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Author-Tips-A Manuscript and a Plan by-Balcony-7
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Author Tips: A Manuscript and A Plan

After experiencing several years of working with authors in a variety of genres—those we published and many more we passed on—we recognize a consistent theme borne from an outdated view of the publishing process and, at times, a misconception about what is expected from an author and what is the role of a publisher.

Many authors try their hand at self-publishing—only to realize the shortcomings of limited (or no) distribution, and the need for marketing a title so it stands out from the crowded field. Many then attempt a shift to traditional publishers—for what they believe will be broader access to institutional book buyers and a global platform for potential sales. While the benefits of traditional publishing do indeed exist, what many authors miss is that even the field for published authors is exceedingly crowded, and all those institutional book buyers will still require evangelizing in order to make a commitment to carry your title.

An important aside here is these entities (libraries, book stores, etc.) will not market a title or an author to their base of customers (whether it be through in-store or online awareness campaigns). Through the trade-based efforts of a publisher, they may be enticed to try out a small amount of a work and see if it sells. For bricks and mortar stores, titles have a short shelf life to make their case. For online stores, they merely service demand.

The lesson here is it really doesn’t matter how you’re published, the marketing efforts of an author are crucial for success.

Writing an exceptional, well-edited manuscript is the easy part, believe it or not. (If you’re meant to be a writer, you have a gift that keeps on giving and you’re smart enough to rely on a professional editor to produce quality content. If writing is a chore and each manuscript requires massive editing, or perhaps it’s so perfect you refuse editing advice, maybe the mass market is just not for you.) For the serious, prolific writer:

If you want to be published, you need more than an exceptional manuscript, you also need a plan. What kind of plan?

  • A blueprint for how you will become a “franchise” worthy of investment by both your publisher and the marketplace.
  • A plan that displays not just one title, but numerous titles—each leveraging your brand and your concept with every subsequent work.
  • A plan that shows:
    • a formula for author self-promotion via online social media platforms;
    • a robust and vibrant author website that performs well in search engines;
    • the ability to regularly communicate with fans and readers through prolific, attention-grabbing, well-written blogs;

It also helps to have a likable personality and great, not just good, communications skills (i.e., an ability to engage the public and compel media attention).

If this sounds daunting, that’s because it is. Not every author boasts tens of thousands of Facebook likes and Twitter followers, secures radio interviews, is seen on television, or even commands ticketed author events at major book stores around the country.

But every author who does started somewhere at the bottom, in relative obscurity.

It takes a special drive and an inherently authoritative presence for an author to stand out among peers in any genre or sub-genre. This is where success is borne.

Merely getting published is not enough. Yes, a traditional publisher will (or should) help create the best version of your title and help market the book to the trade via widespread distribution and a finite advertising budget. However, that’s basically where the marketing ends—the cost of getting to this point is already extremely high. If an author can’t keep momentum going (and rising with each new title), the reality will likely be stagnant sales or even a high rate of returns (returns will be addressed in another blog).

It’s not only bookstores and libraries that are chasing demand. So are readers. They’re bombarded with choices every single day, in every single genre. One cannot expect your book to be found or championed simply by its mere existence in the marketplace. Not when that marketplace sees hundreds of thousands of books published each year (almost a thousand new titles a day). The beauty of creativity and art, however, is there’s always an appetite for more.

Serious writers with a gift for communicating a message that resonates should never give up. Gear up instead and

treat yourself like a brand—Author Inc.

—and you’ll have a much better chance at success.

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Editing for Multiple Authors: Case Study

Four Authors, One Book: A Nightmare, Or A Dream?

by Jasmine Bingham

As a securities analyst for many years on Wall Street, I’m not easily intimidated. With an extensive background in financial writing, and having to learn the ins and outs of technical jargon in order to understand a company’s business, analyze it, and write about it, no subject matter scares me. But working with four of the top attorneys in the state of California with their legacy law book—now that could be a nightmare. It was quite the opposite. And here’s why:

One Co-Author Played Point Man

As much as a publisher and an editor can help with effectively organizing a book written by numerous authors, the most effective way to keep the writing process smooth (and the publication process smoother), is to establish a point man early on. Tyler G. Draa played this role in Mastering the Mechanics of Civil Jury Trials (Balcony 7 Media and Publishing, Fall 2015). He shepherded the process, took the initiative in making sure all sections were finalized to meet our deadlines, and even helped make sure professional photos were supplied before we went to print.

All Co-Authors Had Specific Roles

This should be a no-brainer since redundancy and multiple points of view on one aspect of a book wouldn’t be beneficial to readers—in fact, they would be confusing and counter-productive. Each author should know what their specific contribution would be before the project gets going. In Mastering the Mechanics, for example, Tyler spoke to defendant representation; Doris Cheng spoke to plaintiff representation; Maureen Harrington is a master of computer animation and other simulations used to present a case; and the Honorable Franklin E. Bondonno is a sitting judge with over thirty years of trial practice under his belt, all of which cemented his role for judicial comments throughout the book. All the pieces fit like a highly intelligent puzzle, maximizing the legacy aspect of this book for anyone who reads it.

The Editor Dove Into The Subject

The authors did not know my love of law. They knew my expertise in financial writing but aside from that and the poetry and children’s books, how could they know I was a lawyer in another life? I dove into each aspect of trial procedure to make sure each section was readable rather than too technical, that nothing was inadvertently misspelled, and that the essence of voir dire strategy, for example, was effectively communicated with the right adjectives and other word choices. Editors must respect the subject matter of every book and learn it so the end user, the reader, experiences seamless flow from cover to cover. “Wow! That book was really well edited!” said no one, ever. A great read comes across as effortless.

Mutual Respect Was Ever-Present

Just as the publisher and the editor must respect the authors and their titles, the authors must respect the expertise of the publisher and the editor. We are all professionals. Letting each of us do our thing, and following each other’s lead on what we’re good at—now that is the essence of successful partnerships. In publishing, it’s essential for authors to take seriously a publisher’s request to “Get out there and let people know who you are and what you are doing.” These authors do just that, with passion and aplomb (save for the Judge, who must take a non-participatory role for ethical reasons). It’s a formula that works because awareness is more than half the battle in publishing.

Everyone Participated In Fine-Tuning

This might seem to go against what I just said in the above point, but it’s wise to be inclusive about author photo choices, table of contents layout and depth, social media style and content, and even the book cover (to a point). While not all points of view can be accommodated, it certainly helps to get feedback on certain aspects of the publishing project and, when the publisher has to make an executive decision (such as for the final cover), ongoing communication throughout the process makes everyone become part of the process. The end result is a happy partnership where everyone had a say on multiple fronts.

Visit to learn more about this book.

Editing for Multiple Authors, Case Study, Legal Reference, Balcony 7