Book Publishing Questions: Now It's My Turn to Ask

POSTED ON May 6, 2011

Joel Friedlander

Written by Joel Friedlander

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I get a lot of questions from writers and self-publishers in my inbox. Some days I think my job is answering emails except that it doesn’t pay very well. But let’s face it, I like being helpful.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about these questions, and how the same questions seem to repeat over and over again.

One of the peculiarities of self-publishing is that people who decide to publish their own books are almost always amateur publishers. They may intend to make a business of it, and they may even have some relevant experience but, since they’ve never done it before, they are basically amateurs.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Being a beginner means having a fresh take on things, it means you’re in the process of discovery and everything you learn has the potential to cause another piece of the puzzle to drop into place. The beginner mindset is exciting.

Each self-publisher usually has a career doing something else, perhaps something where they became an authority in the field they are writing about. So, for instance, in recent months I’ve had clients who are (or were) a:

  • College professor
  • Nuclear power plant construction supervisor
  • Marketing expert
  • Sex therapist
  • Urologist
  • Financial consultant
  • Photographer
  • Systems Analyst
  • Certified Public Accountant
  • IT Consultant
  • Mechanical engineer
  • Life coach
  • Chiropractor
  • Radio show host
  • Retired TV newsman
  • Psychologist
  • Lawyer
  • Waitress

I think it’s pretty obvious why people have questions about self-publishing. I mean, why would a urologist or a mechanical engineer know anything about book publishing? I certainly don’t know anything about urology or engineering, I can assure you.

But the process of creating books—the way they are planned, designed, constructed, perfected, produced, marketed and sold—is complicated, requiring a lot of big and little decisions along the way. Some of these decisions are trivial, others are critical. How to tell the difference?

Queries from the Inbox

I looked over about 60 recent unsolicited queries from my inbox. This is what I found.

Questions about:

  • Print on demand and book distribution: 5
  • Book launches, book reviews, blog tours and press releases: 7:
  • Getting blurbs and testimonials: 5
  • Book marketing: 3
  • Pricing: 1
  • Publisher registration, ISBN, Library of Congress, copyright: 7
  • Book indexing, proofing, editing and translation: 6
  • Book trim sizes: 1
  • E-book conversion and distribution: 20
  • Advertising: 2
  • Audio books: 2

Over a third of these questions have to do with e-books and, again, that’s not surprising.

But if I could cut to the chase of virtually every question I get asked, it would be something like this:

How does Part A fit with Part B? Given that, what should I do next?

I have to admit that I learn quite a bit from the questions people ask. Thinking about this, and about all the questions I’ve answered, now I’d like to ask all of you a question:

What is the single thing that’s the most confusing to you about self-publishing, the most scary, the most difficult to figure out, or the one thing that’s keeping you from getting your book into print?

Just give me one thing, your choice. Please respond in the comments. If you’re reading this in your email inbox because you’re a subscriber, please click the headline of the article. That will bring you to the blog where you can leave your answer in the comments.

What’s the big obstacle, or the little pebble that just keeps you up at night?

I want to know.

Photo by Alexander Drachmann

Joel Friedlander

Written by
Joel Friedlander

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