The Gritty Reality of the Publishing World

I contributed a post to the Los Angeles Times Jacket Copy blog. It’s a brief caution to the many, many people who are considering trying to write a book. Opening graf:

Do you have a book in you? Imagine: Late nights pecking furiously on the keyboard with a glass of red wine by your side, animated conversations with your editor and agent and, eventually, the final, beautiful product: a hardcover book with your name on the cover. Then your publisher sends you on a book tour where you sign books, do readings, hobnob with literary types and generally feel very writerly. Dream on, baby!

I go on to say that while there are still good reasons to write upon dead-trees, the publishing process is much grittier than advertised.

I got extremely lucky with my book and publisher. So this sentiment is based more on what I’ve observed in the industry over the past year while meeting and brainstorming with dozens of authors. It can be a tough slog, and people ought to know this before committing themselves to the particular medium of book.

7 comments on “The Gritty Reality of the Publishing World
  • For many years, I’ve tried to get a toe in the door of The Publishing World. But, alas, they just don’t seem to need my words of wisdom .

    Oh, well.

    This hasn’t stopped me from become a self-publisher, or, as I like to put it, an entrepreneurial publisher. My entre-pub ventures have provided valuable business experience, and some of them have even been profitable.

  • Tim: Yes.

    More knowledge up front is always a good thing. It reminds me of the question, “If it were set in stone, would you want to know the day of your death?” I would answer absolutely yes.

  • Having been through the book publishing process with traditional publishers, I’d agree. This often prompts people to declare the book “dead,” but I think the book is very much alive–it’s publishing that is obsolete. I was just talking to someone about this the other night–that the margins in print publishing are shockingly poor, and as a result, it’s not a business that is ever likely to be agile or dynamic or innovative.

    Book publishing will evolve away from publishing “houses” toward a more distributed model, I think, where self-publishing and on-demand become respectable. Other than massively appealing books like mysteries and cookbooks, books will no longer be viewed as profit-seeking ventures, but more the way blogs are now, as part of the communication toolset with which we who write them cobble together our careers and identities.

  • Publishing is changing dramatically, as we move more and more into digital and POD. There should be no shame to self-publishing, even hiring an author services company to do the grunt work…making your business book or novel into a professional product.

    Unfortunately, too many people still attach that shame to being self-published, citing poor quality of content or writing or production. As if traditional publishers never produce lousy books…with errors.

    We are POD publishers, we are also an author services company. We work as partners with our authors, to produce the best book possible, and then we help market and sell it. The author pays a fee upfront, yes, but we do not abandon our authors after the book is released. Our goal is to make our authors successful, to sell books, and to show the world that self-publishing, with help from author services companies, is not a shame. It’s a business decision.

    I applaud self-published authors who take pride in their work – enough so that they make sure their work is edited properly, proofed, and has good page layout. Not to mention, cover design.

    I think traditional publishers could learn something from POD firms. And, using POD saves a lot of trees…since books are only printed when people buy them. No returns or remainders.

    Thanks for letting me comment here.

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