Don’t Believe Everything You Hear about Book Publishing

Last week I received a telemarketing call from a well-known self-publishing operation, a division of a well-known traditional publisher. Although unwelcomed, the interruption didn’t surprise me because a few years ago I had contacted them. Their business model intrigued me, but I later dismissed them when I stumbled on a poorly produced book with their imprint inside.

I told the rep I’m pursuing a traditional publishing deal. Not deterred, she keyed in on my excuse, telling me why my strategy was wrong. She spewed forth a well-honed tutorial of why I needed to self-publish my books first. I won’t claim she lied to me, but mixed in with the truth were some half-truths and over-simplifications:

  • It’s harder than ever to land a traditional publishing contract. (True)
  • Traditional publishers won’t even look at your book, but will instead rely on a one-page query. (Over-simplification: If your query grabs their attention, they’ll ask for a proposal, which could lead to them looking at your book. But most likely they’ll only consider your query letter.)
  • Traditional publishers want you to self-publish first. (Half-truth: If your self-pub book is a breakaway hit, then you’re in a great position to sign a book deal. If you have a well-written, carefully edited, and appropriately laid out self-pub book, they’ll have less work to do should they decide to publish it – but they may also wonder if you’ve already made all the sales you’re going to make.)
  • She guaranteed their parent company would look at my book if I self-pub with them. (Over-simplification: What they will likely look at is sales numbers of my book, not the book itself. Once a certain threshold is reached then someone may actually look at my writing, but not until then. Of course, I’m speculating on this, but it’s not practical for them to give every self-pub book full consideration.)

The book publishing industry is rapidly changing. What was true last month may not hold true next month. We must be in a continual learning mode, but as we consider new information, we must exercise discernment, because we can’t believe everything we hear.

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