Self-Publishing Part 3 – Edits, Proofs and Book EndorsementsBy
I believe our digital era—digital printing, digital distribution and digital (online) marketing—has liberated independent authors from ‘needing’ to have publishers or subsidiary presses to publish their books. No longer must we feel at the mercy of big business to share our words, ideas and imagination.
I’m sure part of my passion for self-publishing comes from my many years as an indie musician, when I preferred to publish via my own record label than to be taken seriously by major record companies. Ironically, after years of thinking a record deal was my ‘goal’ in music, when our electro-trance band was offered a record deal in 1994 with one of the biggest labels on the planet (along with all the trappings like MTV videos and going on tour with big name acts), I suddenly realised I didn’t want it. The A&R guy (the person who signs the acts) was already trying to seize too much artistic control. I feared we would turn into something we were not and end up appealing to no one, only to be dumped by them a year later because we didn’t sell enough records. It happens all the time in the music industry.
I believe Madonna (whether you like her as an artist or not) took a sensible and fruitful approach to working with record labels. She started out as a pro-active, ambitious independent artist, highly focused on building her following. By the time record labels started to approach her, her identity (i.e., her ‘brand’) AND her fan base were so defined, record labels didn’t TRY to change her. Her clarity about who she was as an artist (even though it changed every year) and who her fans were meant that she gained a reputation as someone who was able to maintain artistic control even within a corporate environment. Later, she had enough clout (and money!) to break free from corporate influence altogether, and created her own record label. In a way, she went BACK to being an independent artist, the master of her own artistic destiny.
I believe Madonna’s career serves as a great lesson for authors in the digital era. Committing to being self-published, possibly for several years, while you put your attention into building your ‘brand’ and your fan base IS a highly sensible route. Then, you wait until you reach a ‘tipping point’ where a publisher might be able to take your sales to the next level AND you are a ready-made asset for a specific publisher (or niche of publishers). Only then is it the time to approach a major publisher. When you can show you have a clear market, a clear identity, a strong fan base and some marketing know-how, the ‘right’ publisher will sit up and take notice when you approach them (typically through a literary agent; but that’s another story).
Then again, maybe you don’t WANT a publisher after all. Maybe you’ll decide that self-publishing is actually better for you. Maybe you’ll develop a love for the entrepreneurial spirit and freedom of self-publishing. Maybe you’ll be so good at marketing and distribution (or you’ve outsourced great people to manage it for you) that you’ll start building a small empire with your books. Maybe you’ll even publish other authors.
That’s enough of the pep talk. I just wanted to take a moment to get you into the right state of mind before we get back to work.
Back to Our Checklist…
Over the past 2 weeks, I’ve been sharing my Top-10 ‘must do’ items for self-published authors. Here’s a quick review of what we’ve looked at so far. You can click the links below to read more about them.
In Part 1, we explored:
- Must-Do #1: Choose Your Title and Subtitle METICULOUSLY
- Must-Do #2: Find a Highly-Recommended Professional Editor and Proofreader
- Must-Do #3: Find a Highly-Recommended Cover Designer
- Must-Do #4: Create a Publishing Company
- Must-Do #5: Get Your ISBN Numbers
In Part 2, we took a detailed look at:
Today, in Part 3, we’ll be looking at the next two items on our ‘must do’ checklist:
Must-Do #7: Working Through Your Edits and Proofs
Many new authors think that once they finish their draft, their editor will ‘fix’ everything for them and that when they get their edit back from the editor, everything will be ready to publish. This is a big misunderstanding of the role an editor plays in the publishing process.
While many new authors think editing is just a matter of correcting errors in grammar and spelling, it’s far more than that. A good editor will typically make suggestions for changes that will make your book tighter and more cohesive. They might recommend re-writing certain sections, changing the order of your ideas (or whole chapters). They might recommend that you elaborate on an idea, trim something down, or even delete parts that are redundant. They might point out inconsistencies in point-of-view, verb tense or continuity, and make suggestions for how to fix them.
