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8 Top Publishing Lessons Authors Need To Know

6 July 2017

From Digital Book World:

Writing is not the same as publishing. That may seem obvious to most. But picture a young author with a lot to say – This person writes and writes, day after day. Amasses a seven-foot-tall stack of words on paper. This person then thinks everyone would love to read what they wrote.

Why not? They enjoyed writing it. They know it’s good. They send one of their stories off to a publishing house – maybe two. Okay, they send it off to five dozen.

And the answers come back: Not a chance in H. E. double hockey sticks!

Our author is crushed, heartbroken. Vows to never write again!

Quick show of hands – How many authors approach their writing careers in the same way?

. . . .

1. You’ve spent hours writing your manuscript – now what?

After writing your manuscript for more hours than you can count, you’re not finished. Now it’s time to invest in a Manuscript Overview. What’s that? It’s a process whereby you send your work off to a trusted, experienced editor. They read your work and give you professional, genre-specific feedback: tell you what’s good, what needs work, if your manuscript is ready to publish. It can be painful – but it’s a necessary step on the road to publishing. A roadmap to make your work more successful in the marketplace. It’s to your advantage.

2. You’re tooling around on social media – time to get real.

At the same time as the Manuscript Overview is going on, begin strengthening your on-line presence through interactive social media. These days, even Fiction authors need a platform. Facebook is still a good way to do this, so is Instagram. Whatever you do, invite your community into a relationship. The thing to remember is publishers are looking for authors who already have a following that can be motivated to purchase books.

. . . .

6. Say cheese! Get a professional author photo.

What’s needed is a high-res, professional photo to place on your book, stick on your business cards, add to your sell sheets… get the picture?

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

Editing, The Business of Writing

26 Comments to “8 Top Publishing Lessons Authors Need To Know”

  1. Again with the “you need to pay for three different kinds of professional editing” advice. Sheesh. We just had this conversation.

    I did get professional author photos, by which I mean I paid a friend who’s a photographer for them. Mainly because there are too many places where some kind of photo is expected (author website, Amazon author page) and I take pretty awful normal photos (in my own opinion, of course).

    I think this article loses a lot of credibility when it says all these things you should do as if it’s speaking to indie authors, then when it says why you should do them, it’s because agents/publishers expect these things and this can help you get their attention.

    This part was pretty funny, thought: “Think about it. You have an awesome book. You’ve spent time and money making certain of it. Why wouldn’t you want to put as much time and attention in a cover that will work for you instead of against you?” *As much time* on the cover as the book? No, I don’t think so. Sufficient time to get a quality cover, yes. That shouldn’t take anywhere near as long as it takes to write a book, even for fast writers.

    • I’m overwhelmed by the constant need to convert introverts like me, retired and old, to seek the success of commercial publishing.

      I write because I love writing, telling a story, and exploring my mind – not as the first step in monetary success. If the only drive you have as a writer is to build something for the mass market, all right.

      Please stop parading around describing the perfect story, the perfect cover, and selling as the true goal of a writer. I sit here day after day smiling at the worlds I create and I really don’t give a damn if no one. but me, sees them!

      • I kinda think it would be helpful if articles like this first identified who they’re speaking to before launching into their advice. I think the OP would probably agree that, based on how you’ve described yourself, you’re not really who she’s intending to give her advice to. But they never really indicate that kind of thing. Rarely, anyway. And even when they do make it clear that, say, they’re speaking to someone who wants to make book writing a serious, long-term career, they still end up giving advice that’s just flat wrong for a large portion of the people who fall into the stated category.

        • Although I checked the article again and it does say “young authors” so it seems at least that it’s not intending to target the “retired, just doing it to please themselves” crowd. So she’s really not trying to convert you, John. In fact, she then talks about her hypothetical young author submitting to lots of publishers, so to be fair to the OP, she’s approaching her advice with the assumption that the person she’s talking about is pursuing a traditional publishing deal, or at least open to it.

