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Why Care About the Business of Publishing?

Jerry D. Simmons, Guest Author
Part 1 of 2

Writing is difficult. After spending enormous amounts of time perfecting your craft, do you really want to know that there is another important part to becoming a published author? The answer is an unequivocal, YES! If your goal is to become a published author then here are some serious questions that you need to consider.

Why should you care about the business of publishing? The simple answer is that you want a career as a writer. Your dream is to become the next Nora Roberts, or JK Rowling. Of course, at this point you're not sure why knowing the business is relevant to your new superstar status, but after you've read both parts of this article you should begin to understand why you need to care about and understand the basics of the business of publishing and how it relates to your career as a writer.

There was a son of a famous politician that was published too much fanfare. He knew little about the business and even less about what goes on behind the scenes. After all, he had a famous last name. His career as an author went south fast. Why? He didn't understand the business and his name and writing could only carry him so far. If he'd taken the time to learn the basics of the business, his name and writing could have carried him much farther and he might even have made a career out of writing.

What are your goals as a writer? This is not a philosophical question, but one that deserves an answer. As with most writers, your goal should be to get your work published, whether it's with a major trade publisher, small publisher or you decide to self publish. You want your book to have a chance of getting placement in all the major bookstores and a shot at making some bestseller lists around the country, not to mention being an Oprah pick of the month or having your face on the cover of PEOPLE magazine.

There is a wonderful lady who lives in Iowa that has been a published author for over thirty years. During each publication of her books, she took the time to communicate to her sales representatives, thanking them for their work and how much she appreciated their support. Her sales were only so-so, but the company had faith she would eventually find her readership. Instead of giving up on her, the sales group rallied and did everything they could to help her sales. Eventually, after more than twenty-five years, she became successful and the financial reward she had always hoped for came to be. She reached her goal.

Are you doing everything you can to improve your chances of being a published author? If you're a member of a writer's critique group or writer's group, that's an excellent start. If you've attended or plan to attend in the near future a writing class or writing seminar at a local community college or university, that would be highly recommended. If you don't read books by authors in the genre you're writing or plan to write in, you should start. If you don't regularly visit a local bookstore and pay attention to the market and what is happening, you should begin as soon as possible.

You need the support of other writers. Authors that I have toured with appreciate the feedback they receive from other writers. This is, of course, a very select fraternity of established and recognizable authors that critique and support each other. The same is true for you as a writer with the goal of getting your manuscript published. Seek the support and critique of your colleagues.

What do you need to know to be successful as a published author? Not only do you need to know how to write, but you must also understand what is happening in the publishing industry, especially behind the scenes of the major trade publishers. Until now, that information wasn't readily or easily available. However, with the launch of my Website,, not only can the information be accessed easily, it's FREE. For a broader coverage of the business of publishing, let me suggest that you read my book. However, the basic information is FREE.

How should you allocate your time to become a successfully published author? Obviously you need to write, and write, and write some more. The best way to improve your writing is to write, so you must spend a large chunk of your available time writing. If you attend critique or group meetings where you can have a support system that would be time well spent. Classes, workshops and seminars on writing are also a good investment in time. A portion of your time should be spent visiting bookstores, reading books written by your competition, and most importantly, visiting my web site to get the inside information on the business of publishing.

Are you doing everything you need to do to put yourself in a position to make writing your career? If you're doing everything that I've written about up to this point, then you're doing as much as can be expected. If you avoid visiting bookstores, reading books written by your competition, or don't take the time to read articles about the business, then you're not doing everything you need to do. A basic understanding of the business of publishing is essential to your career as a writer and successful author.

Writers and authors need to become some of the most marketing savvy people in the business. They should read anything and everything in their own category including what's on the current bestseller lists. They need to be voracious readers and keen observes of the marketplace and their category.

If someone told you that you are doing all the right things to eventually get a book published but your career may only be good for one book, would you still be interested in a career as a writer? No one wants to be a one-book author. Why would you spend the time and energy, not to mention money, to have only one book published? Spending all your time perfecting your writing skills and not spending a portion of that time learning the basics of the business of publishing is tantamount to being a one-book author.

So what's the fun of learning the basics of the business of publishing? The fun of writing and challenge of becoming a published author could end abruptly if you make a bad decision or relinquish your decision making to the publisher. That is why in order for all your hard work to pay off handsomely, you need to learn what's happening to your book from the day you sign the contract to the day it goes on sales.

If your goal were to someday get your book published, why would you even consider signing a contract with a publisher without understanding what they do, why they do it, and how they do it? The only conceivable answer is that you, as a writer, consider the publishers to be the experts. Of course that is correct, they do have the expertise, but they don't have the time or resources to devote to your individual book. That's why the more you understand about the business the better chance you have of making writing a career, avoiding the one-book syndrome, and eventually making your publisher your partner in the publication process of your book.

Part 2next


Copyright © - Jerry D. Simmons. Jerry D. Simmons spent more than twenty years as an executive with The Time Warner Book Group in New York. He is the author of "INSIDE The Business of Publishing: What Writers Need to Know" and the creator of, where information essential to writers and their careers is available, FREE.


  If you would like to talk one-on-one with Larry James about issues related to this article, you are invited to arrange for a private coaching session by telephone. Go to Author & Speaker Coaching for specific details and fees.

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