An editor might notice certain idiosyncrasies in your writing that they ask you to address personally. For example, my editor told me to search through my ENTIRE manuscript to find every instance of certain adverbs I tended to overuse (like ‘really’, ‘quite’, ‘actually’ and similar fillers), and then delete as many of them as possible. This part of the process can be a real emotional journey for an author, especially if they have never worked with a good editor before. You might wonder why the editor didn’t do this herself. I’m glad she asked me to do it because a) it gave me the chance to decide which instances of these words should stay or go and b) it helped me improve as a writer. I notice that I am much more mindful of my ‘filler’ words since being challenged by my editor to address this issue.
Learn to relish the challenges your editor gives you as a valuable learning experience. Do not see his/her suggestions as criticisms but as tools to make you a better, more professional writer. This is why choosing the right editor is so important. A great editor is not only a master of words, but is also unafraid to ‘give it to you straight’.
Of course, you have to be prepared for this—emotionally AND in terms of time. BLOCK OUT a month of your time to go through your editors edits. Treat them with as much care and delight as you did when you wrote the first two drafts of your book.
After you make the changes your editor suggested, I strongly recommend sending the edited draft back to your editor (or to a proofreader, if you are using someone different) so they can go over it with a fine eye for typos, spelling and punctuation errors. Again, they will probably send the proofed draft to you using ‘track changes’ so you can approve the changes manually. That means you’ll need to block out another week of your time for this. Do NOT rush this process or do this when you’re tired. That’s when mistakes happen. Going through the corrections yourself manually (rather than trusting the proofreader to make the final call) is important in case they misinterpreted what a misspelled word was intended to be. Only you will be able to evaluate whether the corrections are actually ‘correct’.
Must-Do #8: Obtaining Endorsements for Your Book
Obtaining endorsements for your book before it comes out is an important part of your publishing process. The time to seek them actively is AFTER you’ve completed reworking the edits your editor gave you, but BEFORE the manuscript goes for final proofreading. Most endorsers are happy to read through an unproofed and semi-formatted PDF version of your book.
Your endorsers should be experts in the same or similar field as the subject of your book. Preferably, they should be other authors or other well-known personalities in the field. They could also be leaders within well-known and widely respected organisations related to your field. Some obvious candidates for endorsers would be people you cite or mention within your book. Others could be colleagues in your business networks (including your social networks).
Many new authors choke at the idea of asking for endorsements for their book. They worry about being rejected, or they worry they’ll look silly. But there really is no need to be shy about asking for an endorsement, as there is an incentive for people to give you one. After all, their name, book title and (possibly) website will go either inside your book or maybe even on the front or back cover. That’s free ‘advertising’ for them to their target audience.
Think of it this way: You want their endorsement because if their readers see them endorsing your book, they’ll think it might be of interest to them. But conversely, if your readers see your endorsers’ names mentioned in your book, they might think to check their books out too. You are happy, your endorsers are happy, and your readers are happy. It’s a win-win-win.
When you contact people asking for an endorsement, try to be mindful of the following details:
- If you already know the person, all you really need to do is ask them if they’ll let you send them a copy of your new book, so they can write a short endorsement. At this point, just tell them the title of the book and the date you expect to be able to send it to them for review.
- If you DON’T know the person, make the initial letter only slightly longer. Open by telling them who you are and why you are writing to them, specifically, i.e. you cited them in your book; you admire their work in their field and it is closely aligned with the topic of your book, etc. Then, ask permission to send the manuscript to them.
- Give your potential endorsers a brief (one or two sentences) description of the book. Never, EVER use ‘sales language’ or hyped up words like ‘life-changing’, ‘amazing’, etc. Just tell them what the book is about.
- Always assure your potential endorsers that they do NOT have to read the entire book.
- Assure them that 1 or 2 lines of ‘blurb’ is perfectly fine. We are not asking them to write a review.
- Assure them that their name, (one) book title and link to their website will be guaranteed to go into the front pages of your print book (I tend not to include them in eBooks)
- Let them know that 3 of the most compelling endorsements will go on the back cover, and the most compelling will go on the front cover. Of course, you and your cover designer have to be ok with doing this before making that promise.
- Assure them you will include these endorsements in promo materials you will be sending to radio shows, etc. (you never know; their book titles might catch someone’s attention).
- Assure them you will post their endorsements WITH their web link on the book page of your website. This gives them a back link and more free promo.
- Assure them you will give them a month to look at your book and get their blurb back to you.
