Weiss Advice Issue: 152, May, 2016
There is a plethora of advice on publishing coming down the pike these days, yet there also seems to be more schlock being published than ever. Hmmm, is there a correlation here?
At risk of adding to the pile, here are some approaches which have worked for me in compiling an enviable commercial publishing record:
- Go see the editor. I know that sounds crazy, but as soon as an editor expressed even feint interest to my agent or me, I immediately said, “Why don’t I stop by so we can chat?” I’ve visited McGraw-Hill, Amacom, Simon & Shuster, HarperCollins, Career Press, and others. If spending the time and money to see the editor means the difference in selling the book, I’m on my horse. (All of these houses are in the Greater New York area, and I love New York publishers and editors—all business, no wasted time.)
- Forget about War and Peace. Write a good, pragmatic book filled with tangible techniques that can help people the next day. Proust was said to spend months on single sentences in Remembrance of Things Past and it shows—the book is turgid and stultifying. People tell me I write the way I speak, which I take as a compliment (no matter what they really mean!).
- Suggest revisions, new editions, and/or additional books much earlier than conditions warrant. You never know when an acquisitions editor is under the gun to meet a quota, or finds you easier to work with than other authors, or simply finds your idea of merit. The request can never hurt. You have to build on strength. I’ve produced a three-book library, a seven-book library, and four revisions plus a dozen additional books just from Million Dollar Consulting (e.g., Million Dollar Referrals).
- Business books are based on the author’s opinion, it seems to me, so long as that opinion can be justified through observed behavior, contemporary examples, other authorities, empirical evidence, etc. Consequently, I feel no need at all to provide vast historical research, academic footnotes, or voluminous support of my points by scientific proof. I let the reader decide whether I’m right, relevant, and realistic. Therefore, I can write a book very rapidly and I always beat the publisher’s deadlines.
- You have to have a strategy, especially since publishers really are so inept at promotion, and mine has been to create a “body of work.” That number for me was at least 15 books, and my plan was to keep any that went out of print in circulation through my rights of reversion. As a result, in the consulting field alone, I have more works on the shelves than any other author ever, and I am constantly sought out by prospects, the media, and potential alliance partners. I treat royalties as the “gravy,” and look to promote my consulting, speaking, mentoring, and other services through the power of a commercially-published book.
Publishing a book means less than it might unless you have a strategy or game plan associated with it for the longer term that you control, and is not reliant on the publisher. Otherwise, the avalanche will engulf you. Publishing is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. This is not about sating egos, but about paying the mortgage.