It's true: anyone can publish a book these days. eBooks can be uploaded and formatted to fit any eReading device, and paperback or hard cover books can be printed on demand, which means no costly inventory and no large outlay of cash.
So why even consider traditional publishing?
When a book is self-published, the author is starting their own company, whether they realize it or not. No lines are going to form automatically at your door, no one is going to be clamoring to book you for a signing or event, and you won't rise miraculously to the New York Times bestseller list. Most new authors who believe their books are the savior of all mankind are disappointed to find that most people outside of their close friends and family, aren't eagerly awaiting their book's publication.
Those are the tough but true facts.
To effectively get your book in the hands of the reader and earn enough money to make the writing worthwhile, requires a team who knows what they're doing.
Polishing and Editing
In today's competitive environment, a book must be edited and polished in order to stand a chance. While Drake Valley Press, along with most publishers today, only accepts books that the author has already edited and polished so it shines, it doesn't mean we don't read it, polish it further, and make suggestions. Our editors look for grammatical errors, punctuation errors, technical flaws, consistency, plotline, character development, pacing, and many other factors. The result is the book is better by the time it goes into production than what the author thought possible or necessary.
If you self-publish, in order to stand a chance you need to hire a competent editor.
Drake Valley Press generally publishes in eBook format and in trade paperback, though we occasionally will print hard cover copies. That requires professional formatting.
If you are using word processing software, you might think you've formatted the book as well as it can be formatted - and you'd be wrong. Publishers use professional software such as PageMaker, Creative Suite or Quark for laying out pages. This software permits professional kerning and page layouts that standard word processing software doesn't do. You can squeak past by using word processing software for eBooks, but there is a massive difference when you are printing a book.
There are also things that can throw off a book's acceptance by eBook readers - many of which are invisible, like extra spaces at the end of paragraphs, soft returns instead of hard returns, the use of the space bar or tab instead of indentation, etc.
Publishers also will have professional fonts for the printed book. You can spot a book that was formatted in Times New Roman or another standard word processing font - and it won't look like those from a larger publisher.
We all know that we do judge a book by its cover. It's easy to spot a book that was self-published, because most authors are not graphic designers. The use of clip-art, free images, low resolution graphics, and a poor placement of the title and author's name shout to the world that the book was self-published.
You can hire a graphics designer to develop a professional cover for you, and you can also hire someone to use professional formatting software to make the interior what it should be. All of this costs money.
ISBN's and Bowker
You can also purchase an ISBN whenever you publish a book, if you go through a reputable source. But most publishers buy them in bulk. Most have accounts in which they can assign the ISBN's so their information goes right into the databases used by retailers.
The Distribution Channel
Once the book is printed, the work is just beginning. In order for anybody to find it, it must be in the distribution channel: that includes distributors, wholesalers, online retailers and brick-and-mortar stores. It must also be available for readers to find and purchase.
So far, if you're self-publishing, you'll have had to find reputable sources for editing, formatting, cover design... and now figure out how to effectively get it into the distribution pipeline. This can take research, a lot of time and effort. Reputable publishers already have this figured out.
You also have to know how long it takes for the information to filter to the reader. For example, though you can print a book today, it doesn't mean anyone can walk into a book store tomorrow and they can find it in their database. Maybe some day everyone will be connected to instant information, but in today's environment, it means the information has to be in the databases that are sold to the stores. Most stores have subscriptions and the information is updated perhaps on a weekly or monthly basis. But that information has to flow through the wholesalers and distributors to the retailers. If you don't know this, you could encounter a great deal of frustration when your friends and family try to find it through any source other than you personally.
There are two methods of selling: one is to sell to the retailers and the other is to sell to the reader. Both take effort and time. Assuming you want your book in the hands of more than just your family and closest friends, you'll need a marketing plan. It should include mainstream media, online publicity, book signings, personal appearances, and/or virtual book tours.
Have you identified your target market? Do you know how to reach them?
That's the job of the publisher's sales and marketing team.
In essence, you need a TEAM to be successful. You need a great editor, professional book interior, professional cover design, well-printed books, a distribution plan, and a sales and marketing plan.
We'll talk more about each of the factors above in upcoming weeks, as we continue to post on Wednesdays.
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