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Getting Published

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I am as of yet (last edit - January 22, 2010, at 09:36 PM EST) not yet published. I am starting down that road this year so I wanted to gather all the information I could about the process. Here is what I have found out either on my own or what others have told me about the process.

See My thoughts on writing for the technology I use to edit and assemble books.

What Steve Litt told me:

"If you go to another publisher besides yourself (besides self-publishing), my experience is that they want MS Word. Samba Unleashed was written in Word.

This was not as bad as it sounds. Sams sent me a 2 page stylesheet and a set of writing requirements including when to use what styles, and they gave me a template with those styles. So from my perspective as the guy pounding out the content, it was no different than writing in LyX.

MS Word has a very mature system of version control, which is very important as you go back and forth handling your editors' queries.

So if you want it published and you don't want to self-publish, the decision to go MS-Word will probably be made by others.

Speaking of publishers, be knowledgeable about the pros and cons of publishers:

Pros:

  • They'll do the initial printing of your book and probably get some into

bookstores.

  • They employ superb editors who can make you sound like Hemmingway (or

whatever) with very few changes

  • They do all the layout and indexing (not much of an advantage to a geek who

could do it him/herself, but...)

  • They pay you an advance, probably more than you'd make on the book in the

first 2 years of self-publishing

  • By far the easiest way to get into bookstores

Cons:

  • Contrary to the bullshit they give you, the vast majority of publishers do

not sell your book beyond that initial distribution, which very well may be returned. The average publisher published tech book sells 3K copies from what I understand. All advance, no royalties.

  • They expect YOU to sell your book, which is a stupid use of your time when

you get only 7% of the cover price for each copy sold and probably won't exceed the advance anyway.

  • You lose control of your copyright
  • You cannot cut and paste from your older books to your newer books the way

you can if you self-publish

  • Some of them now expect you, the author, to pay for the book's indexing.
  • Their contracts REALLY REALLY REALLY SUCK
    • Indemnification clauses
    • Noncompete clauses
    • If royalties don't cover advance, they take it out of the royalties of your

next book

  • You must give them right of first refusal on your next book or several

books

BOTTOM LINE:

Do not be overly eager to "get it published." You have every skill necessary to publish it as an eBook, including the ability to automatically put "Prepared exclusively for John P. Customer" on the footer of every page so the customer thinks twice before giving it to someone who might warez it. Since you have your own server and the technical chops, you have the ability to interface with Paypal in such a way that the eBook is automatically given to the customer when he pays, and a record emailed you for your accounting. When it comes to eBooks as opposed to print books, a publisher can do absolutely nothing you can't do better yourself, and in these recessional days the reduced of eBooks means they're cannibalizing print books, at least here at Troubleshooters.Com.

If a publisher wants your book:

1) Get rid of the indemnification. You don't need a contingent liablity hanging over you for the next 30 years.

2) Get rid of the noncompete. They don't own you. If you can't get rid of it, make it very narrow and limited. You sure as hell don't make them sign a noncompete -- a lot of times publishers fire the original author and give the next edition to a new guy.

3) Get rid of the clause where if your royalties don't cover the advance, it comes out of your next book. If the publisher can't commit to selling 10K to 20K copies, who needs them? The only thing they can really do for you that you can't do yourself is sell.

4) Get rid of the part where you pay their indexer. Even in these troubled times, they're still selling books for about half cover price. Why should you pay out of your 7% when they have 43% (yeah, I know printing costs money, but still, printing, editing, layout and indexing are their job, or else what do you need them for?)

5) Get rid of their right of first refusal, because it precludes your going self-published if you don't like working with publishers.

IN SPITE of all I said above, I'm darned glad I went with Sams on Samba Unleashed. It taught me from the ground up how to write a book. It put me in contact with some great minds in editing and publishing. It produced a great product I can really be proud of.

I'm absolutely glad I went with Sams, and I doubt I'll ever go with a publisher again."