          • Felix J. Torres

            But, but, but…
            If the goal is to submit, why spend time on covers and formatting and the rest of the tradpub rigmarole?

            Look closely and the underlying premise seems to be that the “young author” is self publishing as a stepping stone to getting noticed by the establishment.

            Yet another zombie meme wrapped up in dated “knowledgeable” advice.

            • “Look closely and the underlying premise seems to be that the “young author” is self publishing as a stepping stone to getting noticed by the establishment.”

              Yes, that definitely does seem to be the assumption that the article’s author makes, which kind of just shows she doesn’t really understand indie publishing all that much, or at least a very large portion of it.

      • @ John Johnson

        “I’m overwhelmed by the constant need to convert introverts like me…”

        Hear, hear.

        The older I get, the more I identify with crotchety Ebenezer Scrooge and the less and less with the nobly suffering Bob Cratchit and his insufferably sweet invalid waif son, Tiny Tim.

        “Bah! Humbug!” I say to all these entreaties to waste my irreplaceable time self promoting and schmoozing on social media. I much prefer to be alone, tapping at the keyboard. I think most writers, typically introverts, feel the same.

        I’ll let my writing do the speaking for me, thank you.

        Of course, the time spent posting here on TPV doesn’t count. 🙂

    • Definitely worth it to have your photo taken by a professional in a studio. (Mine is a horrible “selfie” right now – to be changed as soon as financially possible.)

      • Mine’s a selfie too and I like it MUCH better than the posed one I tried to get a couple of years back. Not the photographer’s fault. Some of us freeze up when a camera swings our way.

        Besides, until you have a fan base, who the hell cares what you look like? And even then I’m not that sure readers care about the author’s appearance. I know I don’t.

  2. Just another ‘you still neeeed us’ piece. As with most of the others the OP seems to think ol skool is the only way.

    (And you ‘have’ to have a photo? Any photo of me would more likely scare off possible readers – not make them want to buy my book! Hmmm, maybe I could sell the photos to make kids of all ages behave … “Eat your greens or we’ll have ‘this guy’ babysit you!” – “Mom, Dad; you either let me date that rock star or I’ll start hanging out with ‘this guy’.” Gee, I wouldn’t need to write, just sell the photos … 😉 )

    • I suspect the photo thing depends somewhat on what you look like and how your looks mesh with what you write. I think, unless you’re trying to hide your identity for some reason, author photos are probably a good idea. But depending on your looks and what you write, they may not be, in which case it’s good to have an alternate, like how some authors have concealed photos of themselves or cartoons of themselves done. I don’t know that I’d say having some kind of photo (or visual representation of yourself) is 100% necessary, but it is pretty standard to have *something*, so having one adds to your professional author image, on a subconscious level if nothing else.

      • Patricia Sierra

        I’ll post a photo of myself as soon as I find one from when I was 21. I’m with John when it comes to the advice given to introverts: nuh-uh, don’t want it. I’m not even interested in seeing photos of the folks who write the books I read, but I’m probably in a minority re that.

        • Well, like they say with dating site photos, you want the photo to look like you and be more or less current. You, but you at your best, which is why I wanted someone with a quality camera and a good eye for photos taking it. But really, author photos are an optional thing, and authors who aren’t comfortable with them can definitely just avoid them and no one really cares.

  3. I don’t know what this advice-giver’s intent was for needing author photos, but there are ways they are commonly used that make me put the book back on the shelf.

    If I pull the book out, flip it over to read the back cover blurb, and the entire back cover is someone’s leering phiz, I figure the book is so bad, the publisher couldn’t even be bothered with a blurb.

    If I pull the book out and open the front cover to look at the blurb on the title page, and it has a half-page author picture and a half-page of sound bite commentary from publications or persons I’ve never heard of, it goes back on the shelf.

    If you’re burning to put the author’s picture somewhere on the book, put it on the front cover. Even someone’s ugly face is probably better than the random clip art some publishers occasionally use.

