Book Publishing A to Z: Part 1
Maybe you have completely finished the manuscript of your book, are preparing to publish, and want to make sure you have all your i’s dotted and t’s crossed. Or maybe you’re still in the process of writing and are coming across terms that seem completely foreign to you, and you’re feeling overwhelmed. Either way, chances are good that you have encountered writing and publishing industry jargon you don’t quite understand.
In Part 1 of the Book Publishing A to Z series, Coach Tam walks you through the first set of these terms — what they mean, mistakes to avoid, and how to use these tools and concepts to your best advantage.
In this episode, you’ll also hear:
- What an ARC is and why it’s important
- Why you shouldn’t keep your book a secret before publishing
- Why your blurb can’t be just an afterthought
- What not to do when choosing beta readers
- The difference between copy editors and proofreaders
- How to secure your writing by registering a copyright, even before you’ve finished your manuscript
It’s easy to be really passionate about the writing process and about wanting to share your story with the world and, at the same time, also be really lost to how the industry actually works. But if you don’t understand how the industry works before you publish, it can actually hurt your book’s success and impact.
So get ready to take some notes — let’s dive into the first five book publishing terms you need to know.
ARC stands for advanced reader copy, which is a nearly complete version of your book. Think of it as your final draft — it’s the version of the book that probably isn’t fully edited and polished, and it is circulated in advance of the actual publication. This is important, because it gives you a signal of how this version of your book can be properly used.
Now, many new authors make the mistake of trying to keep their book a big secret until it’s published. After all, your book is your baby, right? You don’t want someone else to steal your ideas. But don’t make that mistake — instead, use ARCs.
Why? Because keeping your book a secret actually works against your goal of making an impact. Distributing ARCs benefits you, because now you get to have power players — meaning people who can positively impact public perception of your book, like influencers, book reviewers, and bloggers — get a sneak peek of your book and provide a positive review.
And remember: readers make decisions based on reviews. Just like you look at reviews when you’re traveling and trying to find a good restaurant in a new city, readers look at reviews when they’re trying to find a good book to read. ARCs give power players an opportunity to form an opinion about your book before its release.
This is a very common industry practice. In fact, you’ve probably already seen it in action. Do you ever wonder how those big-name authors have so many glowing statements about them and their book online and even in print at the time of publishing? It’s possible because they understand the power of ARCs.
So instead of keeping your book a secret, like so many first-time authors do, identify a list of power players and ask for their honest feedback. Then, if they do give you a glowing review, make sure you use it everywhere — on your Amazon book description, on your website, and anywhere else that you can. This paints a positive picture and gives people an incentive to want to read your book.
If the feedback is critical, then think about it this way: isn’t it better to know those things now, versus later? Even critical feedback is helpful, because it helps you improve the quality of your book before it goes mainstream and is published.
A blurb is a short description of your book, often found on the back of a paperback copy or on the inside flap of a hardcover. And in this day and age, it’s often the summary or description of your book that is used online.
Unfortunately, the blurb is often the least thought-out and most overlooked part of a book. Many authors spend months, if not years, writing the actual book. Then they whip together the blurb or the description like it’s an afterthought.
This is a huge mistake, because the purpose of the back-cover text or the description that’s listed online is to let the reader know what they can expect from your book. In other words, at the end of the day, the blurb explains why that person should give up their time and money to read your book.
That means if you get this marketing piece wrong, people will not bother to buy your book, and the impact you wanted to have on them will never happen. So this is where you want to spend serious time and effort to make sure you get it right. And if writing to sell is not your specialty, this is something you’ll want to hire or delegate out — because it can very well make the difference between your book being a hit or a flop.
And yes, the blurb is still extremely important even if your book is free. Because here’s the thing: even if it doesn’t cost the reader money, they still have to invest time into reading it. So what is the encouragement and incentive for them to give up hours of their time to read your book? The blurb has to answer the question: “What’s in it for me?” or, “Why should I buy this book?”
You’ve got to put your marketing hat on and make sure that the blurb positions your book as an answer to the reader’s questions and the solution to their problems. Even if your book is fiction, the blurb needs to paint a picture of how they are going to be entertained or how they are going to positively escape as a result of reading your book.
A beta reader is someone who can give feedback from the standpoint of an average reader. So this is a regular, everyday person, not a professional book editor. This person will give you their opinion on your book based on their lifestyle, journey, experiences, and how they react while reading.
This is hugely valuable! At the end of the day, if the marketplace doesn’t see value in your book, it won’t sell, which means it won’t have the impact you’re looking for. So a beta reader can provide advice, comments, and opinions from the standpoint of an average reader to help you increase your book’s value to readers like them.
However, there are a couple of things that often go wrong when people reach out to beta readers.
The first is that you don’t want anybody and everybody to be a beta reader. For you to get feedback that will actually help you with the commercial success and impact of your book, the beta reader needs to be part of your ideal audience.
Your friends and family members may have some good advice, but if they aren’t the person you’re writing the book for, their feedback isn’t really going to help you have the impact you want. So make sure that your beta readers are people that actually match your ideal reader description.
The second problem happens when people see beta readers as resources to fix issues with the plot or pacing. In other words, they’re using beta readers as editors. Don’t make that mistake — you need to hire an actual copy editor, too.
A copy editor’s job is to work on the details of the book. Copy editing is also sometimes referred to as line editing, because a good copy editor is literally going to go line-by-line through your story and refine it. This person is trained to identify mistakes in your story, inconsistencies, and things that need to be addressed. After all, your book is your business card, so it needs to give the very best impression of you.
In the editing process, the copy editor may also identify some grammatical mistakes and typos, but that’s not really their focus. Someone who makes sure your manuscript is error-free is actually a proofreader, not a copy editor.
As you can see, there are so many people who play a role in making sure your book is able to put its best foot forward. A copy editor is one of them, and so is a proofreader, and so is a developmental editor. Sometimes you’re able to find someone who can do all three of those things, but sometimes you may need to hire more than one person to do the job.
You may have already heard a number of different things when it comes to copyrighting. It is true that you own the copyright to your book the moment that you begin writing it. But if you want to make sure you have the highest level of protection — if you want to safeguard your copyright — then there’s an additional step you can take.
You can register your book with the US Copyright Office, and you can actually start this process online through an electronic registration. To do this, you’ll pay a small fee, send in a copy of the work (your book), and they’ll register your copyright. It’s a very simple, easy process that you can actually do yourself.
Next Week on Book Publishing A to Z
We’ve covered some important terms this week, but there are still plenty more to come! Here’s a sneak peek at what to expect in the next installment of the Book Publishing A to Z series:
- Distribution and why publishing only through Amazon KDP is a mistake
- Exclusivity, which is especially important if you’re interested in traditional publishing
- Formatting and how it can work against you as a self-published author if you don’t have the right skill set or the right people involved
- Genre and the critical role it plays in publishing your book
We’ll cover all that and more right here next week!
My name is Tamara “Coach Tam” Jackson and I am a published author, Facebook© Certified Digital Marketer, host of the Top 100 Publishing Secrets podcast, and founder of The Christian Authors Network (C.A.N.) Facebook© community. I specialize in helping mission-driven authors, coaches, and entrepreneurs increase their exposure, impact, and income through strategic self-publishing and digital media appearances. Just say yes and we will work together to attract a tribe of loyal followers that 1) “get you”, 2) love what you do, and 3) are happy to invest in your book, business, cause, or movement. Plus, we will accomplish all of this without fake, salesy, sleazy, or manipulative tactics. Yes you CAN write, publish, and profit in a way that honors God; join the community today at https://christianauthors.net/fbgroup.
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