"Here's what I've found out about self-publishing. Your mileage may vary. Keep in mind that all my self-publishing is valuable information not generally available elsewhere. That makes it MUCH easier to sell and enables me to sell considerably above the typical bookstore price per page.

I have a feeling that fiction would be MUCH more challenging to sell. The only fiction I've sold is "business novel" type fiction in "Twenty Eight Tales of Troubleshooting", and once again, that was really just valuable information dressed up as fiction.

I think you'll find your fiction much more saleable as a business novel, and it's not that hard to do. I was half way though a disaster novel illustrating troubleshooting principles when Hurricane Katrina hit, making my half finished work in incredibly bad taste, but it illustrates that you can write business novel type stuff about any subject. If you're at all interested in the business novel genre, read "The Goal" by Goldratt and Cox. It's the best, and it's the perfect example.

Here are what I see as the challenges of self-publishing, in order, from most challenging to least:

1) Selling the book 2) Coming up with the content 3) Getting it printed (if it's a paper book) 4) Establishing a sane order fulfillment system 5) Formatting the book

Of the preceding, only 1 and 2 are difficult. 1 is much more difficult than 2 -- there have been many wonderful books that never sold. I think the average self-published book sells 100 copies -- you need to know that before you pour your heart and soul into it. Most of mine sell a few hundred copies a year, but I have Troubleshooters.Com as a sales vehicle, and you guys won't have that in the beginning.

Of course, 100 ebooks at ten bucks apiece is a thousand bucks, so if you don't pay others to do any of the work, you won't lose monetarily on the deal. And of course if you sell 40,000 or so like "What Color is Your Parchute" or "Anybody's Bike Book" when they started out as self-published, you could make some serious cash.

People who are good speakers often speak for free or cheap, and have an assistant (their spouse a lot of times) selling books at that back of the room. A really good speaker can sell 100 or more books at a speaking engagement.

If you have a following, you can sell to them. If you have a blog or a mailing list and can demonstrate you're a great writer, that's a sales tool. I once knew a woman who wrote a book about sperm donation, and sold 5000 copies up front to an organization of fertility specialists. At quantities of 5000 you can print books very cheaply (like three bucks apiece for 300 pagers), but Heaven help you if you sell only 1000 and have a garage full of boooks the next ten years. This is one reason I prefer eBooks -- just in time inventory.

Personally, I print my own books on my HP4050, cover them with card stock and staple them together. I can get away with that because of my books' content, but don't try that if you're writing a fiction book or yet another C book. Also, home printed books cannot physically survive in library or bookstore shelves -- they're too delicate. Home printing is for mail order only.

If you haven't noticed, I've said a bunch of times sales is challenging and unpredictable. In order to minimize losses, that means:

1) Don't spend a ton of time writing the book 2) Don't hire out tasks like editing, cover art, illustrations, indexing and the like. Do them yourself. 3) If you print at all, print small quantities.

  1. 1 is a matter of writing a short book, writing it on a topic you know in

order to reduce research, not being a perfectionist, and do a very thorough job of outlining (if it's nonfiction). My experience with Samba Unleashed is that every day you spend outlining saves you five days in writing, and of course creates a much better book.

I have to tell you I know people who will tell you the opposite of all of this. They make the point that my books are "amateurish", and in a way they are right. Readers email me all the time to tell me they loved the book, and oh by the way there's a typo on page 52. But then again, one fellow author who ragged on me for writing quickly and doing my own cover art then exclaimed how he had worked for ten years on his latest book.

Find out all you can about publicity. Publicity is very handy in selling books, but it's not easy to get.

Maybe later I'll give my ideas on the process of writing, but IMHO before you write, you need to get at least some idea on how you'll sell it."

What others have shared with me.

John Mayson - Piers Anthony thoughts on publishing.

Self publishing:

http://tomorrowmuseum.com/2009/05/24/the-new-self-publishing/

(:tags Writing:)


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