As many of you who read this site regularly know, I have been working on a second book for much of this year. It’s a self-help book written with an LMFT from California that is geared toward the female partner of a male pornography addict.
While the last part of the book is still being edited for clarity and content, I have begun the arduous task of finding a publisher. There are a lot of lessons I learned the first time around and am being reminded of as I look for someone to put their company behind the book. If you’re reading this, there’s about an 80% chance that you’ve got a blog of your own, and I would bet there’s just as equal a chance you’ve considered writing a book.
Here are the three main things I wish people told me before I started the first time:
It’s a very impersonal process – Despite the fact many agents and publishers specifically say, “We will get back to you within 12 weeks, if we don’t, it means we’re not interested” it is still a bit of a blow to the ego when it’s not even formally rejected. When they are kind enough to send a letter of rejection, 9 out of 10 times, it’s a form letter.
With a memoir, like my first book, it felt like a rejection of my personal story. It was as if my tale of redemption was not important. The most grueling, yet transformative part of my life – easily the part of my life that deserved a book – didn’t deserve most publishers’ attention
The truth is, publishing houses will get hundreds, if not thousands, of queries every year. Let’s say a publisher gets 1,000 queries per year. They may ask to see 150 manuscripts and of those manuscripts, they may only print 20. When you boil that down to real numbers, that means only 2% of the original queries become a book. Those are mighty odds no matter what your story is about.
It’s a very long process – Aside from the fact it took 8-10 months to write and edit the book to a point I was happy to share it, I started looking for a publisher in May 2017. It wasn’t until August that I found the right one. I had a few nibbles of interest here and there, but people either wanted me to change the language to make it more salacious or were trying to get me to front the money to publish the book to be my “partner.”
We originally planned for the book to come out in October 2017, but when I wanted to give it another hard edit to eliminate a few thousand more words to make it tighter, it was pushed to early January 2018.
Aside from the initial burst of sales in the first 10 days, it took about six weeks for the book to gain traction. My best selling months were actually April and May. I didn’t see my first royalty check until July. My guess is if you figured out the dollars and cents, I probably made 40 cents per hour.
You will be doing the marketing – Unless you’re with a mammoth publisher that makes up one of the big five, you’re working with a smaller publisher that may help with marketing, but you’ll have to carry most of the load. This website was started to help market the book – although it grew into something bigger. I spent many hours just as the book came out searching for people to review it (very few people review non-fiction) and for podcasts to appear on. Thankfully, over time the podcasts and radio shows started reaching out to me.
I know that a lot of people make the Field of Dreams-inspired mistake of “If you write it, they will come.” That’s not true. You have to drag them to it, give away free copies and hope they read it and tell others. If you don’t have it in you to spend dozens of hours promoting your book, don’t expect much in the terms of sales.
Also understand that many media outlets are not interested in promoting a book that is self-published. While there are many fine self-published titles, the fact is, a self-published book doesn’t go through the same vetting process as one that has a commercial publisher.
And, much like with finding a publisher or agent, most of the time your queries to media outlets will go unanswered or rejected with a form letter.
It’s a small miracle any book gets a legitimate publisher to stand behind it. I’m hoping that this second go-round is a little easier, but at least I know what I’m up against. If you are thinking of writing a book, good luck. It’s one of the most satisfying experiences I’ve ever had.