branded.” In fact, the very concept of “branding” for fiction sickens me.
    The one thing all my work so far, and all the work I ever envision doing, has in common is that it treads the line between Christian and secular. It is informed by my traditional Christian worldview, but is targeted toward anyone who is open to being challenged spiritually. It also has a literary rather than commercial sensibility, so I guess that’s two things in common.
    I believe an audience for such work exists, but how to reach it without a publisher’s help is another matter. My current experience suggests that agents do not consider my work marketable.

  5. Wow. I’m consistently floored at the high level of thought coming over the transom here. It’s dizzying at times and I find it hard to keep up. Please forgive if I can’t respond as I’d like.
    Though being out of the corporate world helps a TON with finding more time, it still has a tendency to get eaten up by menial tasks. I hope to get to cover many of the questions and ideas developing here on the new site, but I need to spend time developing that content for now. Thanks, y’all, for understanding!
    And thanks for responding!

  6. Mick, you continue to amaze me. God is using you! I pretty much love this post because it hits close to home since I’ve experienced the road of self-publishing, and then was “pursued” by a big publishing house. Praise God! I’m nervous sharing, but here is a brief summary. Gulp.
    Someone mentioned they don’t have money to self-publish and either did I, my friend. A wise woman, who I call a friend, heard about what I was doing and asked me about the money part. I told her God would provide since He put his on my heart and I hadn’t a penny to my name. I was planning on saving for 14 months. She told me and I quote. “People will want to support you with this. Give us a chance to help you.”
    Uh, ask for help…never thought of that. Letters were sent out and within weeks, I had every penny I needed. I agree, Mick, that with technology now it’s super easy to market and advertise yourself and book. I had a game plan and it was very successful. If anyone wants more details on what I did, I’ll share.
    Anyhoo, months after my book came out, a bigger publishing company took notice and I guess I can say “pursed” me. I still had a long road ahead, that’s another story itself, but I’m thrilled to say that yes, SP authors can get noticed! We can get behind the red velvet cord! I’m working with an amazing team who believes in the story God gave me.
    I wanted to share because I know what writer’s think when they hear self-publishing, but I’m here to encourage you to really pray and ask God to reveal His plan. I never ever thought about SP till I hit the bottom and literally handed the reins over to God. I surrender it all. Then God gave it back, plus so much more.
    Phew.

  7. Great post! I entered the game a bit late in life so I have done some huffing and puffing to catch up. But I have observed many different attitudes and convictions on the subject of publishing. I am mature enough to know that you have to cut through the fluff and eliminate the unessesary and concentrate on the meat and bones of your project. Life has taught me that! My personal goal is to share whatever God has given me to share and I will do whatever is required of me to do that. Whether I go with traditional or self publishing is of little consequence to me. Im not in control of that except to go through the doors opened to me. In the two or more years that I have been writing full time I have acquired a platform I never dreamed of. I have studied my craft and networked with the most awesome people around – people like you. If it all ended today, I would consider myself a better human being for having been a speck on the publishing map.
    Oh, and the thought of going hard cover has never entered my mind. I think it’s a waste of money for both sides.
    Blessings!
    Jan Cline

  8. Wouldn’t it be interesting if publishers started creating top quality “small paperbacks” instead of oversize paperbacks? Every time we go on a flight and want something good to read, we wonder why books published in Europe are small and handy and ours aren’t.
    Thanks for your posts, Mick! I always send them to my writing friends.
    Laurel

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