Author Bob Hostetler

Be Published? or Be Read?

Is your goal “being published” or “being read?”

What pieces of writing and publishing advice do professional agents and editors wish would go away…forever? I asked that question of some of my friends in the industry (yes, I have friends, and most are much smarter than me). The last two weeks I have posted (here and here) some of their responses. But I’ve saved one more for last.

One savvy, experienced publishing professional replied to my query by saying one piece of “conventional” publishing advice that needs to go away is, “You can launch your traditional publishing career by self-publishing or publishing with a micro-publisher first.”

[A micro-publisher can be defined as a small press. Of course then you have to define “small” too. We choose to define it as a small traditional publisher that pays royalties but rarely pays an advance. They usually have limited marketing budgets and rely on direct-to-reader/consumer ebook sales online with little or no presence in the traditional physical bookstore. They do not require the author to provide any money to publish the book. That is what makes them a “traditional” publisher.]

There are numerous good reasons to self-publish or to publish with a micro-publisher. I have publishing friends with great vision who are doing marvelous things to give new writers a voice and a helping hand. Some are changing the Christian publishing industry—slowly, but for the better, I believe. I have writer friends whose work has found an audience through non-traditional publishing—work that otherwise would never have gained a hearing from an agent or editor. And some have built a career and an income by e-publishing or working with a small publisher or non-traditional publisher.

But my industry peer is right. Too often an aspiring (and perhaps impatient) writer thinks, “If I can just get my first book published, then people will take me seriously. My next book will be easier to sell.”

Not so much. Having published a book is not the sole consideration. Sales history is part of an author’s permanent record. And if your first book sold only, say, nine hundred copies, that history is likely to come up in your next pitch to a publisher. And it is likely to hurt. It may even be fatal. It is a form of Test Marketing. In this particular case, the book has been tested and found wanting. (Dan wrote further on this topic in the post “Test Marketing Books.”)

That doesn’t mean you should never self-publish or sign a contract with a small publisher. It does mean, you should do so for other reasons, not “to get my first book out there.” It does mean, if you have more than one book in you and you plan to work with a large publisher in the future, you need to make sure that your commitment to any book you publish includes well-planned, strong marketing efforts of your own, because sales numbers will either help or hinder you in the future.

Sure, you may be the one-in-a-million author who sells twenty thousand copies of your non-traditionally-published book. It has happened. But more often, writers who poured themselves into a good book only to sell a few hundred copies end up shooting themselves in the foot by focusing on “being published” instead of “being read.”

 

Leave a Comment

Writing Advice We Wish Would Go Away

I mentioned in last week’s blog that I asked some of my writing and publishing friends to tell me what one “writing rule” they’d like to see go away…forever. Many cited the timeworn, “Write what you know” (see here). Others, however, gave different but similarly helpful answers. Author, speaker, and …

Read More

Don’t Write What You Know

I asked some of my writing and publishing friends to tell me what one “writing rule” they’d like to see go away…forever. Many of them gave the same answer. Emphatically. Author, blogger, and writers’ conference director Edie Melson said, “We need to quit killing creativity with the time-worn advice, ‘Write …

Read More

You Gotta Know the Territory

So you’re writing a book. In what genre? Don’t know? You must. My colleague, Dan Balow, recently wrote a valuable blog post (here) that touched on the many genre categories and sub-categories in today’s publishing world. You should read it—when you finish reading this, of course. “I don’t care about …

Read More

Fail Better

Writing is hard. Writing for publication is even harder. And writing to be read and re-read is a Sisyphean task (go ahead, look it up; I’ll wait). So it is no wonder that Samuel Beckett’s line from his novel, Worstward Ho, has been adopted not only by athletes (they are …

Read More

Why I Use That Dirty Word … PLATFORM

It’s a dirty word to aspiring writers. It is even unpopular among many agents and editors. It elicits snarls and sneers from people who just want to write great stuff and get their writing published. I’m talking, of course, about the word “Platform.” It refers to the extent of a …

Read More

A Writer’s Top 6 Productivity Practices

I’ve met fifty book deadlines, never missing one (though I have renegotiated a few), and many more article deadlines. These days, as a writer, editor, and agent, I have even more tasks, schedules, and details to juggle than ever before. Happily, I’ve installed a handful of productivity practices that aid …

Read More

Every Book is a How-To

C.S. Lewis famously said, “We read to know we’re not alone.” I think that is true. But I have long subscribed to a similar statement that I see as sort of a corollary to “Lewis’s Law.” It is this: No one reads about other people. We read only about ourselves. …

Read More