17 Common Myths About Book Publishing and How to Avoid Their Traps

Most want to-be authors hold false beliefs about the publishing business that are either outdated or were purely mythical to begin with. Here's how to avoid making mistakes by believing these myths.

1. Once I write my book the money will start rolling in.
I'm sorry to break the news, but the idea that you'll make a fortune on your book is not realistic. I tell my clients to think of their book as a calling card or marketing tool, not as a money-making venture. Only a small percentage of published books actually bring in the bucks, and usually only to big-name writers. Your book is a tool meant to support your core business, or your role as an expert in some area. That's where the money comes from, particularly when you tap into the seven revenue streams that every entrepreneur should memorize. These include coaching, speaking, corporate sponsorship, one-on-one training, educational workshops, and corporate consultation.

2. My book will get me on television.
Wrong! Your expertise will get you on television. If you want to get on television, you must first show producers that you have valuable ideas and information for their audience. Your book can get your foot in the door, but it won't seal the deal - in fact, many TV producers want to see a video before they'll even talk to you, to determine if you're personable in front of a camera. TV producers don't exist to promote your book or your needs, and they'll resent any obvious attempts to use them that way.

3. I'll travel the country doing book signings and go on local radio and TV stations.
Book signings don't sell that many books: the locals who attend them don't come to shop, but for free entertainment. And any touring you do will be on your own dime - publishers rarely pay expenses. You can sell more books in front of your computer, creating online demand through your own or your friends' blogs, article dashboards, viral video, and social networking on venues like Twitter and Facebook.

4. Respectable, successful books are only sold in bookstores.
Believe it or not, a bookstore is actually the worst place to sell your book these days - in fact, I've heard them called "publishing graveyards." In recent years there's been a paradigm shift in the publishing world due to increased volume - over 400,000 books get published each year, far too many for Ye Olde Booke Shoppe to accommodate, so unless you're John Grisham, or your publisher pays for front-store placement, one or two copies of your book will end up shelved in the back, spine out. And for unsold copies, you get stuck paying for refunds and shipping fees.

5. Self-publishing is for losers.
Really? Did you mean losers like Mark Twain? Edgar Allan Poe? Deepak Chopra? Wanna-be writers look down on self-publishing, but this snobbery is unwarranted. It might have been true fifty years ago that the best and most popular literary works came out of Random House or Simon & Schuster, but with the advent of new techniques such as desk publishing, print on demand (POD), and e-publishers like iUniverse and Lulu, there's been a revolution in the world of self-publishing. Many best-sellers were originally self-published and later picked up by big houses. A few self-published books: The Celestine Prophecy. The Joy of Cooking. What Color is Your Parachute? Chicken Soup for the Soul. Spartacus. Losers, huh?

6. I can't write. Even if I could, it takes years to write a book.
If you can tell a story, you can write. Just get rid of the stereotype in your head of the writer brooding in front of a blank computer screen with a mug of coffee, a supply of No-Doz, and a walloping case of anxiety. As with any skill, the secrets and strategies of writing, and of fast writing, can be mastered by almost anyone. A decent book doesn't have to take more than two months to write. It won't be Hemingway - but who needs more Hemingway? Your goal isn't to create sterling literature, but to convey a message in coherent, articulate English.

7. You can get a big advance from a major publisher by submitting a proposal.
Good luck. Approximately 98% of proposals sent to acquisition editors are rejected. In fact, more major publishers like Simon and Schuster are adopting a self-publishing formula to mitigate financial risk.
Besides, it can take as much if not more time and energy to write a proposal as the whole book, so why not just write the book? In my opinion, book proposals are a waste of time - spend your time developing a marketing proposal.

8. Like rich cream, an amazing book will always rise to the top.
Wrong! Except for literary fiction, publishers aren't looking for amazing as much as they are hot topics and authors who'll work at selling. And most readers don't want amazing as much as information they can use. If your book, for instance, is about a startling new method of knitting, which is currently enjoying a huge resurgence, a publisher is more likely to grab it up than some amazing book on an obscure topic. It's when you create something people want, and figure out how to tap into the market, that your book will have the chance of rising to the top.

9. A good book always finds its audience.
Purely magical thinking. Books don't walk around all by themselves looking for an audience, and publishers want books with a built-in audience, like the knitting aficionados referred to above. It's up to you to identify your audience and gear your book in that direction. If you can present your book to a publisher coupled with a target audience, you've gone a long way towards building an effective PR campaign.

10. Find a publisher who does marketing, or hire an expensive PR agent.

Wrong! When it comes to publicity, you are it. The traditional, formulaic marketing processes that are still relied upon in the publishing world are antiquated and mostly ineffective. Sending out a few review copies and hoping they'll lead to an appearance on The Today show is no longer the only - or the best - way to sell books. These days every author, self-published or not, has to take the marketing end of the business into his or her own hands, create a marketing strategy, and network like crazy, primarily online.

11. A book has to be on television to get anywhere.
Yes, getting onto Oprah's show is the hottest ticket in books - but that's because of Oprah, not television. When she likes a book, she pushes it, and she has a huge audience of readers who value her opinion. Other than that, though, television's dead as far as book-selling goes. New media is where it's at: you can sell more books on Twitter than if you are on the fourth hour of the Today show. Period.

12. In order to sell, a book has to be really great, and get rave reviews.
Again, your book is a tool, a calling card - and selling it isn't about content, but marketing. The marketing of the book is more important than the book itself - so put most of your time, energy, and resources into that.

13. Writing a book is like going through labor; every book is its author's baby.
Too many authors promote their books the way a mother shows off her first baby - believing it's just too precious, and expecting everyone else to feel the same. This comes from old romantic literary notions. Well, it's time to throw out the baby and the bath water. No author should be that attached, or have that much ego-involvement, in their book. It is not a baby, yours or anyone else's. Treat your book as what it is: a great tool containing valuable information.

14. The inside of a book should be elegantly designed.

This is for all those people who want to add illustrations, and color, and formatting... All those bells and whistles cost a lot of money. A good book sells; a fancy book just prolongs the manufacturing process, delaying revenue. Spend your money on marketing instead.

15. You can't judge a book by its cover.
Maybe not - but you can attract more potential buyers with an eye-catching cover than with one that's boring or aesthetically unappealing. A great cover is worth the investment.

16. I am the only person who can possibly write my book.
Maybe you're the only one who has your exact information, but for a reasonable price a good editor or even a ghostwriter can whip that information into shape. I've had great success with ghostwriters who pick your brain, read your ideas, and transform them into clear, concise, readable prose. If writing isn't your forte, consider taking this route. It can be well worth the investment. Just remember - the better the editor or ghostwriter, the higher the fee.

17. A well-written book will become a best-seller.
Good writing doesn't create best-sellers; demand does. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that millions of great manuscripts are languishing in personal computers or desk drawers. It's sad but true that many good or even great books never see the light of day, and many genuinely talented writers are employed as everything from bankers to technicians. The publishing world is not a meritocracy. It's only when your book gives people something they want that your book might even begin to approach best-sellerdom.

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