If the past few years are any indication, we’ll see a variety of new Adirondack books by regional authors in 2015. For those considering writing a book, a family history, or perhaps reviving an old project like a cookbook fundraiser, a few pointers might well save you some headaches and dollars, especially if you’re planning to self-publish. (Self-publishing involves funding the production costs and then marketing and selling your own work—a tough job, but with far greater potential profit for the author than traditional publishing.)
As publishers, my partner and I receive queries on what we call “rescue projects,” those reaching us only after lots of mistakes have been made and lots of money has already been spent, but with poor results. We in fact started our business back in 2004 specifically to help others avoid the pitfalls we encountered while self-publishing. The way to prevent yours from becoming a rescue project is, first and foremost, do your homework.
Playing mechanic with your own car? Tackling a rewiring job at home? In either case, you’d consult friends and experts, and perhaps find some good books on the subject. Those steps help avoid unnecessary errors and expenses that might otherwise accumulate as you bumble your way through.
The same holds true for publishing a book. Rather than just jumping right in, seek the advice of a publisher. That’s what teachers, professors, and business people do, and it pays off. The average person is often less capable at writing than those professionals are, so there’s irony in the fact that in our experience, the less capable are more apt to forge ahead with little preparation. They often dig a hole that is costly.
A number of websites offer assurances that it’s easy to write and publish a book. Also common are claims that your book can be ready in a week, or even a few days. Hooks is what they are—promos aimed at getting your attention, the first step in making a sale. Those making such promises do so with certainty that virtually no manuscript submitted by individuals is actually ready for publishing, so only a miniscule number of projects will meet the “instant-book” criteria. The rest will go through some semblance of the nickel-and-dime process, where additional costs add up.
So if you’re thinking of publishing the next great Adirondack book in 2015, do yourself a favor. Talk to professionals and to friends who have published books. Learn in advance what software is best for preparing a manuscript, and what type of formatting should be included. Educate yourself on the value of proofreading and editing, and the realities of using friends, former teachers, and others to perform those services. (Their efforts should help some, but there will be plenty of errors left to fix.) And know in advance that poor editing and proofreading have been the death of many otherwise good books.
If you’re self-publishing, seek ballpark estimates on the overall cost of your project, and do it early in the process. Understand that in order to sell your own book, you will need to obtain a Tax ID number, which allows you to collect sales tax. Getting a Tax ID is fairly simple, but with ramifications … turning sales tax over to New York State periodically, and reporting business income on your income tax forms. Know that media exposure will help you succeed, but the sustained effort necessary for success must come from the author. Look into the cost of advertising in print and online, and compare risk versus reward.
Online research, friends who have published, and publishers themselves are sources for much of that information. Knowing beforehand what is entailed can save you time and money. It also lets you plan a path and establish goals, allowing a better chance for success.
And be sure to ask about the potential rewards, both financial and personal. The money part is more important to some than others, but the interaction with readers, historians, the media, and fans can make it a deeply rewarding experience for all.
Photo courtesy John Warren.