For Self-Publishers & Publishing Services
While new technology may change the way we produce, distribute, and read our books, one question remains the same: 'Why should we buy them?'
New Worlds for Written Words
As the Gutenberg Age gives way to print-on-demand, Internet retailing, cloud delivery, e-books, blogs, and apps, many authors, publishers, and service providers—let alone readers—wonder what’s going on and what’s happening next.
While new technology may change the way we produce, distribute, and read our books, one question remains the same: “Why should we buy them?” In the rush to create and exploit the latest and greatest formatting, production, promotion and distribution systems, publishing services too often forget their author-client’s real objective: to create a text that readers want.
Selling Sizzle Without the Steak
In traditional publishing, the editorial function meant more than catching typos and correcting grammar. It was also about developing manuscripts worth a reader’s time and money. In the heyday of “dead tree” publishing, good reviews and positive word-of-mouth sold books, kept them in print, and sometimes created classics. That didn’t happen by accident. Value is added to promising manuscripts when content editors take an objective and sympathetic look at an author’s ideas and apply their market knowledge, sense of appropriate style, and years of experience helping writers express themselves more effectively in the language of good books.
Today, many mainstream publishers think and act like Hollywood studios. They devote more and more resources to fewer and fewer “brand name” authors who promise predictable grosses, forcing new literary voices onto the “authorpreneurial” track. Hoping that a slick, self-published project will appeal to the same gatekeepers who previously rejected it, these authors become preoccupied—then disillusioned—with the need to manage tasks traditionally left to specialists: book design, production and marketing, subrights sales, and cyber self-promotion. In short, they invest their limited resources doing everything except their primary job: mastering their craft and writing books that readers want to buy.
Back to Basics: Publishing for Critical and Commercial Success
While most publishing services are great at offering authors choices about the form and format of a book—and many offer useful post-production extras, from access to on-line and brick-and-mortar retailers to sophisticated promotional help—their main concern is providing services, whether or not those services achieve their authors’ ultimate goal: critical and financial success. Too often, self-publishing is like entering a mustang in the Kentucky Derby. The horse may look great leaving the gate, but it doesn’t win many races—especially against the thoroughbreds trained and groomed by editorial pros. While this is a real problem for self-publishing authors, solving it is a real opportunity for service companies who want to stand out from the crowd.
Sell the Substance, Not the Illusion, of Success
If you’re an experienced book producer and marketer, you know that while good packaging and promotion helps move units, it doesn’t stimulate primary demand. By ignoring (or paying lip service) to content while concentrating on manufacturing and merchandising, you bring authors no closer to their ultimate goal: a good book that leaves readers hungry for more. Putting self-published books on the fast track to success means restoring the traditional editorial function to non-traditional publishing.
This is not as difficult, or as hard a client sell, as it may seem.
First, remind your clients that virtually all successful, mainstream projects go through a book development phase. Also called substantive editing, this is where the content of a literary “diamond-in-the-rough” is cut, shaped, and polished by skilled specialists to reveal its hidden facets and inner beauty. In traditional publishing, these specialists include agents, acquisition editors, and the developmental editors and writers who are increasingly crucial to trade book success.
Second, offer your clients a network of experienced developmental editors and writers who support book development in a timely, cost-effective way: through referrals or on-call relationships. If you want your firm to shine and reflect this new gold standard in “authorpreneurial” service, visit the Developmental Editing, Short-Form Publications, and FAQ pages of this site, then go to the Contact link and tell me more about your operations, projects, and timelines and I’ll reply with ways to help you put more of those talented, hard-working authors into the winner’s circle.