So You Want to Publish a Book: Where To Start

You’ve decided you’re ready to publish your first book. Yowza.

You’ve got an idea and you’re ready to take the plunge. You just need maybe the tiniest little bit of a push. Just a nudge, really.

What’s holding you back? Well, you don’t really know where to start. How, exactly, does it work? If you’re looking for advice on the whole Publishing a Book Process, you’ve come to the right place, because the editors here are, well, book editors. (Except for me–I’m a writer. But I know lots of editors! So that kind of counts.)

You’ll be hearing from those various editors here, and they’ll give you advice and answer questions about getting published, but I wanted to give you some things to start thinking about in the meantime, and the first piece of advice I have for you is: work on your elevator speech. You know, the speech you’re supposed to be able to give someone if you get on the elevator with them and they ask, “So what’s your book about?” In this case, they’d ask what it’s going to be about, and you’d need to be able to tell them in less than a minute, with no “well, uh,” or “it’s kind of like,” or “um, I don’t know really.” None of that. You need to write down some notes and think about what your book is going to be about so you can tell anyone clearly and concisely and have them understand the concept. Because if you’re not really sure what your book is going to be about, you’re not ready to write it yet.

Sure, sure–you may have to change your plans at some point. If you propose a book and it’s accepted but with the caveat that changes need to be made, well: you’re going to be flexible enough to make those. But for now, before you even send out that first query, you’ve got to know what it is you want to do.

Then you need to go to the bookstore and the library and look for books that are similar to the one you want to write. If you want to write a book about mixed media collage, look at other books about mixed media collage. You’re looking for two things: are there other books out there that are so similar to the one you want to do that there’s really no point in reinventing the wheel? If so, you’re going to go back and re-think your idea and then re-write your elevator speech, adjusting it so that your book will be new and fresh. There’s no point pitching a book that’s identical to one that just came out, especially if you’re interested in the same publisher. The other thing you’re looking for is all about the publishers. If all your favorite books, the ones that look great and are nicely designed, are all by the same publisher, well: that’s the one you want to target.

Start thinking about audience. Who’s going to read your book? Who’s going to be interested in this book? Look at other books that are aimed at this audience and write down some titles–this is important later, when you’re proposing the book and need to explain who’s going to buy it.

Think a lot about images. Images are what sell an art book. Great images are what make someone want to take it home and curl up with your book on the front porch. What are you going to show? Do the things you want to include lend themselves to being photographed?

You should have a notebook and fill it with everything you’ll need to know: who’s your audience? What will your book be about? What will it offer readers that will be different from what’s already available? Hone your answers to these questions, digging until you know what it is that you want to do and can articulate why a publisher would want to invest money in helping you do it. Because that’s what it’s really about, when you come down to it: you have an idea and want to publish a book, and a publisher does the editing and the printing and the binding and the distribution to give you that opportunity.  Your first job is to convince them that it’s worth their time and money.

Feeling ready? Get that notebook and start making some notes!


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2 Responses to So You Want to Publish a Book: Where To Start

  1. Pam Carriker says:

    Wow! What a lot of great information, I wish this had been around when I started the process a couple of years ago-lol! If you’re determined enough and it’s meant to be, you’ll find your way no matter what, but providing this type of help is an amazing thing to do. Thank you for sharing:-)

  2. Rice Freeman-Zachery says:

    Thank you–I wish I’d had posts to read my first time out, too!