Considering the “Why”

Seeing things… In a whole new light!

“You’re an author. So what do you write?

How many times have you heard that question? The question is worthy of consideration because authors often are defined by what they write. But why is it that, when there are literally thousands of multiple authors writing on the same general subjects, that only a few are enormously successful, while others remain frustrated, struggling in obscurity. Well, in reality it is not so important what writers write—as hard as it may be for some writers to believe. Take a subject, stand it on its head, or its ear, and chances are someone has already done the same take, or something similar. There is nothing new under the sun.

So if it is not the what, then perhaps it is the how. Does technique matter? Do life experience and an idiosyncratic, methodical approach to the process matter? Of course they do! Yet, technique involves more than mere research, discipline and creativity. It involves more than focus groups, colleague critique sessions or an experienced editor. In fact, the process carries over to activities and choices authors make after the book is complete.

Will you self-publish? Will you opt for Digital Printing as opposed to offset printing? How will you determine the price and format? Will you elect to have a traditional publisher produce your book? Will a publisher even be interested in you work? How many formats and distribution channels will you pursue? Is there a marketing campaign in place?

The questions above are a continuation of the how, and many authors have mastered this aspect to a high degree of efficiency, cranking out book after book with a seeming sense of ease, but there are many prodigious authors (we’ve all met them) who create and/or publish volumes of work, and still struggle to find an interested and appreciative audience. Thus “the how” is important, but it is not the essential factor that distinguishes an individual from the crowd.

Many writers, when considering literary success, have been taught to work from a What—How—Why model, as opposed to a Why—How—What approach. Basically, these authors pitch, or begin selling (to an audience or publisher) with,

I have just written this great manuscript about this famous lawmaker who cheats on his wife and who lies to constituents. While writing it, I went to Washington DC to interview seven real-live corrupt politicians who tell me they will even endorse me! Wanna buy my book?

This manuscript could become a viable book, but it probably would not impress an audience enough to make it a well sought-after work or a bestseller. Why? Because we have already seen the same What and How, played out over and over in books, television and film for decades. Authors, if you think you can find success by doing the What and the How that has worked for other authors, then you are entirely missing the point. If you do your research, you will discover that what has made the most prominent and adulated writers unique… is the Why.

So the better question for you is Why do you write? What is your purpose? What is your cause? What are your beliefs? In the spirit of motivational speaker, Simon Sinek

Inspired writers start with what they believe. People don’t buy what you write—they buy “why” you wrote it. Thus the goal is to write for people who believe what you believe. If you write about what you believe, about what you feel strongly about, you will attract those who believe what you believe, and doing so, you will earn singular success.

If you truly want to be a successful writer, take a look at the video above to consider the words of Simon Sinek, a gifted speaker in the TED series. And after you have finished, please take the effort to share your thoughts about this post. Why do you write? What is your true motivation? How does what you believe affect your work? Do you find that your favorite authors tend to believe what you believe? After watching the video, how will you change change your approach in future writing projects?

We look forward to reading your comments! Better yet, use the space in the box below to create your own post, describing in specific detail why you write and how your beliefs affect what you write.

Have You Ever Wondered About…

Gutenberg Museum Fribourg – Cylindrical Printing Plate Made of Lead for Letterpress Printing, Detail

The Publishing Process?


The book production process officially starts when the acquiring editor of the book submits a final, edited book manuscript to a copy editor. At that point, the manuscript is considered to be “in production” and the page layout and design process begins.

Note that the jacket design process happens in another department, in a parallel timeframe.

  • Production
  • Author Publishers
  • Book Press
  • Manufacturing
  • Book Printers
  • The copyeditor reviews the final manuscript for grammar, spelling, and consistency. He or she corrects errors and questions anything that isn’t clear in the text.
  • The copyedited manuscript comes back to editor and author with queries from copyeditor. The author and the editor answer the queries and consult to finalize the text.
  •  The manuscript now goes for design and layout. For books that don’t have photography or illustration (sometimes called “art programs”), the author will likely not see the text again until the page proofs.
  • For books with art programs: In art-, photo- or illustration-heavy books (such as cookbooks or coffee table books or do-it-yourself instruction books), the author is often looped in during the page design process.
  • While the pages are being copyedited and reviewed, an overall design direction is determined for the book by the creative team and editor. At this point in the process, the author receives sample pages.
  • Once a design is finalized by the team, an entire “dummy” book is created, and all parties review the page layouts, to fit copy, to gauge the appropriateness of art-to text–and to make changes, as necessary. There may be more than one dummy book stage to be reviewed.

The author receives the text laid out in page proofs (or the text and art in a dummy book, see above). At the same time, the page proofs are being reviewed by the editor, a proofreader and various members of the production staff. Typos are corrected and minor changes made. There may be additional back-and-forth and fine-tuning in layout and design that doesn’t involve the author.

For some books, uncorrected page proofs, galleys or ARCs of the book may be printed and bound for advance book marketing and publicity purposes.

