Continuing on with my guidance for prospective writers…
Not for the $$$
I think my next bit of advice is that, unless your Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, you probably don’t want to focus on the money your book(s) will generate. Particularly if you have narrow markets for your topics.
Basically, generating revenue isn’t the goal.
However, don’t let that deter you. There are incredible advantages to being a published author. Some that quickly come to mind include:
Establishing yourself as a published author and subject matter expert
Building your brand
Ability to provide classes around topic(s) within your book
Adding credibility to your consulting practice
Leveraging the book to gain speaking engagements
I guess my point is, your writing of any sort builds your personal brand and credibility. And I think that can be priceless in your professional journey.
I haven’t had broad experience across multiple publishers. I’ve published one book with a traditional publisher Dorset House. I’ve also submitted manuscript ideas to 4-5 more publishers and advanced quite far in their selection and approval processes.
If you want to consider this route, you’ll need to generally create a business case, overview, and provide some content (from a few chapters to a full draft) of your book. It takes quite a bit of time to pull these packages together and every publisher has their own guidelines and formats how much is enough.
The advantage of going with a traditional publisher is mostly one of experience. If you’re a novice author, then they’ll guide you through the process and they have the skills and the people (technical editors, copy editors, designers, etc.) to help take your book through to production.
The tradeoffs for all of this experience are two-fold:
First, you’ll give up most if not all control of and decision-making for your book. And second, you are subject to their rules. For example, most publishers will give only you a 5% - 15% royalty for books sold. You even have to buy your own books at market rates. And many own the copyright to your book. That is, you can’t even reuse or republish your own material.
Again, publishers vary and you probably want to try this route just to better understand the dynamics for yourself. Just consider both sides before you sign the contract ;-)
After my first book, I started looking at self-publishing sites. They were just coming on the market and I was interested in trying this new venue for my writing. I published the 1’st Edition of my Scrum Product Ownership book with Lulu.
Literally, I fell in love with self-publishing for the following reasons:
I was more in control of my book (editing, format, cover design, pricing, etc.)
I could get copies of the book at cost-of-printing prices, print on demand, which allowed me to give away more copies as a marketing device.
I could update content and decide to publish later editions if I wished.
I could control ISBN, copyright, etc.
The major tradeoff you make in self-publishing is in marketing & sales. However, if you commit to doing some work on the front via social media, I believe you can do nearly as good a job as many middle of the road publishers. Of course, leading publishers will have a leg-up here. In my space, that would include leading publishers like Pragmatic Bookshelf and Addison-Wesley.
I moved on from Lulu to CreateSpace because the quality of Lulu’s printing was unpredictable for a period of time. Originally, CreateSpace was independent, but later Amazon acquired them. Most recently, in late 2018 and early 2019, Amazon merged CreateSpace fully into their Kindle Direct Publishing services.
I’ve been quite happy with KDP for now. This gets my books available in print in a wide variety of geographic markets and in kindle formats. I’ve also had another firm convert my book to other e-book formats and I’ve made them available on LeanPub, which I’ll discuss next.
I decided in 2019 to consolidate all of my e-copies (mostly PDF’s) of my books on Leanpub. I’ve been playing around with Leanpub since 2013, when I investigated it as a vehicle for replacing Lulu.
Leanpub has self-publishing capabilities. But it can also serve as a hub to make your own PDFs available, which is how I’m using it now.
Another interesting part of Leanpub is its iterative publishing model where you can publish your book in “chunks”. Since there are no firm ISBN numbers associated with the books, you can change content every day if you like. And finally, it has a flexible pricing model which I like.
Anyway, I highly recommend that you take a look at Leanpub. Particularly if you’re interested in a more iterative approach to your writing.
Here’s a link to all of mu published books on Leanpub – https://leanpub.com/bookstore?search=galen&type=book
Editing and Editors
Historically, I’ve edited all of my self-published books myself. Truth be told, I also twisted the arm of my wife Diane to help. Between the two of us, we tried very hard to do a solid job of it.
That being said, we aren’t professional editors and we really did a mediocre job at best. If you look at my Amazon reviews for the 2’nd Edition of my Scrum Product Ownership book, you’ll notice that most of the poor reviews relate to editorial and formatting flaws.
I think my key learning is that most authors/writers really can’t effectively edit their own work. Having another set of eyes is simply a must. Even if it does cost you some money, don’t fall into the cheap writer trap as I did.
I engaged a professional copy editor for the 3’rd Edition of my Scrum Product Owner book. Her name is DeAnna Burghart and she did a fabulous job. She not only helped me with a variety of editing work, but also helped with internal formatting and indexing/TOC construction. The book is really SO much better because of her. And I will never, ever write anything of significance (meaning long lived tenure) without an editor.
I’ve been using a tool that has helped me immensely with inline editing as I write and I would highly recommend it. It’s called Grammarly and its light-years ahead of the default grammar tools in your editors. Get a copy!
Receiving & Handling Feedback
Probably one of the greatest challenges in writing, at least for me, is handling feedback.
I remember when I received the editor’s initial markups from my Software Endgames book. I thought I was done with it and that there would only be a few edits. Heck, I’d been working on it for well over a year and I’d been through it 10x adjusting and fixing things. It was my baby and I knew it was very close to being done and polished.
Well, when I opened the Word file and started reviewing the edits, I let out a high-pitched scream. Literally! My wife yelled to check on me—to see if I was all right. I told her I was, but that the book was not. Literally every sentence in the book had red marks on it.
The point is, be prepared for feedback from your technical editors (reviewing content) and your copy editors (reviewing prose). Depending on the number of reviewers, you’re going to get lots of feedback. And the even harder part, is that it’s your job to sort through all of it and decide on how to adjust your writing based on it.
The hardest part for me is figuring out how to handle divergent feedback. When I get multiple “opinions” on something and then deciding where to go from there.
And that’s my final tip. Never forget that YOU ARE the author of your work and are responsible for every decision. So, take in all of the feedback and look for the truth in it. Then decide what to change.
Ultimately, writing has become therapeutic for me. It allows me to:
ideas, concepts, learnings, stories, both small and large. It’s also helped me to address one of my greatest weaknesses and turn it into, arguably, a strength.
I hope this series has helped you to understand some of my personal keys to writing. I also hope you’ve been inspired a bit. I’m convinced the world needs more (and new) people sharing their experiences. I hope you might be one of them…
Stay agile my friend,