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Five Secrets 1st Time Authors Need to Know

by Fern Reiss

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Published on this site: January 2004 - See more articles from this month

Writing the book was the easy part; now comes the challenge. But understand these five secrets unknown by many professional writers, and you'll find your path to publication much smoother—and much more profitable!

  • Don't be suckered by a scam agent.

    In the desperate search for publication, many authors suspend their usual savvy and jump into bed with anyone who offers to publish their book. But legitimate literary agents don't accept everything they see—and they charge a percentage (usually 15%) of what they earn for you. They don't charge fees for reading, editing, evaluations, or book doctoring. If you've found an agent who starts by asking you for big bucks, run fast. Better yet, look for a literary agent who's a member of the AAR, and has pledged not to accept money beyond their legitimate percentage. (There's a complete list of over 300 AAR agents in The Publishing Game: Find an Agent in 30 Days.)

  • Bookstores don't buy POD books.

    Frustrated by the exasperating search for a literary agent and publishers, many authors these days are listening to the lure of the heavily-funded-and-advertised Print- on-Demand companies, which promise publication at low fees. For the right project—a niche book with an easily-found audience, such as a church cookbook—POD can indeed be a great option. What the POD companies won't tell you, however, is that neither bookstores nor libraries will generally buy a POD book. So if you're planning to sell your books directly through a website or via speaking engagements, POD may be a fine option. For writers who are hoping to see their book in bookstores and libraries, however, better stick with true self-publishing. That means getting your own ISBNs, finding your own printer, etc.

  • Your publisher won't market your book.

    This sounds almost preposterous to hose who aren't familiar with the book industry, but even if you're fortunate enough to be published by one of the major publishing houses like Random House or Harper Collins, they won't market your book. The big publishers focus the bulk of their marketing energy and money on the top five or six books each year.

    Unless yours is amongst them, you're going to have to do your own marketing. (Several publishing houses are now buying my book, The Publishing Game: Bestseller in 30 Days as a sop to their authors—who otherwise would receive absolutely no marketing help at all.)

  • You've got just eight months.

    Once your book hits bookstore shelves, you've got just eight months to generate sales. After the eight months, unless your sales have been stellar, your book will likely be yanked—and sold for peanuts at a Buck-a-Book type store.

    So the time to do your marketing is now, before your book has even hit shelves.

  • Reviews can sell thousands of copies.

    If you're going the self- publishing route, be sure to submit your book for review. Thousands of booksellers and librarians base their buying decisions on reviews. But the major review journals, such as Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, will only review your book if you send them an advance galley (a bound manuscript) three to four months ahead of publication date.

    Don't miss this opportunity for automatic sales: Send them an advance galley—before you list your book on Amazon or sell it elsewhere.

Today's path to publication is rocky and complicated. But follow these five simple rules, and you'll be way ahead of the game. Good luck!

Fern Reiss is the author of The Publishing Game: Bestseller in 30 Days (book promotion), The Publishing Game: Find an Agent in 30 Days (traditional publishing), The Publishing Game: Publish a Book in 30 Days (self-publishing), and the forthcoming book Expertizing: Positioning Yourself as a Name Brand. More information on her books, consulting, and all-day Publishing Game and Expertizing workshops can be found at www.PublishingGame.com.

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