When I was new at publishing, if you’d have asked me if or when I needed outside advice, I would have looked at you very hard—and stepped back. Why not ask me if I needed professional guidance to brush my teeth, or to drool?
What hubris, what arrogance! Yet sometimes I was right. I had a solid idea well framed and researched, and the book came out fine. No help needed or wanted.
But most of the earlier books (of 40) that I got published (or I published myself) would have been faster, much less expensive, and in the long run created a stronger empire if I’d just found and paid a few extra tostoes for solid guidance and fresh, experienced eyes at one critical point in the process.
Which is why, some decades later, when I now give manuscript help (yes, for tostoes), I only do it at that pivotal point after the manuscript is designed, researched, and written; the final draft is about as good as the writer can make it, and before it is sent to the printer.
Much earlier and many of the proposed books won’t materialize anyway. For all the grand intentions, fervor, and heat, those would-be books end up as oral dreams that never get the words needed for structure and life. That is, the to-be-author doesn’t finish them! And I really hate to advise for naught.
There are two exceptions when I think it can be justifiable to advise much earlier:
(1) When the author is at the final organizational stage, has answered the starter questions, has an outline on paper, and knows where she or he will find the answers—before writing. Then it might make sense to review those steps and help strategize a selling campaign around which the writer can create a book with a very specific purpose. (These are the kind of starter questions I’m talking about.)
(2) Or if the petitioner is writing a clearly defined niche market book and, before they compose any part of the contents, they need help creating a market pre-test that will cut their writing time in half and at least double their opening sales. (Even there, they can just follow my book Niche Marketing or a similar CD/workbook example called How to Test Your Niche [Publishing] Market First.)
Still, most of those who need help at all will receive the best return on their investment from guidance given just before they commit to a publisher. Even better, if in their development calendar they allot several weeks between when the “last word” is written and the priceless manuscript reaches any printer’s hands.
That is when a no-nonsense two-hour intervention can almost always make a big difference. It’s when experienced production and marketing eyes can look at the about-to-be-printed manuscript and ask “Is this book ready to go? What is missing to make it super? How can it be adjusted or refined (even the title and subtitle changed) to make it much stronger, better honed, and far easier to sell? How can it be slightly redefined to create a greater must-have buyership? How could a modest realignment or a missing chapter make this book leap from interesting to extraordinary?”
Mostly, the writer already has almost all of the improvements and changes in mind, and all it takes is another to ask the right questions and help subtly redirect the ship of words into a faster and surer tack. Without specific intervention at that moment, too often those last-step changes are lost in the shuffle of formatting and the haste to see the book in any final form!
If the author is thinking of ancillary publishing, my book How to Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days will give them the basics of book prep, then demystify the submission process (as you can see by reading the first 20 or so pages at www.gordonburgett.com/ap.htm).
But if they are thinking of building a life-feeding empire from their book, going full bore with a self-published (or niche published) tome exemplar, then if they need outside guidance that is where I’ve found it by far to be the most beneficial. It helps produce the books most fit and most sought to complete their mission, and the ones also the most satisfying to their writers.
Alas, my thoughts didn’t arrive from afar chiseled in marble, but rather they are one person’s opinion. Mine. If you review manuscripts too and see it differently, please share your thoughts or correct what is plainly in error. We all want the same thing: books that thunder with excellence!