Self-publishing—the author does everything: selecting editors and designers, finding printers, courting distributors. Many authors have successfully self-published their work. The downfall is that you take all the risk and you pay for the mistakes. The upside is you keep all the profits.
You want a publisher who cares about your work. You’ve done some homework and found out the kind of publisher you want (print on demand, a hybrid, a traditional publisher). You may have asked around and found referrals for reputable publishers. You call, email, or send an author questionnaire form. That triggers the first part of the publishing process—acquisitions.
Acquisitions is the process a publishing company goes through to see if they are interested in publishing your book. The acquisitions team will first want to look at a query or a proposal. If they’re interested in seeing the manuscript, they will let you know within a reasonable amount of time.
The acquisitions teams consist of people versed in all phases of book publishing: editing, design, distribution, and marketing. A good publisher will tell you honestly if he/she thinks the book will sell.
The acquisitions team will decide if the publisher wants to extend an offer to publish the book. If so, they will send you a letter or email of acceptance. You go through the contract process. You sign. You have a publisher!
Your have contracted with the publisher. Now what?
If you have a good idea and have written a book, you are an author. But authors aren’t necessarily writers, and that’s okay. Good editors make good books, and this process is essential to publishing a book because the reading public is unforgiving. They don’t want a book with a lot of typos, and they certainly don’t want a book that doesn’t flow well and is confusing to read.
Gone are the days when editors were almost as famous as their authors (Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Tom Wolfe wouldn’t be who they are if it wasn’t for their editor, Maxwell Perkins.) Authors need to contract their own editors—but how do you know you have an editor you can trust?
A good editor is someone who cares about what you want to say. Your voice and your message are sacred. A good editor will also help ensure your book is focused and it flows from paragraph to paragraph, chapter to chapter. Your Aunt Sally who was an English teacher isn’t necessarily a good editor. There is no higher education degree for editing. Editors learn their craft over time. The best editors are those people who have written and published their own books, have taught writing in some form or other, and have edited numerous types of material—articles, sales copy, and of course books.
Editing is an expense that every author should plan for, but the payoff is worth it. The heart of the any book is how well it is written. This includes the flow of the book, consistency throughout the book, sentence structure, use of grammar, and a whole host of other aspects that a professional editor ensures is done well.
Dr. Patricia Ross, Publisher and Senior Editor at Hugo House, will not publish a book that is badly edited. She considers it her personal mission to bring back high-level, quality editing to the publishing industry.
Levels of Editing
Many times when people say “editing,” they’re thinking of the editor who checks for grammatical and mechanical mistakes. That is only one level of editing, and it’s done toward the end of the publishing process.
- Editing begins with an editorial review. After the manuscript has been accepted for publication, the Senior Editor will read the manuscript, make notes, and consult with the author on the amount and type of editing that needs to be done.
- Developmental Editing (what Dr. Ross calls content coaching)—This type of editing looks at the overall focus and flow of the piece. The editor makes suggestions that the author can then implement.
- Line Editing—literally looks at sentences and words. Line editors make sure the actual sentences read well and that the words being used are all correct.
- Content Editing—this is the highest level of editing and sometimes verges on ghostwriting. The editor works closely with the author as the book is revised. Some revisions are a complete overhaul of the book. Content editing always requires a separate copy editor to do a final clean up because the editor is too close to the text and cannot spot all the mistakes.
- Copy Editing—handles grammar, punctuation, and cursory sentence structure issues (if sentences are consistently in need of help, line editing is necessary).
- Proofing—this is the final cleanup of the typeset manuscript. There should be at least two proofs of a manuscript before the book is published, printed and put on shelves for sale.
Hugo House’s personally involved and supportive editing differentiates us from other publishers in the market. Don’t be fooled by others that promise professional editing only to outsource it or just tell you what you want to hear.
