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by Patricia Fry

Write a Better Book—Produce a Better Product

Are you pleased with the books you turn out? Have you ever received a book from the pay-to-publish service, printer or even business center and felt a touch (or a slap) of disappointment?

You didn’t like the cover, the inside design isn’t as you expected or you feel your story or your nonfiction book is lacking something? This isn’t unusual. And do you know why? Because, as authors, we tend to rush our book projects.

As we near completion, we start projecting a publication date—the date we will get the book back from the publishing service or printer. If there is a holiday or special family birthday around that time, for example, we get attached to that date—“Gotta have it ready to promote at that time,” or “It would be so cool to have it here for Uncle Frank’s 80th birthday.” If we start telling friends and colleagues about the pending book, our attachment to that date becomes even more intense.

When we allow this to happen, we are approaching our projects through emotions rather than a business sense and this can sabotage our success. What’s the answer? How does an author establish the right pace for his or her project?

1: From the beginning, consider your book a product.

2: Make all decisions with regard to your book from a business and not an emotional place.

3: Educate yourself about publishing and keep your finger on the pulse of the industry.

4: Write a book proposal and prove to yourself what you may already know—that this is a valid project. Find out who your true target audience is, how many people this encompasses, where you will find them and how to approach them. What is the best way to promote to this audience and what can you bring to the table in this regard? In other words, what is your platform?

5: Hire a good book editor. And don’t write over him/her once they have cleaned up your manuscript. If extensive rewrites are recommended, always, ALWAYS take the work back to your editor for a final look.

6: Hire a cover design expert. While good writing, a good story and/or good information is highly important, you also need a cover that will grab the attention of your readers. If they avoid your book because of a dull cover or the title doesn’t spark an interest, they may never take a chance on what’s inside.

7: Move slowly and methodically through the publishing process. Be clear as to your options, the possible consequences of your choices and your responsibilities as a published author. Choose your publishing option using business sense and make all of the decisions throughout the publishing process based on knowledge, not emotions.

Successful publishing is much more than a dedication to writing. While writing is a craft—a heart thing—publishing is a business. What other business can you start that doesn’t require a measure of business sense, knowledge of the field, an outlay of money (investment), clear-headed decision-making, affiliation with experts in various areas related to your field and a business plan?

How much money do you need in order to produce a book? It could be anywhere from $300 to have 50 copies of your tiny book of poetry printed at a local business center for family and friends, to thousands of dollars for a professionally edited and designed novel or nonfiction book scheduled for wide distribution. And don’t disregard the seriously time-consuming, energy-draining, sometimes costly process of promotion that comes after the book is a book.

Are you one of around 500,000 writers who are serious about producing a book this year? Would you like to be one of the fifteen percent (or so) who actually succeed in this highly competitive field? Then you really must pay close attention to advice from the experts (as outlined above).


Patricia Fry is the Executive Director of SPAWN (Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network) and the author of 35 books. See her most recent books in the left column of this page.

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