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Thursday, February 25, 2010

GET PUBLISHED NOW: 3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Publish Your Book

Get Published Now with Beth Barany

Though technology makes publishing a book very easy these days, publishing a book isn’t for everyone. Often writers think that getting their book published is the be-all end-all of their professional lives, but there are reasons why you shouldn’t publish your book, at least not yet. If you knew the reasons why not to publish now, then you could focus your efforts on your future success.

Reason #1: You’re Not Ready

Your prose is not ready. You know this because you get rejections from agents that tell you so, or your critique group urges you to fix verb tenses, be more specific in your descriptions and characterizations, or to better substantiate your work.

When you get opinions about your work and no more comments about how you wrote, then you’ll know that your prose is ready to send out for submission, or ready for an independent publisher.

Reason #2: You Don’t Want to Work that Hard

You give up at the first sign of rejection. You’re not willing to do the work to get to where you want to go to achieve the success you want. What is your definition of success? Yes, you do have one, and it’s different for each of us. So clarify yours. And know why you want to work so hard.

Michael Stevens, author of the upcoming novel, Fortuna (Oceanview Publishing, May 2010), says, “It is a *huge* amount of work. I have probably spent a month, full time, getting ready for the launch of Fortuna. And even with a generous deal, authors get peanuts. You have to do it for love.”

Reason #3: Your Book isn’t Unique Enough

Many aspiring authors come to me and gush over with their story of transformation and self-healing, or wax poetic about their fabulous fantasy novel, and expect me to fall over with astonishment. I nod and ask them (gently, usually) what makes their book unique. They look at me with confusion. I can see the thoughts trickle through their mind: isn’t my story good enough? Well, yes, it’s good enough for you, and your loved ones. But, and here’s the big but, will it be interesting to a well-read and smart audience? Because as much as we’re all different, our stories are often similar enough to warrant no surprise.

And readers want to be surprised, delighted, and wowed. So, dig deep and find out how your book is unique. How do you do that? You do your homework. Research other books similar to yours and face facts, and ask the hard questions.

  • How is my book different specifically?
  • In what way can I stand out, both in content and by highlighting who I am as the author?
  • What may I need to add or subtract to achieve that stand-out uniqueness?

What's Not On This List

One of the reasons I’m not listing here is “You have no audience.” Sometimes an audience is created once the book is out. Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, for example, unfolded a whole new genre of mafia fiction. How would we know the glamours of Mafioso fiction unless we had first been exposed to it?

Catherine Coulter, a bestselling author told our group of writers (in 2007) that she and her friends got together to discuss what makes a bestseller and admitted they didn’t really know. All they noticed was that their books happened to tap into a desire or dream readers didn’t even know they had until the book was in front of them.

I’m sure some of you will disagree that you don’t need an audience to publish a book, especially the nonfiction authors. In fact, I hope you will, and then we can discuss amongst ourselves. I believe an author can use a book to build an audience. It all goes back to #2: You have to want to work that hard.

Your reasons for why you shouldn’t publish your book yet may be different from mine. I’m curious to hear them. Comment to this post!

c. 2010 Beth Barany

For more information, please visit Beth's TNNW Bio.


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DMcCunney said...

Aside from the other reasons mentioned, there's another.

Most people who write a book have visions of selling the book, and making some, (or eventually all,) of their living from writing.

Okay, splendid. You've written the book. You've published the book, through some or other self-publishing scheme. How do you sell it?

The single biggest challenge I know is simply letting the audience that might like your book know that you and your book exist. This is where self-publishing schemes gloss over the issues or fall down entirely.

Do you need an audience? Yes, at least a potential one. If you are lucky, the book will touch a nerve and sell widely. _The Godfather_ touched a nerve and created a genre, but Puzo wasn't operating in a vacuum. He was already a published author with an audience who knew he existed, and served as the core that grabbed all of their friends and said "You have got to read this book!", and that sort of buzz is what made it a bestseller.

An awful lot of folks who can handle the writing and publishing part fine have no conception of the efforts required to market it.

Stan said...


The article makes very good points, however it makes me wonder based on them why a person would ever write to begin with.

For me, as a creative the process of painting, or forming a sculpture is independent of having a client to buy it. The idea is just screaming to be let out and put on display for the world to see.

I would think for a writer, the publishing of the story is the culmination of the process - making it available to be read, not guaranteeing it.

Penny Ehrenkranz said...

If a writer doesn't have the time or desire to market a book, it should only be written for the pure joy of writing or sharing with one's family. I also feel that if a writer hasn't read enough in the genre she wishes to write in, she shouldn't be writing the book.

JRB said...

Great piece - counter-intuitive thinking that writers of all levels need to hear.

Beth Barany said...

DMcCunney, Good point about marketing our books. I agree that we do need to know if there is a potential audience. There are great resources out there, including Stephanie Chandler's book, THE AUTHOR'S GUIDE TO BUILDING AN ONLINE PLATFORM. Authors can use it to build a platform before or after their book is out.

Stan, Some people do write books, or do any form of art because of the need to self-express. I understand that. I have my novel I'm writing. Yet, at this point my novel is just for me, and not yet for the world. When I'm ready to sell the novel I will make sure it's ready for publication, ready for my audience, and that I'm ready to do all that it takes for it to sell well.

Penny, I agree that the writer needs to know her genre if she expects to sell in the marketplace.

JRB, thanks! Counter-intuitive thinking seems to be the way to shake up the status quo and get everyone talking!

Sallie Goetsch said...