    • I totally agree with your two turn-offs. I’m looking for some of the Redwall books in mass market size, but I really don’t want to buy a children’s fantasy book with some old dude’s face taking up the entire back cover. That’s space that should be used for info about the book, not off-putting photos of people (especially ones who aren’t what the target readership would really want to see in such a large, in your face way) or quotes that amount to, “We’re not going to tell you anything about the book to let you make your own decision, but trust us, it’s amazing so you should buy it.”

      I think author photos are good for the author’s chosen web presence, and maybe for author events in person if they do those kinds of things. I think they’re fine on book covers/interiors, but they should be discreet and not take up space better used for actual info about the book.

  4. A photographer I know offered to do an author photo for me. I smiled and said I might take her up on it, but truth be told I run from cameras. I’d rather just use a cartoon avatar like the Gorillaz band, or say that I’m that Mortal Kombat character whose face can’t be seen or you’ll go insane.

    Things all authors could do is set up a website so that people have a one-stop place to learn about your books and what order they should be read in, or when you’re going to release a new one.

    ~Write compelling loglines so that people know what the books are about: A young girl enters a race against time when the Big Bad Wolf sends her grandmother to another dimension.*** Now, her only hope is to undertake a perilous journey to find the Woodsman, whose legendary axe may be the key to defeating the Big Bad Wolf. Like that, but with more sizzle.

    ~Have high-res images of the books’ covers so that your readers can see what they look like.

    ~Include links to all the fine stores where your books can be found, especially if you’re catering to different formats.

    ~If you were traditionally published before, let readers know when you might be re-issuing those books in e-book form.

    ~If you really want to go all out, you could include extras such as concept art or timelines or maps, etc.

    ***Let’s assume that when the wolf swallowed up Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother, he sent her to another dimension and not merely his unusually large stomach (per the version I’d read as a child).

  5. I thought it was from the Onion…

  6. Smart Debut Author

    Ever notice how all these “X things authors MUST pay for” advice articles aimed at newbies are always written by an OP selling one of those services?

    Only 3 of the 8 listed actually are useful.

    Here’s my roundup:

    “1. …invest in a Manuscript Overview.”


    To actually copy edit and line edit a book skillfully takes a combination of talent and experience. It’s really hard work.
    OTOH, “Give me money to read your manuscript and tell you what I think” is a dream job for lazy scam artists. You’ll find very few professional editors doing it.
    For an editor to offer paid “Manuscript Overviews” screams amateur-hour on their part in the best case, and ripoff hustler most of the time. Even “trusted, experienced editors” usually turn out to be painfully mediocre, and a wet-behind-the-ears newbie author won’t have the necessary judgment or experience to discern whether an editor is good or lousy (unless they are really *really* lousy).

    Beta readers that read your genre for pleasure can tell you what works & what doesn’t… for them, specifically.
    But if several give you the same feedback, it’s worth considering.

    “2. Pre-publication social media efforts”

    Mostly a waste of time. Readers want to engage with authors whose books they’ve enjoyed.
    Not become a fan of some hopeful wannabe whose writing is unknown to them.
    Social media is a great tool for engaging with your fans… once you’re writing has already won them over.
    Also, note the specious assumption that the end goal of running up your social-media numbers is to impress a publisher. Eh, no.
    If you’ve already built a significant “platform” on your own, then I’m sure a publisher will be happy to take 85% of your money for doing nothing.
    But… at that point, with a ready-waiting customer base, 99% of the time you’re better off indie publishing anyway.

    “3. …send it off to a Copy Editor.”

    Definitely worth it. This is your biggest expense. But beware.
    A bad copy editor is worse than no copy editor, so choose wisely.
    A lot of freelance “professional” editors are actually failed writers or bottom-of-the-barrel trad-pub downsizees. Caveat emptor.

    “4. People do judge a book by its cover.”

