Self publishing frequently asked questionsWhat alternatives do I have if I want to get my book published?

You have two choices.

One: you can submit a book proposal to an agent who will then try to sell it to a publisher.

Two: you can publish it yourself.

What are the pros and cons of trying to get published by a mainstream publisher?

You will have little or no control over the title, the cover, the layout, the size, etc, and it will take at least two years before you see your book in a bookstore, but you will have no personal financial investment.

You will be paid an advance and a royalty but the royalty, will be against the advance. Over 90 percent of the books published in the US each year DO NOT earn back their advance.

You will have to produce a professional book proposal to submit to agents. Most mainstream publishers no longer have editorial staff so you will be expected to have your manuscript professionally edited before they will publish it.

You will be expected to do the majority of marketing your book.

What are the pros and cons of self-publishing?

You will have total control over what your end product looks like.

Most likely, you can get your book completely produced within 90 days, but you will have to make a personal financial commitment. You will also reap more financial reward than you would if you publish through a traditional publisher.

You will have more give-and-take and hands-on opportunity with your publisher and ongoing conversation, if necessary.

What makes a successful self-published book?

Book Publishers Network considers four criteria:
            1) Is there another book that has been published that is similar to yours? If so, how is yours different?

            2) Who is the market for your book? The market must be clearly and easily defined―it is impossible to market to the universe!

            3) Are you willing to put forth the time, energy, and financial investment to create a quality product?

            4) Are you able to be the primary spokesperson for your book? You are the best salesperson, and if you’re not willing to publicize and promote your book then it probably won’t be successful.

Are there alternatives within self-publishing?

Yes, we recommend printing 2500 books for the first print run. However, there are two other alternatives: one is to print a short run (fewer than 500 copies); the other is print-on-demand (POD).

What are your thoughts about print-on-demand?

We don't recommend it to our clients, except in rare cases. For example, if you are writing a family history that will be distributed only to your immediate family and a few relatives―perhaps needing only 100 copies―we would definitely recommend a short run.

The only time print-on-demand works is if you don’t want very many copies and you’re not interested in broad distribution to bookstores and libraries. POD books CANNOT be distributed through traditional book wholesalers, and bookstores don’t like them because they cannot be returned.

How do I get a copyright?

First, do not give your manuscript to anyone anywhere under any circumstances without having it protected! How do you protect the copyright?

Do two things:  write the copyright year and your name on the bottom of every page in small letters. You can program this into your computer so that it automatically appears on the bottom of every page. Second, send a copy of your book to yourself in the mail and DO NOT OPEN IT. Every time you make major revisions, send yourself a revised copy and again don’t open it.

How can Book Publishers Network help me?

BPN is a service provider to authors/writers who want to self-publish. We can take you entirely through the production cycle―editing, cover design, text layout, print management, storage, distribution, marketing, promotion and publicity. In other words, we can help you all the way from developmental stage to bookstore stage.

What about editing?

Rarely do we see a manuscript that does not need some editorial assistance. Having your mother, your English teacher, or your best friend edit doesn’t count unless that person is a professional editor who earns a living doing just that. Most books require editing and/or copyediting. In a few instances, we’ve seen manuscripts that required no heavy editing and could go directly to layout. Then they are edited at the layout stage.

What’s the difference between manuscript development and copy editing?

An example of manuscript development would be when a writer goes from one point to another and assumes that the reader can figure out what goes in the middle. A good developmental editor would point out what’s missing and provide you with wording or suggest that you write another paragraph to go in the middle. Copyediting is looking for grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes, repetitive words or phrases, and fact-checking, if necessary. A professional editor will do all the above at the same time.

What are some common writing mistakes?

1)  Inconsistency
2)  Grammar/syntax/punctuation
3)  Mixing first, second, and third person
4)  Using the passive voice, rather than the active voice

What makes a good cover design?

A good cover combines three elements: the market, the personality of the author, and the content of the book. When all three are combined, a striking and salable cover is produced. A survey was done by the New York Times on how people buy books. They found that people will pull the book off the shelf because the spine is eye-catching. Next, they will spend eight seconds on the front cover and 30 seconds on the back cover. If they are still interested, they will then thumb through the book and spend some time on the table of contents. In other words, a decision to buy or not buy that book is probably made in less than one minute and depends heavily upon the cover design.

What should the front cover look like?

A potential buyer has to be able to look at the title and the cover and know what the book is about quickly. If a title is too long or the graphics too complicated, a buyer will just put it back on the shelf. It has to be easy and quick!

Why is a book’s title important?

All the book databases use 25 characters, including all spaces and punctuation and no abbreviations. If your title is too long, many of the important words may not be included. Think about using a title that uses ‘ing’ words that denote action. For example, writing …, winning …, making …, etc.

Why is the text layout important?

The text of a book must be laid out in such a way that it meets the needs of the reader. For example, Book Publishers Network produced a book about World War II. Who primarily were going to be the readers of this book? Probably someone older with older eyes! Therefore, it became critically important to use a little larger font, in other words, to make it very user-friendly so there would be a great pass-around rate.

What’s the most important part of the back cover?

Testimonials or endorsements! A back cover should consist of some marketing copy, two or three testimonials, and a blurb about the author. The author’s photo is optional. A good idea is to put the marketing copy in bullet form so it is easily read.

