Malik Sharrieff

The Frustrations of Modern Publishing

Recently, I participated in a social media discussion with authors about which was better: traditional or self publishing?

As the owner of a publishing company and a self published author my answer is neither, both… well, it kinda depends? Honestly there are major trade offs and considerations for both publishing paths.

And ladies and gents, therein lays the greatest frustration with the publishing environment today.

There are so many different publishing strategies these days that authors are going bananas trying to wrap their heads around it all. Let’s carve this into more digestible bites, shall we?

Back in the Good Ole Days…

Way back in the golden age of publishing, authors really only had one option to gain fame, fortune and nationwide distribution, and that was traditional publishing.

Of course there were many more traditional publishers than today. Most of the small and mid-sized agencies have become imprints of the Big 5 traditional publishers (if they survived at all).

In those days, authors had to be discovered like starlets on Hollywood and Vine. That publishing model hasn’t changed much to this day. The Big 5 only need a few hundred good manuscripts each year to turn their profits and they receive several hundred thousand each year to choose from. So it’s very obvious how an aspiring author could pull all their hair out in the attempt to get the attention of a traditional publisher.

Add to that, the typical publisher assumes total control of your project and usually contracts you to between 3% and 10% royalties on sales. That feels like financial molestation to someone who has poured out their soul into a project.  These days those imprints of the Big 5 will typically not handle copy-editing or more than the most basic marketing. More frustrating is that if your project doesn’t perform, you could get dropped and be on the hook for expenses.

Self-Publishing Made Everything Better, Right?

Uh, No!

With a market of authors screaming for alternatives to the traditional publishing path that only worked for 1% of all authors that took it, the literary marketplace opened up with alternatives galore!

Now you can publish on KDP, Smashwords or LULU.com for free. You could also contract with vendors at every level of your project to get your book into distribution. Or even work with publishing platforms or even boutique publishers like Write On Press.

Now that there are options for every author, there should be no more frustrations, right?

Unfortunately, it seems like there are so many options that some authors are sitting on stacks of manuscripts with no idea how to move forward.

Talent unactualized; drying away in dusty corners until it drifts off in beams of afternoon light, riding on a mild breeze made by the woeful, somber sighs of melancholy authors.

Each one of these new options carries its own set of trade offs and considerations that make it appropriate or inappropriate for any given author. So how do you know what pat is the right one for you?

Seek Aid From an Experienced Guide…

In every other facet of professional life, we find someone to advise and offer direction. What’s more ironic is that most fiction authors will create guides and mentors for their protagonists (sometimes their antagonists, too), but fail to find a guide for themselves.

Protip:

Just because you are an incredible writer does not make you an adept publisher. Find someone with expertise in the publishing industry to give you direction. The direction you receive should not be general, but tailored to your needs, your project(s) and/or your literary career.

Try doing a search for publishing consultants or literary consultants. Find a professional that can analyze your needs and help you create a strategy that will use your talents, resources and available budget in a way that will successfully get your project to completion and into the marketplace.

Shameless Plug…

Yes, Write On Press does offer publishing consultations. Yes, services are reasonably priced and worth every penny, but that’s not the point.

The point is that if you are confused about how to move your project forward, visit the services page and schedule an appointment or email Author Service to ask questions about working with a publishing consultant.

Stop stacking up unpublished works of genius! Get some help and relieve the frustrations of modern publishing!

Your friendly neighborhood publisher,

~Malik Sharrieff

 

If you would like to schedule a consultation with a Write On Press Publishing Consultant, please send us a note at: authorservice@writeonpress.com, or visit us at www.writeonpress.com.

Connect via email or digital meeting platform (i.e. zoom, gotomeeting, etc.).

Feel free to comment or ask questions below, or discuss your past publishing plan(s).

Until next time, keep writing!

~Malik

P.S.:

If you have any questions, shoot us a note at the contact us page.

