We writers do our work by assembling understanding. As it turns out, understanding is pretty important. Now that we have AI's promises everywhere, one tech journalist says that AI isn’t an intelligence engine — it’s an understanding engine.
Lots of us try to understand people we know. We know published authors, some of us. The overwhelming majority of hardworking authors without contracts still want to share their understanding. They want to publish a book.
Many don't really want to publish, though. They want to produce and leave the publishing to someone else. That cavalry isn't coming for many of us. We have to make a stand and built a fort for our art, so it can enter the world.
Hybrid presses, the one-stop shops of publishing, serve authors. But only the ones ready to invest. Director Martin Scorsese's first movie was "self-produced." Same ethos as being your own publisher. Marty got Mean Streets into theatres by paying actors and crew himself -- then selling the finished movie to Warner Brothers, after other studios passed. He might've had no released film if he didn't invest in himself.
Published author sounds like "released film." The investment we make is determined by our passion for sharing, plus the intel about how publishing succeeds. You can spend thousands of dollars to produce a top-notch book. Edits and proofing and design costs that much, at a high level.
But then you're going beyond the desire to produce a book. You're willing to publish. So that we're clear, publishing is not shoveling a well-produced book onto the Amazon heap. You'll work for reviews and publicity, plus invest in advertising. You make your voice heard as a storyteller outside of your book, too: a newsletter and essays and stories. You enter contests, paying fees.
There's hope for a hybrid or small indie book. Good ones might win an independent press prize, like something from Foreword Reviews. Such a prize can say more about the professional aura of a book than its story inside. You can also have a good story as well as a pro-looking book.
No matter who publishes your book, part of the workload is on you, revising from your editor's notes. Most books get better with the combination of edits and revisions. They're headed for publication, once they clear the launchpad of production. It's like a moon shot, where the launchpad comes first and the planetary landing is second. Don't launch your book into the empty reaches of Amazon's outer space. Publish it after you produce it.