Ask Not What Your Publisher Can Do For You

Because of authors like J.K. Rowling, Dan Brown, James Patterson, etc., there tends to be a misconception in this industry, especially the Indie industry, that making money is easy. But it’s best to think of these authors as lottery winners who hit the jackpot while the rest of us have to work our butts off to make a living.

I’ve spoken to many aspiring writers who think being an author is like an assembly line, whereas they’ve done their part by writing the book, now to shove it on down the line to let everyone else do their part. Unfortunately, as an Indie author, you’re an assembly line of one, and the job doesn’t end at writing.

I’m going to list three questions you should never ask an Indie publisher, or perhaps any publisher.

1. How good is my book?

This is very subjective. Look at the reviews for top-selling books and you will understand. Fifty Shades of Gray, for example, has almost as many one-star reviews and they do 5-star reviews. The question is: How good do you believe your book is? As the author, you better believe it’s the best book ever written and be able to convey that to a publisher and to readers.

2. What will you do to promote my book?

Never ask this question of a publisher or agent. It has become as important to have a platform as it used to be to produce great manuscripts. In other words, this is something the publishers will want to ask you, not vice versa, and you better have an answer. With all the free networking sites on the web like FaceBook, Linkedin, Tumblr, Twitter, and others, you should have 100,000 connections before you even write a book.

This brings me to the one that always makes me cringe. After a title has been released for about a month, I sometimes get this dreaded question.

3. How is my book selling?

First of all, “selling” is a verb and a book is an inanimate object, so it cannot sell. Never will you see a book working a cash register or standing on a street corner wearing a huge trench coat whispering, “Hey, buddy.”

And I’m not simply saying that to rephrase the question. As the author, you have the most insight to know how many copies of your book are being sold. You are the one promoting, doing book signings, networking, and getting feedback. If you are not doing the things required to get this feedback, then I can tell you how your book is selling—it ain’t.

You want the world to see your book and think “Wow” and find you in the process. But you have to make the world see you and think “Wow” and find your book in the process.

Neal Wooten, Publisher/Indie Author/Illustrator/Cartoonist

Managing Editor; Mirror Publishing, Milwaukee, WI,
Author of Reternity,

Posted by on October 12, 2012. Filed under Books,Business,Neal Wooten. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

11 Responses to Ask Not What Your Publisher Can Do For You

  1. I have the giggles over envisioning my book whispering, “Hey Buddy”. Neal I love how you utilize humor to make your point. Thank you!

  2. Sandra Fishel Brandon

    October 12, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    I suspect many of us discovered that promoting and selling our book was not as easy as we had thought it might be. After the initial family members and close friends bought our book because they like and support us, it then took some networking and contacting libraries, book stores, schools etc. to sell more books. But often one contact will lead to another.

  3. Dianna Skidmore

    October 12, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    In my limited experience, the writing was the easy part. I only want this one thing…for someone to make a very popular cartoon show (i.e.spongebob) out of my book. Is that too much to ask for?

  4. Jodi Fiore

    October 12, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    Neal I truly ‘laughed out loud’ when I read your ‘Hey Buddy’ comment. This question gets asked of ME often by my caring family, friends and enormous fan club. They often say ‘How are your books selling?’

    I have learned that each book sold, each connection made, every school presentation and book signing I attend is a small but giant leap in the promotion of my books.

    Great advice as always, thank you Neal – keep it coming!

  5. Laura Marlowe

    October 12, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    Well done. Well done! I am glad you addressed the three questions that an author should never ask a publisher, especially “How good is my book?” You are quite right: one should BELIEVE and CONVEY that his or her work is a winner, that it has great appeal, an audience, etc. It’s called enthusiasm, folks! Thank you also for giving many indie authors opportunity to understand the “you” factor as aptly noted in your wonderful article (“…make the world see you and think WOW”). Lastly, as always, your great sense of humor is much appreciated -– LOVE the book-working-a-cash-register line!

  6. Ilene Munetz Pachman

    October 13, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    Thanks Neal, for your incisive piece. There certainly is a need to spell out the three questions never to ask a publisher — questions on the tip of the respective tongues of too many writers. Your conveying instructive and important information in an
    entertaining way is appreciated! :)

  7. Bolivar Lopez

    October 14, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Your right, it takes commitment and hard work. You only succeed as much as you work for it. Ihave not had someone knock on my door to buy many books. Getting my book out there takes all my extra time. Sometimes it feels as if you go in the wrong direction. I know I can’t quit now and I don’t want to.

  8. Leslie Tesch

    October 15, 2012 at 9:32 am

    A thought provoking article with some new ideas to consider, while entering the world of self promotion. In this era of technology, it seems as if all the people on TV are interested only in promoting themselves. They make self promotion seem rather shallow. How do you get around this idea and still accomplish the work necessary to promote your book?

  9. Lisa Sarver

    October 16, 2012 at 10:16 pm

    Perhaps there are too many dreamers and not enough realists. The successful best-selling authors you listed might also be likened to finding a needle in a haystack. But what if the needle happens to be ‘fresh’ – a neon glow stick in the haystack? Maybe some publisher predicts my book will be the next big thing; I’ll get a huge advance, sell numerous copies and receive endless royalties. Thankfully, reality and the “if you want something done, you have to do it yourself” attitude takes over.

  10. Connie Amarel

    October 17, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    Wow, Neal – very eye-opening article and really educational. (Hmmmm, I may be guilty of one or two of the above, but hopefully not anymore =D.) Thanks for a wonderful, truly informative article! You do good work!!! (make that great work!!!)

  11. Lindy Mennella

    May 1, 2013 at 2:06 am

    Brown’s novels that feature the lead character Robert Langdon also include historical themes and Christianity as motifs, and as a result, have generated controversy. Brown states on his website that his books are not anti-Christian, though he is on a ‘constant spiritual journey’ himself, and says that his book The Da Vinci Code is simply “an entertaining story that promotes spiritual discussion and debate” and suggests that the book may be used “as a positive catalyst for introspection and exploration of our faith.”-:

    Check ya later

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