How can I get endorsements?

If you know someone with a recognizable name, by all means ask him or her for a testimonial. We do not recommend our clients hold out for an endorsement from a celebrity, however, because it can take a very long time to secure it.

As for endorsements, quantity is definitely better than quality. The more you have, the better off you are. If you get an endorsement from a celebrity after the book is printed, you can always put a starburst label on the front cover with the endorsement until you do a reprint when you can then incorporate it into the cover copy.

Are there any rules about using quoted material?

If you quote from a published book and the quote is longer than 50 words, legally you are required to request permission to use that quote. We recommend our authors paraphrase or use under 50 words for two reasons:

1) to get permission can take a very long time, and 2) you will be required to pay a fee to use that quote, sometimes as much as $500, depending on the length and who wrote the quoted material.

What are the parts of a book and in what order should they appear?

Title page
Copyright page
Table of contents
Bibliography/reference list
Suggested reading list
About the author
Order form

Not all books will contain all these parts; some will only have the basics, but this is the order in which they properly appear in a book.

Is an index important?

If your nonfiction book will have major distribution to libraries, we highly recommend having an index. For instance, we recently published a book on basketball that had many names in it, and we included an index of names only. If you need to have an index, hire someone who is a member of the professional indexing association so you can be assured that you will have an index that librarians will see as valuable.

Why is distribution important?

If your book is one that will have sales through the book trade (bookstores and libraries), it is essential that your book is distributed by major wholesalers (Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Partners, Quality, Unique, etc.). If you are new to the book publishing arena, you will not be able to get your book distributed by Ingram as they will only work with publishers who have more than 10 titles. It is important to have distribution with Ingram because every bookstore and library has access to their databases and most bookstores order from Ingram.

Does Book Publishers Network have distribution for its clients?

Yes, we work with EDK Book Distributors and Danforth Book Distribution that work with all the major wholesalers.

What is the difference between a wholesaler and a distributor?

A distributor is exclusive. In other words, if you have a contract with a distributor, you will only have ONE distributor such as EDK that will then sell your book to the wholesalers. In essence, what you are doing is putting another layer in the sales of your book. Wholesalers typically will take a 55 percent discount. Distributors, on the other hand, may take 62-65 percent and will require you to spend a certain amount on a yearly basis for advertising and inclusion in their catalog.

What is vertical marketing?

Vertical marketing is selling to markets for your book other than the book trade. For instance, if you have a book that would sell well in a children’s clothing store, find out how to infiltrate those markets and go after them, in addition to the book trade.

Should I rely solely on the book trade to sell my book?

We never recommend this. The discount to the book trade is normally 55 percent, but if you can sell 40 percent of your inventory through the book trade and 60 percent direct to the consumer, you will recoup your investment at the end of your first print run.

Can I pre-sell my book before it comes off the press?

Definitely, but don’t start selling until your book has gone to press. It is illegal to take money for a product ahead of time unless you can provide that product to the purchaser within six to eight weeks, so be sure you don’t take money until you know your book will be available soon.

What’s the difference between promotion and publicity?

We define publicity as reaching the media (radio, TV, print) and book events, such as book signings at bookstores or book fairs, festivals, expos, etc. Promotion is developing a marketing plan to reach potential book buyers through multiple means, such as speaking engagements, special appearances in schools, limited offers, advertising, participation in workshops.

What is a media kit?

A media kit, or promotional packet, should be written while your book is on the press. The primary components consist of a fact sheet, a press release, and a bio on the author. We use double-pocket, laminated folders with the fact sheet, press release, and bio on the right-hand side. The left-hand side contains testimonials, suggested media questions, newspaper articles or reviews, and auxiliary materials about you and the book.

What kinds of media questions should I write?

Come up with 10-12 questions that you would like a media interviewer to ask. In this way, you are controlling the interview because, for the most part, interviewers will not have read the entire book ahead of time and they will just use your questions so you can answer the ones you want them to ask! Make sure that your questions can be answered in 30 seconds. Don’t have a question that needs a five-minute response; break it up into two or three questions. Include the questions in your media packet. You may or may not include the answers―this is your choice.

What makes a book successful?

The basic thing that makes a book successful is publicity, publicity, and more publicity. We once had the opportunity to ask Mark Victor Hansen why the Chicken Soup for the Soul series was so successful, and he told us that, each day of one whole year, he and his coauthor Jack Canfield did not go to bed until one of them had done one publicity event that day. Our clients don’t have to make that strong a commitment, but they soon learn that the more publicity they do, the more books they sell.

Why should I use Book Publishers Network to publish my book?

Book Publishers Network is really a hybrid in the publishing world. We help you create the best possible product, providing you with solid professional support through every step, effective distribution, publicity, and marketing. Your book is published under the Book Publishers Network imprint, and since our books have won numerous awards, we are not perceived in the book world as a self-publisher. By using our imprint, you are distancing yourself from looking like a self-publisher.

How do I get started?

Please look at the submission guideline on the website. Sheryn Hara, owner/publisher, will gladly consult with you via phone or email. She does not charge for initial consulting and will go the extra mile for her clients. Please take a look at the testimonials on the website. You will see that BPN clients are well taken care of! After determining an estimated print run and other needed components, such as cover design, editing, and layout, Sheryn will provide you with a proposal outlining the fees involved, as well as revenue projections.