I am about 99% completed with a fairly long (200 pages) and in-depth growers manual for the cultivation, use and marketing of pawpaw (Asimina triloba). I live in the heart of pawpaw country (KY) and have active relationships with many of the top researchers and pawpaw growers in the USA, such as Kentucky State University, and I own and operate a nursery specializing in pawpaw trees and seeds (Peaceful Heritage Nursery). So, that being said this book is accurate and well-informed and I think people will really like it who are interested in the topic. What I need help with is PUBLISHING. I tried Chelsea Green and got rejected, and as we all know people tend to say you've got to go to a lot of publishers to get published. I'm published in several magazines, including Permaculture Activist (now Permaculture Design) as well as other publications both online and in magazine form. I don't mind paying a good amount to have a publisher that will market and sell the book themselves. I'm NOT on a shoestring budget with this.
That being said, does anyone have any input about publishing a book like this? I could sell a small amount of copies on our website but would like if there was a company that would handle most of that. Any kind advice for a new writer? Thanks.
Kindness, Awareness and Compassion Will Evolve the Human Race.
I have way too much advise. I'm going to dump a bunch of it here with the idea that you can ask for me to expand a bit on anything that interest you.
My first book went on the market this year so publishing is very fresh in my mind. I was going to try some of the traditional publishers but I was worried that I didn't have enough following. It seemed like the skill the publishers wanted most was the ability to sell the books, writing skills and knowledge came much further down the list. In the end, I went with a self-published book and a Kickstarter to fund the printing. The response was amazing! It proved that I have a following and because the Kickstarter did so well, I was like free promotion: People saw how well the Kickstarter went and contacted me to sell my book. But my topic is far more niche than yours and this is just one way to go.
I spent a lot of time researching publishers these last two years. These are my thoughts.
Vanity press: This is pretty much anyone you have to pay to be published.
NEVER EVER DO THIS unless you think you aren't good enough. I can already tell from your one post that you are better than this.
There are so many things wrong with this kind of publisher. I had several harass and insult me when I said I didn't need their packaged deal. Vicious!
I've seen authors go this way. They promised it will be only $2000, but the publisher keeps calling them up and say "oh no, we can't print this without you paying for...." So it ends up being nearly $40,000 for some authors. But they keep paying because their book needs to become a reality. At the end of it, the publisher owns the copyright, ISBN, the right to reprint for all eternity, they do nothing to help sell the book except put it in the general catalogues that shops can buy from, and the author ends up with 3 copies of their book.
I'm sure some vanity publishers aren't that bad. I just haven't met them.
Regular Publisher: Someone who pays you money for the privilege of publishing your book
Two years ago, I would have said this is nice enough. Sure, I get to do a bit less work, but I get less money.
Now I say - THIS IS THE BEST THING EVER!
Self-publishing is seriously hard! It's lovely to have full creative control, but there is nothing on the internet sufficient to warn you about how much work self-publishing is. Sure publishers take a bigger slice of the pie, but they earn every single penny. They shoulder the risk. They organize so much. After coffee and freshly harvested veggies from the garden, traditional publishers are currently my third favourite thing in this world.
When researching publishers, I spent a lot of time at the library.
First I got out my favourite books. Some were the same topic I write about (gardening and yarn), others were just my favourite books. I made a list of the publishers of those books then choose the top ten that would fit my style.
Now at this point, I have a huge advantage with my work on permies. We do book promotions here where the author visits permies for a week and at the end of the week, some winners are selected and the publisher sends out books. I help out with this and got to know many of the publishers on my list pretty well. I also do some warehouse work for a friend and know who are good at providing books and which aren't good at fufilling orders. Some publishers (New Society for example) are absolutely amazing in the support they give their authors and the enthusiasm they have towards promoting their books! Other publishers are complete asses. I crossed off all but three names based on author support and willingness to promote their books. As much as I love the quality of the books by Chelsea Green, they didn't pass this test.
Three publishers left, so I do some research about their submission criteria. The biggest concern they have is that I bring my own audience, oh, and it's also good if I know what I'm writing about. This worries me because I'm writing on an incredible niche subject that only has two other books on the topic and one of them is out of print. But I keep researching.
I go back to the library with a list of every book ever published by these publishers and examine the quality. Can I, an excessive dyslexia, find spelling and formatting mistakes? What is the audience these books are focused on? Is the subject enough like mine? What else am I forgetting to ask? Is the layout to my liking (I'm very particular about some elements on a book - like the back cover having the subject words to show the book store clerk where to file it)?
One of the three was struck off the list because their most recent books were poor quality. They have since gone bankrupt so I wouldn't have gotten any royalty cheques from them anyway.
Then I started reaching out to authors to hear their expierence working with the publishers. Very enlightening stuff.
I can share my expirences and opinioins with self publishing if you like. I feel like this was the right path for me.
Self Publishing in Canada (second edition) - Canadian perspective, but has all sorts of goodies that are universally useful like layout, front matter, back matter, promotion, and even regular and vanity publishers. Sadly this is out of print.
3 penny publishing - another Canadian focused site, but this is probably the best starting place for any budding author. They have information about traditional, self, and vanity presses as well as the big pitfalls people fall into.
Your local librarian! These people know books. Ask questions. They can tell you what makes a good book, what to avoid, point you in the direction of resources you didn't know exist, help you find the questions you didn't know you need to ask, and keep cheering you on through every step of the way.
Hi R. Ranson,
Thanks, I like your enthusiasm. Please elaborate on self publishing and also I am interested in New Society Publishers. I recall I have owned many books published by them but had not considered them.
What is the budget for publishing in New Society versus self-publishing? And a self-published book would also be a mostly self-promoted book too, right? Basically I am not trying to make a living through writing, I just ended up writing this pretty extensive book on pawpaws and would like to earn a little extra income off of it. Not looking to be a writer, per se. Thoughts?
Kindness, Awareness and Compassion Will Evolve the Human Race.
R Ranson is definitely a good person to listen to about this. I self-published a book this year also, so it's very fresh in my mind too.
It's possible to just write anything, not edit it or format it well, and publish it for free on Kindle Direct Publishing (aka Createspace). This is what gives self publishing a bad name.
It's also possible to get freelance editors, proofreaders, and graphic designers involved and to publish something that is just as good (or better) than anything that's being published by a traditional publishing company. I found this website recently and think it would be good for authors to find the right freelancers and not get ripped off, but I don't have experience with it myself. Posting on the jobs offeredforum of Permies might help you find good freelancers too.
There's also vanity publishers, which sound really nasty.
I published with IngramSpark, which suited me as I'm a freelance graphic designer, reasonably computer literate, and could work with their guidelines. Some people that aren't good with these things complain that IngramSpark doesn't hold their hand enough through the process, or that their wording isn't clear enough, but I had no problems at all, and when I did need help from them, they answered my questions pretty quickly and were clear in their answers.
Promoting a self-published book can be tricky, I find it really difficult as I'd much rather be working creatively on new stuff - I am a writer, not a saleswoman. This is a huge benefit of traditional publishing deals, as they have someone there that is good at selling and promoting books.
I found this topic and read it because I'm interested to know more on publishing. So I don't have an answer, only more questions ...
One of my problems is: I wrote the story in Dutch, for (young) Dutch readers (in the Netherlands and part of Belgium). It's a non-translatable story. Probably the situation here is different from that in Canada or the USA.
"Also, just as you want men to do to you, do the same way to them" (Luke 6:31)
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