5 Secrets Most Aspiring Authors Don’t Know About Publishing a Book

A few years ago, I couldn’t have told you the first thing about publishing a book. Like many people, I kind of thought you just wrote it, wowed a publisher with it, and then went from there. As I now know after getting some expert training and navigating the publishing process myself, I couldn’t have been more wrong. For instance, I didn’t know that:


You don’t drop a book on the publisher’s doorstep and go from there.

In fact, it’s usually better to just have a chapter or two written along with a (very) detailed outline for the rest. This is because publishers have to consider how they want to position your book so that it can fit in with the rest of their range and with their brand. If you show up with a whole book that you’re not OK with making a lot of changes to, your manuscript probably won’t be accepted. It’s much better to make a killer proposal that includes only one chapter to showcase your writing.


It’s unlikely that you’ll have control over what the cover of your book looks like.

It’s all about the positioning again — publishers have a certain look that they prefer to go with, and they want your book to fit with that. While they’ll usually let you have some input over what the cover looks like, in the end, it’s up to how well the design fits with their brand.


Publishers lose money on a lot of books.

It’s easy to think that publishers are snobby because they’re really picky about the books they accept for publication, but they’re actually just trying to keep a business running. The traditional book industry is built on system where it’s cheaper to print big batches of books instead of small ones. However, most bookstores accept books on a sell or return basis, which means that if the bookstore can’t sell the books, the publisher will take them back. Add this to the fact that most bookstores will only keep a book on the shelf for a few weeks if it’s not selling well (because they need to save space) and you can see how easy it is for a publisher to lose money on a book.


You may only make about 11 p per copy in royalties.

Many authors decide to publish a book with the idea that they’ll make a lot of money in royalties if it sells well … but even when a book does sell quite well, that isn’t always the case. The book stores take about 55 percent of the recommended retail price, and then you have the publisher’s cut, as well as the advance that they gave you. Though this of course varies from person to person, generally speaking, you can expect to get between 8 and 10 percent of the recommended retail price in royalties.

This absolutely doesn’t mean that it’s a bad idea to write a book or that writing a book can’t make you a lot of money. But usually when it does, it’s because of how having a book positions you as an expert in your field, meaning that you can charge more and that you’ll be getting more clients.


Publishers only really get behind one book per month per year.

Although publishers may put out hundreds of books in a year, they’re really only going to put a lot of marketing focus on 12 a year (one every month). If you don’t make sure that your book is one of the ones that gets focused on, then it may not perform as well as you thought.


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