Do you publish, manage, and/or distribute ten to fifty books a year?
Shepherding authors through the publishing process can be a time consuming, difficult yet rewarding experience. It’s exciting to help an author publish his or her lifelong dream, but you must be highly organized and ask the right questions, at the right time, in the right order, to successfully move them through the publishing process.
I’ve assisted hundreds of authors (young and old, renowned and first-timers) over the years with their publications, and have witnessed first-hand many of the struggles and roadblocks that can plague and impede every book’s publishing process. In no particular order, I’ve outlined the top five universal challenges that I have seen with almost every publication.
#1 : Revisions. The author that’s never finished
Authors are artists. And just like all artists, they often can’t stop writing and re-writing portions of their book. You never want to hear the dreaded “I’ve changed my book’s title”, a day after the cover has been designed. It’s important to tell your authors that they must give you a “final” version of their manuscript, title, etc. at the outset of the publishing process. If you don’t clearly state, “send me the FINAL version”, many authors will “revise” their manuscript even after you’ve handed it off to a editor or designer. This leads to re-editing, re-formatting, and substantial delays and cost increases.
#2 : Book Files. Which file is the right one?
As you email files back and forth, even if you’re very organized, an author or publisher can get confused and uncertain about which version of a file is the most current one. In a worst case scenario, an editor or author could work on a wrong version for an extended period of time. Trust me, it happens. Emails aren’t infallible, and can be lost or simply unread. Because editing or typesetting/designing a book can take hours (or days), a misstep with an incorrect version can destroy any current or anticipated timelines for the book. I suggest using a Cloud-Based file storage option like Dropbox or Google Drive. This allows all of the parties to easily see and verify file dates, provides instant backup, and allows the publisher and author to have a centralized repository for all of the book files.
#3 : Printing. Where to print the book?
Printing options for a book can and do widely vary depending on which printer is being used. Many printers offer sub-par customer service and quality. I always suggest developing a long-term working relationship with a specific set of printers. It’s also imperative to request and critically examine a physical proof of the book before the printing run begins. I can’t tell you how many authors would sign off on their proof after a couple of minutes (a clear indicator that the author gave it a cursory glance at best). Their excitement to move the forward overwhelmed their need for scrutiny. Carefully review each page to ensure that there are no glaring grammatical or editorial errors present in the proof (i.e. an image or table could be improperly overlapping a text block). And remember, it is often worth it to pay an additional 25 cents per book to get the printing quality and customer service with better book printers.
#4 : Distribution. Amazon, Ingram spark, Lightning Source and you?
Most small publishers use Lightning Source. They offer print-on-demand (POD) distribution and have a nominal upload fee. Mainly they serve the purpose of pushing the title with it’s meta-data to Amazon. However, because most Barnes & Nobles stores shy away from print-on-demand books, it may be difficult to get a print-on demand book into a brick and mortar store. Customer service can also be an issue; if the book has incorrect publishing information or an improper status (like “out-of-stock” when there is stock), it can be very difficult to contact the larger distributors are to resolve these types of distribution issues. In comparison, if you use a smaller distributor like Tasora Books, you get the best of both worlds; great customer service and the ability to get the book on Amazon and in Barnes and Noble stores and other brick and mortar locations.
#5 : Marketing, How to sell a book?
It’s hard to sell a book. The numbers vary, but from my own experience I would say the average US book sells less than 500 copies. Here’s a good article on book sales, Everything You Wanted to Know about Book Sales. The most successful books have a solid marketing plan and platform, and the marketing efforts usually start months before the book is published and released. As a publisher, you need to identify and assist the author as early in the process as possible. It’s also helpful to form relationships with various experts such as a web developer, content writer, and social media expert. Together, you can work with these experts and the author to cultivate a well-rounded and strategic marketing plan that’s built around the author’s target reading audience and message. I recommend working with a book marketing expert/consultant as early as possible to help you draft a solid marketing plan and timelines for each book publication.