The Facts of Publishing Life

facts-of-publishingEvery year I see a flood of emails and calls from authors and would-be publishers. 2013 is off to a rollicking start. For the first time, I got a call from a guy who said he had a manuscript written in longhand. In pencil. And it wasn’t finished. And he didn’t know what it was (he couldn’t even tell me if it was fiction or non-). So the prize for strangest phone call is already taken this year – better luck next year.

For those still struggling with the New Year’s launch, here are some general observations from the yearly calls/emails:

FINISH THE DAMN BOOK. Don’t call or write to agents, publishers or service providers until you finish the book. I am an author, too, so I know how exciting a new project is. But it’s just an intellectual exercise until such time as you finish it.

Rough Drafts are not finished books. Don’t complete NANOWRIMO or some other writing-a-lot-of-words-to-a-deadline and then think you’ve written a book. Edit yourself (then hire an editor to finish the process). No one in the history of writing ever finished a book with just a first draft (some will tell you they did. They didn’t.)

If you say with a straight face that “Everyone who likes to read” will love your book, you need a reality check. There are 350 million people in this country, and close to 6.5 billion on the planet. They will not all like your book. Period.

Every book has an audience. Know what yours is. That doesn’t mean you have to know before you start writing (although it would be nice). However, your job after you finish the book is to understand the market (audience, aka BUYERS). Know who they are, where they get their book news and how to reach them. Because every other decision – from book format to cover to marketing campaign – will depend on reaching that group. This is the hardest part of writing – the business side. But the minute you decide to sell your work, even if you are getting an agent and selling your book to Simon & Schuster, depends on your understanding of the market for your book.

Understand that book publishing is a business. You aren’t in Mrs. Lindsey’s third grade English class and you are not her “special snowflake.” Publishing is part of a $3 trillion a year entertainment industry. Treat it as a business where you have a distinct disadvantage – because that’s what it is. Learn the rules and how to play the game. That doesn’t mean you have to follow the rules – but understand them so that you know WHY you are breaking them.

Lastly, lest you think I hate self- and small publishers, I don’t. They are some of the most amazing people I have had the privilege to meet. The best of them are both creative and intrepid entrepreneurs. They are positive, imaginative – and simply the best folks you’ll find anywhere. Go anywhere two or more gather – whether it’s BEA, a publishing conference or a trade show – go, learn, laugh. If you chose to be part of this special set of businesspeople, I look forward to meeting you in 2013!

Jacqueline Church Simonds
Beagle Bay, Inc., Books That Enlighten and Inform
Self-Publisher’s FAQ –
Small Press World blog –
Book Shepherding, production and design


  1. says

    Jacqueline , I agree all the points you mentioned here , people always think they are doing great when in fact they first need to stop and make themselves sure that what they are doing , I am not trying to disappoint anybody but I am a writer myself , I don’t write at high levels but do some writings on my own and never get a courage to publish them because I am not even a professional one.. :(
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