During the next, final stages of production, printing and shipping, there’s usually a lull in activity for the author.

Once the pages are final, an index is created, typeset, and proofread. (Note: the author generally pays for the indexing; this is outlined in the book contract and the money is deducted from the advance against royalties).

  • The files are now reviewed for any issues and prepped for manufacturing. Copies of the final, clean files (including artwork) are simultaneously sent to the printer for printing and binding, and to a file converter (either in-house, or freelance) who preps the files for the e-book version.
  • Books come off press and advance copies are rushed to the publisher. Samples are distributed to the author, the editor and the agent, but the bulk are generally used for publicity mailings to media and for the sales departments to give to accounts.
  • The books are packed and shipped to the publisher’s warehouse. The length of time for printing and shipping varies dramatically–from 3 weeks turnaround for an all-text computer book printed in the U.S. to months for printing overseas (which is the norm for most full-color books) and being shipped back via boat, going through customs, and trucked to the publisher’s warehouse.
  • Finished books ship from warehouse to retail destinations, such as individual independent bookstores or national account distribution centers (as for Barnes & Noble or where they are inventoried, unpacked, re-shipped (in the case of distribution centers) and shelved for consumer purchase in time for the on-sale date.

In a parallel timeframe to printing and shipping, properly coded e-book files are made available to the online retailers via data feeds from the publisher. The bookseller offers them for purchase and download by consumers through their websites.

Enjoy the video above, and please share your comments, suggestions and insights. Better yet, use the box below to create your own post, describing how your expectations about the publishing process have differed from your actual experience. What has surprised you most about the process? And how are you encouraged or disheartened by the many changes occurring in the industry? What changes would you like to see?

Striking a Delicate Balance

In the publishing industry, balance matters. Whether you are a writer, an author, a self-publisher, an independent publisher, a small publisher or a major publisher, the industry requires that you understand the delicate balance between various partnerships. And while many of us do what we do based on a genuine desire to share passionate stories, transform attitudes and inspire thought, we cannot escape financial realities.

Unfortunately, publishers today are forced to assess the financial viability of a work before ever considering its relevance and overall beauty, or genius. In that way, many incredible works by dedicated, talented authors fust unknown, unappreciated, while less talented authors and their work are celebrated and rewarded. We know this to be true.

Fortunately, changes in the publishing industry, brought on by digital technology and other advances, have shifted the balance. Because the production costs of publishing books have significantly declined due to Print-on-Demand and Digital Publishing, many gifted authors who have been slighted, over-looked or locked-out in the past now have opportunities they could have never imagined before. Many voices that were not financially viable can finally be heard.

As opportunities open industry-wide, we must all consider each other as stakeholders. On the one hand, authors spend countless hours writing and perfecting manuscripts, haggling with editors (professional or otherwise), and the expense of money and time to create a viable book with wonderful potential. On the other hand, the traditional publisher is required to assume the market risk, which includes production resources and costs associated with bringing the book to market.

And let us remember the caveats imposed book distributors, in case some do not know. In order for a book to be benefit from global distribution, meaning that its availability includes the 40,000 or so bookstores, retailers and libraries that are included in the premium title distribution network, publishers are required to provide a 55% discount to retailers.

This means that the wholesale price for a book priced at $10.00 amounts to $4.50, and the wholesale price for a book that retails for $20.00 is calculated at $9.00. From the wholesale price, publishers must subtract the actual cost for printing the book, production costs, distribution costs and the author’s royalty in order to determine actual compensation per unit. In addition, distribution agreements require that publishers buy back any unused retailer inventory (great for retailers—bad for publishers and authors). It is a factor we have zero control over, a demand we are forced to accept.

So when we, as publishers, price a book for retail, we do so while considering all these factors. While we want book buyers to get our products at a great value, we also want our authors to make a profit on their hard work, yet uncompensated. And while we want to publish many of the unique, nontraditional and niche manuscripts that come to us (because many of these are well written), we have to determine viability.

This means, in short, that we cannot afford to actually lose money on any particular title, regardless of how passionate we are about the work. Too many losses, and we are out of business. Because we intentionally keep operational and production costs to a minimum, we can afford to take chances where most publishers cannot, while providing first-class quality and services.

Uniquely, we tailor the publishing experience not only to the needs of the author, but also to the needs of the particular book. While we do not want you to spend a single penny you do not have to spend, we cannot afford to take on projects that do not involve ardent author involvement. As stated earlier, it is a delicate balancing act, but we are in it together, as publishing partners.

If it is convenient for you now or at some later occasion, please take the time and opportunity to consider the video above, which demonstrates the aspect of balance. For the woman in the video, the delicate balance for the entire physical equation (work of genius) that she constructs rests on the weight of a single feather, a beginning, which we, as publishers and authors would do well to appreciate. It is a truly incredible feat of balance, coordination and concentration!

Enjoy the video above, and please share your comments, suggestions and insights. Better yet, use the box below to create your own post, describing how balance plays a part in your own work and schedule.