- Assure them that it’s ok to say no.
Below is some advice from author Erica Tucci, who has been very successful at getting many relevant and well-known endorsers for her books, including her upcoming book Radiant Survivor. I thought you might enjoy reading what she had to share. Erica suggests sending a sample chapter to people on first contact. That’s not normally something I recommend, but it seems to have worked for her:
To obtain endorsements for your book, find people who have a shared interest in its subject matter. For example, do you quote a potential endorser in your book? Or have they experienced a similar situation as your own? I quoted several passages from Dr. Nancy Qualls Corbett’s (a Jungian psychotherapist) book in my novel Anything is Possible, and thus she gave me a wonderful endorsement.
Most recently for my book Radiant Survivor: How to Shine and Thrive through Recovery from Stroke, Cancer, Abuse, Addiction and Other Life-Altering Experiences, I was able to obtain agreements to endorse my book from Kevin Sorbo (aka Hercules) and Dr. Bernie Siegel, an internationally renowned physician. Kevin had several strokes in his late 30s so he understood my story since he had “been there, done that.” Bernie, as Dr. Siegel prefers to be called, has authored many books on healing and is an expert in complementary and holistic medicine, so perhaps he felt that my book fell in the same category as his, at some level.
When you contact potential endorsers, send them the intro and a chapter or two of your book for their perusal. Then send the complete manuscript if they request it. Ask them politely to please return their endorsement within a certain time frame. Also, it’s important to make them feel like they want to give you their endorsement. Tell them that you love the work that they do. Maybe you have quoted them. Appeal to their altruistic side. That you have had a similar experience as they have had, or that you have read their books, and that you would love to have their endorsement as a testament to the benefits of reading your book. If they too are authors, as Kevin and Bernie both are, they will understand how important endorsements are…Although I feel that it was more their graciousness that led them to agree to giving me endorsements. And I am very grateful for them being willing to do so!
ENDORSEMENT TIP: Sometimes very ‘busy’ endorsers will ask YOU to write the endorsement for them. That might seem a bit disingenuous, but it happens all the time. If fact, it’s probably more common than uncommon when you are requesting endorsements from bigger names. If one of your endorsers asks you to do this, don’t panic or be offended. Think about who THEY are and what their message is. Then, in two sentences, try to think what they would say about your book from their perspective. Try to include the ‘money shot’ in it, where there are two or three words that can be extracted and used on their own.
Then, send this suggested ‘blurb’ to your endorser and ask them to tweak it to make it their own. If they’re truly the right endorsers for your book, you will get back something personalised and genuine that can also be promotional gold-dust for you.
That’s it for today…
We’ve covered a lot of ground today. Hopefully you gained some useful information from it. Next time in Part 4, we’ll be looking at:
- Must-Do #9: Creating effective back cover, back pages and META copy for your book
- Must-Do #10: Final stages: formatting, uploading and ordering your proof
I hope these articles are helping you get more excited and more confident about self-publishing. I’d really like to know what you’ve most gained from the information I’ve shared, so PLEASE share your feedback (or questions) in the comments box below.
And be sure to subscribe to this blog to make sure you receive Part 4 of this series, plus all our Spirit Authors articles.
AND LASTLY, if you’re looking for personal help in your self-publishing and book marketing journey, have a look at our Hire Us page to read about our services. Then, if you’re interested in speaking about working together, drop me a line via the contact form on this site and we can set up a 30-minute consultation to discuss your needs.
10th July 2013
NOW You Can Get The Spirit Authors Blog
Now you can have access to the latest tips in writing, publishing and book marketing everywhere you go. Get our Spirit Authors articles delivered 1-2 times a week directly to your Kindle for only 99 cents a month (77pUK). Instead of reading someone else’s book on your way to work, get information on how to make your OWN book a success.
Take a 14-day free trial at:
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/ZlW7HT
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/131495j
Join us on the Spirit Authors Page on Facebook
Connect with us on Twitter.
LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She was recently named one of the Top 100 marketing authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was selected as a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. Her eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Through her company Spirit Authors, her marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling self-help and mind-body-spirit authors. Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project, a budding social enterprise whose aim is to help grow a new generation of passionate entrepreneurs who want to serve both people and planet through innovative, ethical, independent enterprise.