Other Editing/Writing Services
Writing Coach—Unsure where to start? Overwhelmed? Have a Hugo House Expert Writing Coach guide you to complete your book, fast. If you are reading this, you are probably realizing all the things that being a published author can do for your career—from TV exposure to public speaking, to bringing in new clients—ideal clients who want to get the best services they can and are willing to pay a premium to hire an expert like you.
But you may also not have enough time to write the book yourself or simply don’t have time to devote to all the tasks required to get your book out in the public in a form that will work for you. And, if you want your book to be superbly written, maybe you’re even thinking that you need someone else to tell your story. Hugo House can help you. We’ll connect you with our hand-picked editors to be your writing coach—someone who can work with you every step of the way!
Ghostwriting—There are some individuals out there who either don’t have the time or the inclination to write their own book—but they have an amazing idea or story to tell that the public should know about.
Good ghostwriters are a rare breed of writers and editors. They are writers who love to write books but who are happy to watch their authors reach for the stars. Good ghostwriters already have one or two books of their own published, so they don’t need to see their name on the cover.
Because of the close relationship between author and ghostwriter, it is not an inexpensive proposition. And because the quality of the relationship and the considerable expense that occurs, Hugo House takes great care to match the perfect ghostwriter, that unique individual who captures the essence of your voice and ideas in your book.
Being an author is not just about writing your book—that is actually only about 10% of the work you do. The other 90% is dedicated to marketing. Marketing your book is a process that should begin even before you have a completed manuscript.
At Hugo House, we take a unique approach to marketing. We believe that it is vital to find out what your reading public wants—what resonates with them, what is real to them, what they value. We do this with a very specific marketing technology—surveying people not Survey Monkey-type surveys. The surveys are done by professionals who know how to ask the right questions to get the most information from the people surveyed. This information is then tabulated so that we get the top buttons of potential readers. A button is a word, phrase, or image that resonates strongly with a reader.
You can make people angry, sad, happy, even ecstatic if you push the right buttons. The right buttons pave the way for the message of your book to be accepted. Surveys also help your editor figure out how the book needs to be edited. They help the designer come up with the perfect design that will entice your buying public to pick up the book. Most of all, they tell our marketing team how to craft your marketing messages so that they get the response you want—books sold!
While the book is being edited and after surveys are done, the publisher will usually bring on the graphic designer who will create the book cover. (Sometimes the designer will do the cover and the interior. Sometimes those jobs will be given to different designers.)
Book Covers: The old saying is still true—you do judge a book by its cover. The cover of a book is important for one thing—it prompts the potential buyer to pick up the book or click on the book’s description on an online listing service. Book covers need to capture in images what the book is about. Good book covers communicate. They’re not just a picture of the author with some color stripes to make it look interesting. They take talent and work to produce. It’s an essential part of the publishing process and one that can take a bit of time. At Hugo House, we don’t keep our authors separate from the designers. Our authors are hands-on with the design, and the result are covers that get attention.
Book Interiors: There is more art than an author realizes to a good interior. Fonts, margins, placement of pictures and graphs—all these elements and more go into creating an interior that makes the book a pleasure to read.
There is a very specific order of business to book interiors.
- Book interiors begin when the manuscript has been proofed thoroughly so that mistakes are at a minimum.
- The designer provides the author and publisher with a mock-up consisting of the first 30 or so pages. The mock-up has various page number placements, running heads, chapter headings, and such. When the author and publisher are happy with the mock-up (and it can take a couple of rounds of changes by the designer to get that), then the designer will design the entire book.
- After the entire manuscript has been handled by the designer (who has gone through the entire book doing their thing with italics, graphics, and all the minutiae that makes up the interior), then the PDF proof is given to the author for the first final proof.
- The first final proof is done on a PDF and requires the author to note changes. The designer will make the changes noted by the author.
