3 Things I Learned From Having My Book Published

From 2011-2013, I went through the process of publishing my first book with Wiley Press/Jossey-Bass. This experience was nothing like what I expected, so I thought I’d share the three things I wish I’d known before I started.

 

Publishing a Book Requires a Platform, Partnership and Positive Persistence 

1) Build a Visible Platform

People often ask me how I got my contract with Wiley, expecting a long drawn-out story of literary agents, rejection letters or even a bidding war. None of those things were true for me. Instead, throughout my career, I built a platform as a speaker, entrepreneur, community volunteer, board member and veteran networker that put me front and center in my niche (women’s leadership) and made me highly discoverable. I regularly took or created highly visible leadership roles for myself – as the co-founder of several non-profits and companies – and I said yes when asked to lend my expertise or my name to reputable organizations.

I also frequently spent time helping journalists who were writing articles about women leaders to identify and highlight the accomplishments of amazing entrepreneurs and executives I knew. It was this latter activity that brought me the right attention. I helped a freelance journalist write an article about women entrepreneurs in Fast Company and she listed me as a resource. An acquisitions editor(1) at Wiley read the article and looked up my background and then sent me an email asking if I had ever thought about writing a book. We met and I pitched her a few ideas and she loved the one that eventually became Ready to Be a Thought Leader?.

(1) The best acquisitions editors are constantly talking to people, reviewing company websites, scanning the press and social media and attending conferences seeking potential authors with great platforms that they can bring into the fold.

How can you build a platform around your expertise?

2) Find Yourself a Good Partner

Although my relationship with Wiley/Jossey-Bass had a few ups and downs, the partnership I formed with the acquisitions editor who ‘discovered’ me was instrumental to the book’s success. She had a very clear view of what the book could and should be and she was remarkably helpful to me both in drafting the book proposal drafting the book proposal to enable me to earn  an advance and in shaping the first few chapters. Unfortunately, she left on maternity leave after the contract was done, returning just as the final manuscript was due. Then a week later she left Wiley for another firm.

A similar experience was repeated a few times during the subsequent months as others came and went from my book team. I tried not to complain too much as other authors have suffered far worse. One friend had her publishing company shut down just after the contract was signed and she and her co-author had to scramble to find someone to take over the project. They were successful but it set them back by many months.

What I learned from this experience is to find at least one (and preferably more than one) great partner who will stick with you for as long as possible during the book launch process. For some, this may be a co-author, for others it might be a book coach. Others have found a great acquisitions editor, as I did, who believes in them and their ideas. Some land a great agent who can shop their proposal to multiple publishing houses. Others hire as much help as they can – ghostwriter, book coach, agent, lawyer, editor and publicist (more on these in other blogs.)

How will you build a team to support your efforts?

 3) Prepare to be Positively Persistent

The only way your book will ever find its way to market is if you are positively persistent. If it’s your first book, you can’t possibly know everything that is going to come at you throughout the book process. For me, the surprises just kept coming – emails from various people at Wiley saying something (cover photo, endorsements, signed interview releases, etc.) was due right away and yet I had had no idea that I should be working on whatever it was.

As a former product manager, it constantly amazed me that there wasn’t some sort of detailed timeline and regular status meetings throughout the launch but there wasn’t. Thus I had to regularly and persistently check in with everyone to assure they had what they needed from me and that I was working on the right things. It was easy to be frustrated by the lack of guidance, but I chose to stay positive to keep folks on my side. For example, when the in-house publicist let me know she had 80 books to publicize every year and her team consisted of herself and one other person, I realized if I was not favorably viewed, my project could fall to the bottom of the heap. And saying thank you a lot never hurts either!

How will you stay on top of the details during your launch?

This blog is the second in a series of four. To read the other three posts, see 3 Things I Learned from Writing a Book, 3 Things I Learned About Launching a Book (coming soon) and 3 Things I Learned After Launching a Book (coming soon).

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