Kim Weiss Publishing Services

What to tell someone if they want to publish a book

March 31, 2009 at 6:29 am

I’m deliberately challenging myself and everything I work for when I pose a headline question like: What to tell someone if they want to publish a book. The thought of addressing this subject is so powerful that as I began to type, I broke into a fit of sneezing. Is it about truth? Or am I just allergic to the dust on my desk?

Probably a little of both. 

Okay, so publishing a book is on your horizon. Good for you. Really. It’s a noble ambition and as long as someone has the urge, perhaps publishing will survive.

First, before I drag you into the halls of cynicism, know that I go there for two reasons: 1) I’m from right outside of NY so it’s the law; and, 2) cynicism is one of my favorite vehicles of comic relief – nicey nice bores me after a short while. Regardless of the style, I am inherently an optimist, sometimes a venerable Pollyanna, but a sugar sweet presentation has never been my style.

In fact, I applaud your ambition. No matter what anyone tells you (including me), follow your heart. 

Now that I’ve said all that… WHAT ARE YOU, NUTS?  

My first question: are you an Astor or a Rockefeller? Maybe a Vanderbilt? If you are, then go ahead, write away, you’ll never have to account for the time spent and the few dollars returned. And, if that is your name and you don’t write, subsidize someone who does. Because, their chances of raking in a living from book writing is very tenuous.

You’ve heard me say it before, keep your day job (unless that Vanderbilt sans writing talent sent you a big check). Over a hundred thousand books are published in a year. What are the chances of them becoming bestsellers? What’s worse, what are the chances of them getting onto a bookstore shelf? And, then there’s the little detail of getting the publisher to agree to take on your project.

It sounds bleak (and it is) but writers must write, just like painters must paint (we know the odds of painters making a living, too, don’t we?). Perhaps you should consider shacking up with a painter and splitting the bills.  A low overhead makes for a less stressful living situation. Fertile for creativity. 

We have good news, however, for those who are not particularly married to following the traditional track of publishing. Since technology became king, there are a lot of ways to skin a book. The whole idea of self-publishing, on-demand publishing, e-books and God-knows-what-else-is-coming publishing is at once disconcerting and exciting. We book lovers pray for the bound book to never go away but we can allow ourselves to feel good about exploring new formats for our work. 

What we really are seeing is an expanded marketplace with representations of quality all over the map.  Voices are being heard that might never have come forward. Our very barometers of criticism are being turned on their heads.  Old values may be intact, but new sensibilities are erupting.  (Putting it that way even gives me goose bumps)

I’m picturing how it was way back in time when stone tablets gave way to paper books. I’m sure there were some people digging in their heals thinking that life would never be the same if paper took over. (Give me that rock solid rock, baby) A silly analogy, yes, but you gotta embrace change no matter how tough.

What we must fight for, among many things, is the importance of healthy attention spans and how that fits into the reading model. When that goes away, so will books. Bytes and bytes and bytes online, on phones, on palm pilots, on blackberries are ok sometimes, but only as supplemental information sources. 

It’s up to us to protect our brainpower and educate younger people of its importance. The long forms of life must stay.

She said — in 682 words.

Did I answer the question: What to tell someone if they want to publish a book? 

Good luck. And, good for you.

(Remember to give me a call, I’ll hold your hand)

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