- After the designer makes the first round of changes, the author will again proof the manuscript. The designer will do that clean up. The author checks all the changes, and does one final proof. The publisher is involved in the process throughout, checking the changes, finding and noting mistakes. The publisher and the author must both give their approval to the interior before it’s sent to the printer
- During the final proofing stages of the interior, the publisher and author craft the back cover copy. This is a key element. This is the copy that will appear on all online listings, on the fact sheet for the book, and other marketing materials. It is sales copy and ideally, it is surveyed before the book is printed.
- Once the interior is proofed, the back cover copy written, tested, and proofed, the book is ready to go to the printers!
- Once the book is complete, the designer then converts the file to e-book formats (.mobi for Kindle; .ePub for all other readers). The e-book file is checked and when completed, the publisher lists the book on e-book listing sites like Kindle.
In today’s book market, with print-on-demand printers, books no longer need large print runs to be considered “published.” Published simply means a book is produced and ready to be sold (to repeat the definition above). Thus, printing the book facilitates publishing. With today’s digital technology, the author can have one single book printed, or hundreds, or even thousands.
Print-on-Demand (POD) Printing Technology (not to be confused with print-on-demand publishers who use the printing technology of the same name) allows authors the flexibility of printing small numbers of books. This helps the author figure out which markets are interested in the book and if a larger print run is necessary. Print-on-demand technology is also the way most Amazon books are sold. A buyer goes to Amazon.com, orders a book. Amazon sends the order via the internet to a POD printer. That printer prints and ships the book to the customer. The book world is the envy of the retail world. Warehouses full of inventory are no longer needed. POD offers flexibility and longevity in the market place because the books are stored as data files, not as actual books. Books are printed as the market demands them, which of course is dependent on how effective the marketing campaign is. The downside to POD—“one off” printing (where only one book printed at a time), is more expensive than off-set printing. Hugo House, like all other indie publishers, uses POD printing for all print runs smaller than 250 books.
Web-Press Printing. If you require larger print runs, then it’s a good idea to seek quotes from printers. You want to see book samples to test the paper quality, the integrity of the glue, and the richness of the color on the covers. The more books you print this way, the less cost for you. Hugo House routinely seeks quotes from printers. We want the best quality for the best price. Our main printers are Total Printing Systems and Lightning Source, but we also always ask Friesens and Four Color Print Group for quotes as well. The latter are the higher-end printers, but some books require that level of quality to make the book look as good as it can.
Distribution is the most misunderstood part of the entire publishing process. Distribution just makes the book available for sale.
Authors erroneously believe that if their book is in distribution, meaning it is on bookshelves or listed online, it will automatically sell. There are a percentage of people that browse and buy books, but it isn’t as high as authors would like to think. It requires a concentrated marketing campaign to let buyers know the book is available so that they go to the store or to Amazon.com and buy it. Additionally distributors often won’t take the book unless there is some proven track record in sales and a viable marketing plan.
Distribution is actually a function of marketing. It simply is putting books in places where buyers can find them: bookstores and online listing services like Amazon. But it is also specialty stores and libraries.
Hugo House Publishers works with Ingram Book Group’s Global Printer Network. Ingram Book Group is one of the largest book wholesaler/distributors on the planet. This allows access not only to Amazon.com and B&N.com, but to all brick and mortar bookstores Ingram services (bookstores and specialty stores).
Marketing, like distribution, is a hugely misunderstood area of book publishing. Marketing to traditional publishers means putting your book in a catalogue and having their reps peddle the book to book buyers in retail chains.
To be an effective marketer, Hugo House hats our authors with our exclusive Author Hat program. The course is an ongoing instructional activity along with the tasks it takes to become proficient in marketing your book.
There is a lot of misconception about what marketing is. What are the component parts? Why is it that sometimes a radio interview will sell 1,000 books and another interview sells none? Or why does a review not sell books? What needs to happen on top of that?
The following is a key-word list for marketing. These are the important terms that need to be understood before you can move forward with the activity. This helps you be more aware of what you’re doing.
