How to Capture Your Legacy

Perhaps because I’m in publishing and also a published book author, one of the most common questions I get from business folks is: “How can I get a book published?” Many of us have “a book inside” knocking to get out, so here’s some advice on how to turn the key and purge yourself of the urge to publish something before you die.

First of all, if you intend to use photos, I would suggest investing in Flickr.com, which is a free (cloud computing) collection site. For $25 or so, you can upgrade to “pro” status and then save an unlimited number of photos (versus a monthly quota) on that online site, which you can put into “sets” or “collections” (albums). You decide who, if anyone, can see your photos. The advantage is that (1) in case of fire or computer meltdown, you still have them safe, and (2) you can download your photos into most book publishing software. If your book is going to have JPEG images, this is a good tool to make it easier.

Second, I would advise — unless you absolutely have to have the validation of a third-party publisher — that you investigate self-publishing to reduce both stress and time.

Why? It used to be, long ago, that you could submit a manuscript to a publishing house, an editor would consider it, and then they either would (1) ask to publish it or (2) send a rejection letter. Today, to cut costs, most book publishers rely on outside agents, paid via book royalties from the author, to put books before them for preview. If an agent sends too many duds, they don’t get to submit anymore. If, on the other hand, they have a good batting average with best sellers, they can submit. An agent will work, on average, for about a 15-30% royalty, depending on how much work it is to (1) get your book professionally edited (at your cost), and (2) get it before a publishing house editor.

I did not go that route with my book (During), as I was actually approached by a California publisher who wanted to read the manuscript, and that publishing house did then decide to print it. But that’s very unusual and an extremely lucky exception, as I had already established a market for my book.

If you do want to use an agent, first buy Writer’s Market ($35 on Amazon). It’s an annual book publication with information about how to format the manuscript and submit a query letter. More important, it is the Bible when it comes to the lists of book publishers and agents, with specifics about how each wants to be approached, and what type of publications they are interested in.

Third-party publishing still is the most reliable way to get a book signing gig, and to get the book carried by Barnes & Noble and Amazon. It’s the “real deal” you may need, and if that’s the case, build in the cost of an editor from the very beginning to increase your chances of hooking that agent!

If, however, you want to self-publish, there are lots of options via the Internet, though many of the options are printing houses posing as publishers. You pay all of the press run print costs up front (about $5K – $10K) and you pay for special add-ons, like marketing help and sales gimmicks like bookmarks.

I prefer Blurb.com, and have created about 10 books using it. These are my personal books, such as genealogy books or photo books about travels with my husband. Photographers often use Blurb.com for their portfolio books, and you can make great table-top books that way for about $15-$35 each. You download free Blurb.com Booksmart software (it’s so easy, your grade school kid likely can do it for you). Everything is templated and you can mix and match your printing preferences. After you are finished, you upload the book back to Blurb, place an order, and within 10 days, on average, you are holding a very professional-looking book.

I suggest the more expensive “image wrap” cover — it’s beautiful and then you don’t have pesky dust covers. This is perfect for company histories, etc., as you can order a lot of books at once, or you can let your audience order them one at a time from your Blurb account (and you set the price there).

Makes a great holiday gift for a boss, too.

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