Amen to "You're not ready." The reason self-published books still have a bad reputation is that so many authors fail to hire editors, proofreaders, or book designers. They do their writing a disservice by producing an unprofessional product.

As for unique--a book has to be enough different from the others in the genre or market so that readers won't say "Why should I buy book X if I already own book Y?" but we all know that formula sells. Most of us don't want a new author to be too obviously derivative of an established author, but we're also not that comfortable with someone whose work is *too* different.

Tom said...

about "And readers want to be surprised, delighted, and wowed. So, dig deep and find out how your book is unique. How do you do that? You do your homework. Research other books similar to yours and face facts, and ask the hard questions.
How is my book different specifically?
In what way can I stand out, both in content and by highlighting who I am as the author?
What may I need to add or subtract to achieve that stand-out uniqueness?"

These are vital questions. A writer needs to feel in her deepest intuition if now is the time. Also, she will likely want an excellent editor to help her raise the quality of her book.

I've written 9 books and I have 2 editors per book.

And, non-fiction might be part of your career in a different way: As a professional speaker, I wrote and released a book in 2000 entitled "Communicate to Win" which was a required textbook and part of Cogswell College's Time Capsule to be opened in 2100.

Recently, I released a *third edition* of that book -- but I re-titled it "Be Heard and Be Trusted"

For non-fiction -- and as a professional speaker, I am glad that I released the first edition. And, it is true that my 3rd edition is much better (and much longer at 396 pages).

My point is that if a non-fiction book is part of your total career path -- it may be highly useful for you to get expert help now.

the best to you,

Tom Marcoux
America's Communication Coach

Zond said...

Beth, I think the point about getting the prose right is particularly well taken. Publishers and all the individuals who support them - agents in particular - are incredibly sensitive to good grammer, parallel construction, and the like. I know, I know, many big sellers are poorly written, but nonetheless, if you make mistakes with verbs, you will not succeed in the mainstream publishing world.

--Mike Stevens

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

You're absolutely right! There are times people shouldn't publish. Mostly it's when they are more interested in money or fame than in the writing process or in helping others with a good how-to book. Without passion behind it, a book rarely succeeds by any standard.
Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Blogging at Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites pick

geocolors said...

It takes a seasoned professional and results oriented player to run the relay race backward and still win...What I mean is that working backward from the finish line can create a map chock full of insight.

One way to out trump and out jump the obstacles, even though often that is not what one wants to see, is to know about them NOW. Overcoming illusions leads you to a closer reality and authentic success, that you as a writer truly need to grow. Unconventional solutions makers can envision the best possible outcome and success for each unique project ..if you are ready and willing to train, one page at a time.

Thanks for the hard facts and reverse psychology exercise Beth....the publishing world is full of illusions and pitfalls. Pass the baton to those who can take the highest hurdle. They can help you with their invaluable experience.

Dana Lynn Smith said...

Good points, Beth. Regarding your second point: Writing a book is a big undertaking, but I think many authors underestimate the amount of time, effort and passion required to promote a book after it's published. Successful authors often spend much more time on the promotion than the writing.

Writing for personal fulfillment is a wonderful thing, but if an author wants to make money from publishing a book there must be a viable audience who is willing to pay money for the book. I advise authors to think about marketing before they write a word. Nonfiction authors need a clear understanding of who their audience is and what those folks need, so they can tailor the book to the audience. It's important to study the competition and determine how your book can be different or better.

Fiction authors should consider weaving some promotable elements into the story. Novelists can use the setting of the book or the profession or hobbies of the main characters as promotional hooks when marketing the book. For example, horse lovers enjoy reading about a character who works with horses and they are a defined target audience that you can promote the book to.

Dana Lynn Smith
The Savvy Book Marketer

Candace C. Davenport said...

Great article Beth. I reposted on the Our Little Books blog:

Although everyone probably has a book in them, there are many reasons why they shouldn't least now. The time, energy, and motivation needs to be right for it to be successful. As some of the other posters stated, it really depends on what you are looking for in a book.

Writing for themselves and for the joy of writing is one thing for authors. Writing to make a living is another. These reasons may be combined, but authors need to be aware of the realities of the business aspect of writing and publishing.

Motivation and timing is one of the things I discuss with potential authors as publishing consultant for Our Little Books. It is not usually something that authors think about, so thanks for bringing it up.

Candace Davenport

Erik Schmidt said...


The title of this article put me off at first, until I realized you were very effectively baiting your line. Anyone who wants to be published for commercial reasons should pay attention to your advice. While the economic and technical barriers to collaborative book production have been smashed, writing a book that will sell still takes a tremendous effort.

That said, I think the discussion around the craft of writing and the difficulty of making yourself known in a crowded marketplace sometimes frightens would-be authors away from writing a book, even if they don't intend to make a dime off it.

Gwyn Nichols said...

Nice, Beth!

My Reason #4: You don't have a business plan that makes sense.

In college, I took creative writing seminars actually hoping someone would tell me I had no talent and I was free to seek my fortune elsewhere.

Writing is part of living the examined life, and I recommend it to everyone. Publishing makes sense only as part of a larger vision of your career. Too few authors realize that we are all entrepreneurs, no matter when, where, or how we publish. Writing is an art. Publishing is a business.

Victor M. Powell said...


As always you are a fount of wisdom and this is what I needed to hear. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

And I do agree with you, #2 is critical, one cannot overcome #1 or #3, and many of the other reasons prior commentors have offered without putting in the work.

Obviously, #2 is what I'm working on.

Great post!


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