Marketing: The conceiving and packaging and the moving of a specific product into public hands. In other words, it’s finding or creating a demand, pushing through all the noise of competing messages, so that the buyer is willing to make the effort to pay hard-earned money to buy the product.
The PURPOSE of marketing is to CREATE WANT and to SELL SOMETHING.
Let’s apply this to book marketing:
Conceiving = coming up with the book and the marketing plan.
Packaging = production. Production is making the book—designing the cover and interior as well as the marketing materials around your book.
Moving product into public hands = distribution and promotion. Distribution is literally the process that puts books on shelves or lists them on-line in places such as Amazon.com. Distribution is actually then just a function of marketing.
Promotion: To make something well known and well thought of. Promotion is the art of offering what will be responded to. Interestingly enough, you don’t promote the book but the benefit or the value the book offers to the buyer. Buyers don’t buy a product, they buy a solution. Promotion creates want.
Promotion is flyers, website copy, sales copy, author interviews (live, written, YouTube), social media, book signings, and articles written by the author.
PR/Publicity: this makes you and your book safe and acceptable to your buying public.
What’s the crowd doing, what’s the buzz, who are the Opinion Leaders (the people that other people listen to)? It’s events around the book that could get publicity (a newsworthy event), such as book signings. It’s book reviews because that’s someone else talking about your book—a radio host, a book editor, someone “in the know,” people just talking about it.
Sales: moving product off the shelf to the cashier with the result of a happy customer excited to read the book. Sales is getting a buyer through their stops and barriers to get them the product that they consider valuable—valuable enough to pay for it with their hard earned money.
This is accomplished by advertising that is flanked by promotional activities that prompt the buyer to buy. It happens on the author’s website where you clearly “ask for the sale.” It happens when buyers go to a bookstores, the book is there, and they want to buy it.
How Hugo House Markets Books:
There are specific marketing tasks that Hugo House does for our authors. We create a marketing plan for each book; we list our books on NetGalley for three months for reviews. We send each book through an Amazon SEO program and train our authors on how to make themselves more visible on Amazon. We write press releases for our authors.
Each marketing program is tailored to the niche audiences of the book. The following list comprises the foundation of what an author needs to market and sell their book and is the basis for all our marketing programs. However, just as with traditional publishing, the author is responsible for the marketing legwork of the book—that means he or she does it or contracts with a marketing firm to handle the marketing. Hugo House works with reputable marketing firms to get the job done right.
Social Media: Social media is one of the most effective ways to reach potential readers and get them interested in you and your book. It is also a PR action first and foremost, not a promotional action for your book. It helps make you and your work acceptable to potential audiences. Authors can choose to run their own social media campaign or use a trained Social Media expert. We also offer social media training that uses the surveyed data you found in your market research most effectively.
Radio Shows: We have found that good radio shows do sell books. Radio is also primarily a PR function, making you and your book acceptable to potential buyers. Radio is also important because it is a way to build a media portfolio—and that is important if you want to promote your book through TV appearances. We have a radio media expert who books shows for our authors, but our authors can also opt to do a training program with experts and book themselves. Radio hosts and producers are always in need of good content and an engaging guest. We want our authors to fill both those needs.
Book Reviews: All Hugo House authors are listed on NetGalley, an online review service, for 3 months. The book is also sent to Book List Online, the online magazine for the American Library Association, and Hugo House provides each author with ten media contacts to send media kits.
Featured Articles: This is an extension of book reviews. One great way to get publicity is to let people know you’re an “expert” in your subject area (this helps you get speaking gigs as well.) You can write featured articles for targeted magazines—we provide the list of magazines. You can learn who the right editors are, make a friendly overture to them, and that’s how you get to be a featured writer. This takes footwork. You do the work—but it makes it fun for you and worth it for all the publicity.
Book Signings: Book events with books being signed are fabulous PR—they get you noticed. Hugo House trains our authors how to contact, set up, and run successful a book signing. This includes setting up book signing and sending press releases to invite local media coverage, listing on local “free listing” sites, and whatever other publicity we can dream up to generate “buzz.”
