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Archive for hybrid publishing

Your reputation should precede your publication

If you’ve ever self-published a book, then you’re likely to get a phone call from a publishing house. At least that’s what the caller will tell you they’re representing. The call might well come from Author Reputation Press, like the one I got this week. They’d heard that my 2012 novel Viral Times was for sale at Barnes & Noble. “How’s the book doing?” In a few minutes, the caller was ready to help my self-published novel from nine years ago get better published.

All it would take was $6,799 and my willingness to send the book to the company for fresh editing, cover, and a marketing package. I’d get 45 printed copies, too. The reputation of my book was already nine years old on the afternoon I was called. They have “book scouts,” a mythical set of creatures like wood nymphs, who scour the world for good books that can be better published.

I had to invite the caller to connect with me through email. I was on deadline, I explained, and didn’t have time to talk about my first novel. That’s a conversation to have before your book is published, not years afterward. A quick look into Author Reputation Press shows a thick sheaf of complaints and warnings. The publishing world is full of corporations that want to dig deeper into the vein of self-publishers whose books already have a reputation in place. By some industry estimates, four of every five books fail to earn back their advances. The books themselves might be fine efforts, but they didn’t find an audience and sell enough copies.

When you’ll see results

There’s a much better time to talk about getting your book the reputation that it deserves. That’s when the book is still developing. Re-releasing a book is a noble mission, of course. The movie business used to re-release good films, in part because the studios controlled the theaters where the movies were distributed. The movies didn’t get a makeover, though, like the promised ones from Author Reputation Press. The studios turned the crank of marketing to find a new audience for the films.

Author Reputation Press doesn’t control any distribution avenues. This is a hybrid publishing operation, one where the author arrives with a budget and the old books get spruced up and refined. I’d hope that any call to attract your expenditures might start with a better opening line than “How’s your novel doing?” If the caller doesn’t know that, you wonder how they’d know enough to get the book selling better? Some of the Author Reputation packages don’t even include editing services.

There’s nothing wrong with buying a package of services to get your self-published book into the world. Try not to pay for a lot of printed copies. The distinction you’ll seek from a hybrid publisher is how well they’ve done to publish other books. That’s publish as in “sell.” You’d like to see the specifics for marketing and sales beyond a bullet point for “Professional Sales and Marketing Package.”

I’ve worked in publishing since 1981, editing and marketing stories in periodicals and books. Creating a great book is a thrill, just like it was nine years ago with my first novel, or in 2019 for my memoir. Across the 40 years of publication work, I’ve learned that selling and marketing a book might be the hardest step on the way to carrying the story onto the landing of success. When a press calls to offer you an improved reputation, keep the conversation focused on what they will pay you for your self-published book. if you’ve had the professional editing and design, the next best step is to improve the chances of your book’s discovery. That’s what an accomplished press does with a good book.

Investing to send your books into the world

We need to know if we’d like our books to become a part of a bigger world. Many like to call that publishing, but I consider that a business term. Getting a book into the world is all we can count upon. If you’re honest, you might find you’re not counting on it — and regretting the investment to carry your book into its next phase, so it can have a better shot to get an agent’s offer to represent it.

You’ll be able to make your way into the world without investments you might regret. The question is, can you go as far as you desire? You might have something free going for you: this book won’t leave you alone.

One of my workshop members queried 32 agents to get representation. She got it, and a good agent. Those were hand-tooled queries, too. I’m not one to handicap the future where art is concerned. But that desire to make a book, or a lack of it, has an impact upon the energy needed to make your book grow clearer and stronger.

Together we do make a book better, to give readers as discerning as yourself an easier time of finishing a story. A better book has a better chance of becoming a published book, but there are no formulas. For example, I’ve learned there’s many a memoir hiding inside a novel. Our wish as readers in the 21st century is to demand more realism in our fiction. “Based on a true story” is like catnip. Some novels are better as memoirs. But even memoirs have conventions. I think of these conventions like manners. They make access to your story easier. Even literary fiction has conventions.

I help people with memoirs, too. It’s about creating a story arc, no matter what the form. As humans we’re trained to expect things within story, but nothing is the same for everybody. (Well, being thrown into a lava pit is the same for all of us except the masochists. That’s over quickly, thank goodness.) I believe art doesn’t care about fiction or nonfiction. Art cares about deeper truth, the kind that moves hearts, using stories that linger in our bones. You can get there faster and go deeper with a bigger readership by believing in whatever you aim to build.

Painters can be self-taught, but visual art stands alone as one field where the discipline and training isn’t obvious to many viewers. People do train and study, though, and there’s a great deal of craft in the creation. The self-taught painter might be more common than a self-taught novelist. But there’s learning of the rules to be done everywhere before breaking them, I believe. Not just that rules of prose, but practices that open up what we need to say, so people get to our story’s climax — and carry that joy into the rest of the world.

Write for the fireplace? How to write to publish

If you like running a publishing business, then being a genre author could make some money. I like to tell authors who self publish it’s probably not going to deliver as much money as you want, for a while. You shorten the time to significant profits if you have money to invest, plus the nerve to wait on sales to arrive. That’s the period where you create art (the books) and then see if you have an audience. In the meantime, the advertising bills for your book must be paid.

Art is subjective, of course. It’s a matter of taste whether somebody unleashes their $6 for your latest ebook in your series. With the right investment in advertising, and no desire to make paper books, you could earn your way to getting paid for writing your books. Here’s a good question to answer for yourself. Would you rather wake up one morning to have a book in the world, and have no memory of creating it? Or would you rather revel in the making of the book, then finish it and throw it in the fire?

Everybody says they want that making of the book experience, plus the waking up bit. You can make your book and revel in it, then do the publishing work. The publishing has little to do with creating stories, with one exception. You need to write about your book, marketing-style, to get a readership.

You summon a savory taste of your book. We’re all in a hurry these days. Maybe less so since the pandemic, but there’s still a lot of noise out there. Be succinct and believe in selling. Master the book summary that some people call blurbs. Then make the first 10 percent of your book so riveting that readers decide to buy it from Amazon — or Kobo or Apple or Barnes and Noble — after your audience has read your teaser of 10 percent. The Making It Riveting part is where you revel in creating the book.