Malik Sharrieff

Have you Talked to your Publishing Consultant Lately?

In the Beginning…

Thousands of years after storytelling and hundreds of years after written language, someone recognized the financial value in the exchange of the knowledge and entertainment within what we consider a printed book. When that individual first commissioned some monk to copy a volume for sale to a noble instead of for their personal consumption, the industry of publishing had begun.

Many authors confuse the act of printing and the industry of publishing. Here’s the difference:

When you take your manuscript and have it converted for consumption, that’s printing. You could take a handwritten manuscript and photocopy it, or send your digital manuscript to a Print On Demand (POD) publisher and order 1,500 copies. Both of these actions are considered printing.

When you publish your work, you convert it for consumption, package it, price it, market it, and distribute it for the consumption of a market. There is an expectation that the author will deliver value to the literary consumer and that consumer is willing to pay their hard earned money for that value.

So, printing is an activity, publishing is an industry.

For the bulk of the publishing industry’s history, the requirements of the trade (i.e. printing, marketing, and distribution) have limited entry to the larger publishers that we know as today’s “traditional publishers.”

Because of these barriers to entry, many would-be authors were never published because they were never “discovered” by a publisher or their agent could never quite negotiate a deal. Fortunately, with the advent of modern technology all that changed over the past 30 years or so.

Publishing Today…

Since the early 1990’s the Internet has allowed individuals to economically publish their own works for mass distribution. By taking advantage of blogs, e-zines, e-books, audiobooks and self-publishing platforms and services, authors can bypass the traditional path to publishing and distribute to the public directly. In fact it was only 10 years ago that I had begun my own literary journey. It was actually my decision to self publish that eventually led to the creation of Write On e-Publishing, LLC in 2012, and getting your projects published has only gotten easier since then.

This means that likely all of you reading this article have absolutely no excuse to not publish your projects.

Of course now most authors complain that there are so many publishing options that they can’t figure it all out! The truth is that there are as many unique strategies to publish as there are unique projects and authors. And that’s why I see a new change in the publishing industry just over the horizon.

Where Are We Going Now?

When I began as a small, digital publishing house, Write On Press focused on e-books exclusively and supported the careers of aspiring authors. After a couple years, we expanded our offerings to include trade paperbacks because every author wants a book they can hold in their hands and can autograph. As technology has created more efficiency, we find that we are now able to expand into audiobook distribution. But through everything, the bulk of customer interactions and the lion share of our work with authors has been consultative in nature.

The industry is moving forward at an incredible pace now. More options will exist tomorrow for authors looking to get their books to readers and that means more confusion and a need for more direction and support.

It is likely that, just like we have realized, there is a insane amount of value in being able to consult with authors and help you plot out a publishing path as well as strategies and tactics to support your literary projects and career.

Here’s what This Means for You:

As you move into 2021 it will be important for you to include consultative services in the overall service mix that you use to support your career.

When you begin to engineer your literary career, it would be wise to seek out the assistance of professionals who can guide you through the publishing process. This type of support will help you optimize technology, available resources and service providers as well as identify what tasks within the process you can do yourself so that you can save time and money without driving yourself crazy.

If you would like to schedule a consultation with a Write On Press author service representative, please send us a note at: authorservice@writeonpress.com, or visit us at www.writeonpress.com.

We can connect via email or digital meeting platform (i.e. zoom, gotomeeting, etc.).

Feel free to comment or ask questions below, or discuss your past publishing plan(s).

Until next time, keep writing!

~Malik

P.S.:

If you have any questions, shoot us a note at the contact us page.

Malik Sharrieff

Building Your Publishing Plan

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.

Step 1:

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.
Step 2:

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:

  1. Do I want control over the publishing process?
  2. Am I willing to learn the necessary skills to manage these processes?
  3. 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!

Step 3:

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.

Final Thoughts:

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!

~Malik

P.S.:

If you have any questions, shoot us a note at the contact us page.

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