Guest Blogging/Featured Blogging: Your website (discussed next) should be a WordPress site to allow for blogging. Our social media and blogging expert will teach you how to make the most of your blogging through social media, because, like everything else, just because it’s there doesn’t mean people will come. It takes some footwork to get your blog noticed. Guest blogging/featured blogging is another way to get the word out about your book. You find blogs that talk about your subject areas (Africa, helping defeat injustice, finding self through helping others, etc.) get to know the blogger, and have them feature your book or invite you to blog on their site. If you get a favorable review, we recommend finding out about advertising. If the circulation is large enough and it’s not hugely expensive, then it’s worth looking into taking out an ad asking for the sale.
Author Website: Every author must have a website if he or she wants to sell books. Why? This is the main place to sell, sell, sell. The website gives information about you and your book. It needs to have a media page that lists out all the reviews, articles, radio interviews, TV interviews and spots—all the media you’ve garnered. This is where other media types go to see that others are interested and that you know what you’re doing. Most important though, this is where you make that all-important pitch to buy your book. We’ve found that the downfall of most publicity is that authors don’t ask for the sale. The trick is to get people to your website where you can do that. Our authors can use the Hugo House webmaster or use one of their own.
The Hugo House Bookstore: Check out our bookstore! There you will notice that you can purchase any Hugo House book directly. It works on the POD printing system. The buyer orders a book. The order is sent directly to our POD printer in Illinois. The books prints and ships directly back to the customer in one to two days. Here’s the best part—you get to capture their names and email addresses so you have the all-important list of people to market to again and again. This is one of the most important steps in marketing and sales—capturing buyer’s names. You can’t get them from Amazon; you can’t get them from a bookstore. You can get them if they order direct. And here’s the best part—you don’t have to do a thing! The system takes care of the printing and shipping (which is called fulfillment.) We are very excited to be offering this direct sales line to all Hugo House authors.
You’ve done all the footwork. You have a book. You’re marketing it. You have to make sure that you ask for the sale! This is one of the forgotten steps to most publishing programs, but it’s obviously vital. You want to sell books. Your publisher wants to sell books. It’s the return on investment for all the time, effort, energy, and yes, money that you’ve spent getting your book ready for the market. The Hugo House marketing team never stops researching ways to sell more books, but no matter what you do to sell, it will fall into these three categories:
Retail – Online Bookstores. One word – Amazon. Amazon is the most successful retailer in the business. We’ve studied how they do it. We’ve created an online shopping experience to match their best efforts. The Hugo House Bookstore. All Hugo House authors get the “usual”—listing on Amazon, books with “Search Inside” features activated along with a SEO (search engine optimization) that gives you more exposure on Amazon. When the book is selling on Amazon, other retailers, like Barnes & Noble and independent bookstores, take notice. That’s when the wholesaler kicks into high gear and the books are sent to bookstores. Retail also includes bookstores (Barnes & Nobles and independent), and specialty stores. Meanwhile the Hugo House Bookstore works to maintain the maximum exposure for our titles while all others scramble to provide “exposure” for their many millions of titles. With our store we get to capture the buyers contact info and create the massive list of prospects which all our authors can share.
Direct: This is the most lucrative way to sell books. You do a book event and sell books to the participants. You set up a booth at farmers market or on the street. (No joke. New York City does not require permits for book sales on the street. You can set up a table and have at it!)
Special: This is library sales and corporate sales. This type of sales takes more front-end work, but a corporation may order books in large quantities. If a book catches on in the library market, the author can sell thousands. The trick is knowing how to do it right the first time.
Publishing a book isn’t rocket science. However, there are many landmines along the way to a professionally done book—and they’re expensive. We’ve been in the publishing business since 2008. We’ve learned our lessons the hard way—but we can pass our expertise to you as we guide you through that labyrinth of publishing.