    Yep. Worth investing some $$, but choose wisely. A lot of the professional “book designer” types have no clue what actually draws a customer’s eye.
    They brainlessly ape “award winning” book covers that are aimed at impressing other “book design professionals” rather than readers.
    Find a cover artist whose designs make *you* want to pick up or click on a book.
    And ignore the covers of well known “name” authors; their books would sell even with a brown paper wrapper as cover, so publishers can afford to get “creative.”
    As a newbie, you can’t.

    “5. Create your bios.”

    Yep. Very useful. You’ll be entering these, along with your book descriptions, into web forms with different word length limits, at retailers, advertising sites, email templates, your website, marketing partners, etc., etc.
    Have 100-word, 200-word, 300-word, etc. versions of each handy at all times in a swipe file so you can cut&paste.

    “6. professional author photo.”

    Total nonsense. NOBODY gives a crap what an author looks like other than traditional publishers, who seem stuck on the idea that a pretty author will sell more books than a less photogenic one.
    Famed children’s author Shel Silverstein’s jacket photos are HIDEOUS: he looks like a bloodthirsty buccaneer or a cannibal serial killer.
    Many kids strip the dust jackets off and throw them away because Shel’s author picture scares them.
    Doesn’t stop him from selling tons of books.

    “7. Editing’s not done yet: line editing”

    Also very important, but the line between copy editing and line editing is an artificial legacy publishing-industry distinction.
    Many pro editors do both (copy editing and line editing), but it sounds more intimidating to authors when presented as 2 totally disconnected things,
    each of which you “must” pay for separately.

    “8. ..send your work off for a professional, unbiased review.”

    Total scam.

    Kirkus, PublishersWeekly, etc. are happy to take a few hundred out of the pockets of uninformed indie authors for a “professional” review written by some minimum wage intern, but readers pretty much ignore those. Readers care about *customer* reviews, so focus on getting ARCs into the hands of carefully selected customer Amazon reviewers, Goodreads reviewers, and the like.

    Costs you nothing, and actually works.

    • Smart Debut Author

      “…once your writing has already won them over…”

      See, editors are necessary. Case in point. 😉

  7. Thank you for number 7. I honestly don’t know how a sane person splits off copy editing from line editing. They really are the same task to me. How can you skip over pacing or poor scene blocking to just focus on the grammar and spelling? I can’t restrain myself from handling both at once.

    One thing I’d add about copy editors — give them your own style guide. Last night your character dreamed she went to Manderley? Or dreamt she went to Manderley? Some official guides *cough* Chicago *cough* prefer the former, but I’d write the latter. Any good editor understands the concept of “house style,” and any person who has ever had a paycheck knows that he who has the gold makes the rules.

    Famed children’s author Shel Silverstein’s jacket photos are HIDEOUS: he looks like a bloodthirsty buccaneer or a cannibal serial killer.

    Well now I had to go and look. Those poor kids.

    • Smart Debut Author

      House style guide…

      …makes a lot of sense. Great advice, Jamie.

      …she who has the gold makes the rules….

      Very true. 🙂 The indie author has ultimate authority to decide whether to accept each editorial change or reject it.

      One incredible thing my editor did for me, early on, was to annotate many key edits with a note on the precise reason for that particular change, and how it improved readability, flow, immersiveness, avoided inadvertant and distracting rhyming, etc.

      It helped me becoming a far better writer in the process.

      Shel Silverstein’s jacket photos…

      Sorry. Once seen, some things cannot be unseen. 😛

  8. I do wish inexperienced writers would carefully review the covers and blurbs on Bookbub and similar listings. Can you tell the genre and tone from the cover? Does the blurb grab you? That’s an education in itself.

  9. Al the Great and Powerful

    I want to sue these wankers for false advertising. How much of “Digital Book World” actually meets that definition? It seems all we ever see is Tradpub bloviations, which is to say, hardcopy advocates. They need to come up with a name based in what they espouse, and not this lying title they gave themselves.

    At this point any time I see DBW I assume they mean Dirt-Bag Wankers. Because they sure don’t support digital books.

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