Okay, let’s assume that you have either already completed a manuscript or at least made the decision to write one. It’s critically important that you work out your publishing plan as soon as possible.
Over my years as a publisher and literary consultant for indie authors, I have yet to encounter one that was ready with a publishing plan. So, I would be insanely surprised if you have even heard of the concept if this is your first project.
A publishing plan is for an author what a production plan is for a manufacturer.
After all, once you decided to be a professional writer or indie author, you decided to manufacture literary product for mass consumption. To that end, it’s important that you plan out how you intend to get that product from a single manuscript to the readers waiting in rapt anticipation.
I’ll try to give you a quick and dirty version of what you’ll need to get your plan together.
Don’t wait until after you’ve written your book to start learning what publishing is!
Many reading this will have just finished your manuscript and are looking for publishing options. It isn’t too late to create a plan, but the reality is that you should have created one before you came up with a title.
So, manuscript in hand or not, you need to wrap your head around what the publishing process is all about. Here’s a definition from a publisher:
Publishing = all of the processes necessary in order to take a raw manuscript and convert it into a finished literary product ready for distribution to a target consumer group.
So depending on your publishing strategy, this may include:
- Pre-press activities like copy editing, manuscript review, formatting, generating cover art, test marketing, etc.
- Press activities like converting the press ready manuscript to digital file formats ready for distribution as ebooks or for production as trade paperbacks, hardcover or treated for audiobook production.
- Post-press activities like test marketing, establishing distribution and sales channels, marketing activities, public relations and advertising, and etc.
Now that you know most of the tasks involved in the publishing process, you’ll need to get a handle on who you are as an author.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I want control over the publishing process?
- Am I willing to learn the necessary skills to manage these processes?
- Do I have a budget necessary to outsource these tasks to a qualified vendor?
The answers to these questions will let you know where you are on the indie-author continuum. On one end is the complete indie-author and on the other end is the traditional publishing path.
If you need to control the process, your publishing plan will lean more toward independent publishing. If you want someone else to take your work and handle everything but the writing, you’ll want to lean more toward traditional publishing.
The closer you get to the traditional end of the scale the less it will cost you in money up front but the more you will have to sacrifice in control and royalties. At the other end of the spectrum, you spend more money, time and effort but all of the rewards are yours alone.
Knowing yourself is the only way to choose the right publishing path for you. Also, know that as you grow through your career as an author, you publishing plan will likely change as well. In fact it might change from project to project!
Once you’ve got a handle on the process and your own disposition, it’s time to strategize how you will attack these tasks in a way that fits who you are as an author and as an individual.
It is absolutely possible for you to do everything yourself. It is also absolutely possible for you to get a publishing deal with a major publisher. However, most of us will realize quickly that we fall somewhere in the middle of the indie-author range.
This means that for every publishing task you encounter, you will need to look at two or three (or more) strategies and decide which one fits you, your situation and your budget best. Keep lots of notes on what you are doing, what worked and what didn’t. You’ll really appreciate the intel for your second project.
As I said earlier, it is absolutely possible for you to get a book deal with a Big 5 Publisher. However, possible is not the same as probable. If this is your publishing plan, understand that there will be trade-offs and sacrifices that you will need to accept. Understand that this plan is not a bad one (it’s been around the longest), but it will require you to do a lot of additional tasks to get the attention of a major publisher.
Don’t be surprised if your particular plan takes time. At one end of the spectrum the time could be measured in hours; at the other it could take months or more than a year. The point you need to take with you is that this is not a trivial part of your profession. Take the time you need. Get the help and support necessary. Learn everything you can to support your level of professionalism.
Remember that being a professional writer, contracted or independent author is a vocation not a vacation, take the journey seriously and respect the process.
Feel free to comment or ask questions below, or discuss your past publishing plan(s).
Until next time, keep writing!
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