How do you best publish your fiction or nonfiction book?

Let’s assume that you have a book written and you wonder with whom or how you can publish it. Also, if there are many choices, which might you consider in what order?

Fiction is the easiest. Don’t self-publish it if you want it printed in paperback or cloth; bookstores and libraries won’t buy it from you! So here you must go to a larger or major publisher, submit the novel (some chapters with a synopsis and cover letter), and get them to agree to lovingly put your book in print.

But you can publish it as an ebook yourself, actually about seven times simultaneously. Prep the book like you want it to appear and convert the text into digital book format (takes an hour or two). Then submit it to ancillary publishers (like Kindle, Nook, Smashwords, Apple, Lulu, etc.) and let them publish it for you quickly and free! My book (bound or from the same ancillary houses) called How to Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days walks you step-by-step through the process. (Many do this first while they are waiting for the big house rejections.)

Nonfiction books are easier to publish or get published.

Here, both standard publishing and self-publishing work well, though the latter requires you to do the marketing too. (The best of all nonfiction worlds is to produce a niche book, pretest it, and sell it almost risk free and quickly to your niche market. You usually print niche books or products by [2] in the next paragraph.)

If you want yours to appear in bound format (paperback, sometimes in cloth), (1) you can have it done by a major house, (2) you can self-publish it (in larger quantities by a short-run printer) or more one-by-one in POD (print-on-demand)—or do both simultaneously, and/or (3) you can have it produced quickly by Create/Space [which can be your POD producer] or Blurb.

If you want your nonfiction book published as an ebook (it can also be a paperback or cloth at the same time), again go to the ancillary publishers and let them release it, one-by-one or whenever you get it submitted: Kindle, Nook, Smashwords (Sony), and Lulu.

I suppose there are some deviations and combinations too, but the paths and order suggested above might get you headed the right way. (I expand on every point here in many other blogs written in the past three years. Just move backward to find what you want in the list to the right at

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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Key steps to reap a steady, reliable income from your book

This will be short, and I hope helpful so you can reliably extract plenty of profit from a book that you are publishing, or plan to. What prompts my writing it is a rash of new publishers I’ve met (or heard about) who are hugely disappointed at the size of their new book’s hard-earned take-home gold.

First, I don’t dabble in fiction. Two, what do I think is a good, long-term profit (for non-fiction books with shelf life of three to ten-plus years)? For a general self-published book, a net of 20-25%. For a niche book pretested (see lots of blogs about that here at, 30-50%, plus income from related means like spin-off books and speaking/consulting.

The moneymakers all start knowing in advance who (the kind of buyers) will eagerly stand in line to buy a books like theirs. They had created a USP (unique selling promise or proposal), asked lots of potential buyers precisely what more they wanted to know about their topic, defined all of the buy-now benefits, and built their magic vessel from that starter knowledge. (Nichers also knew through their pre-tests if the title and contents worked and if the price tested was no barrier to selling.)

They’d also created a widespread strategic plan that identified every kind of direct and indirect buyer worth approaching, then listed in detail how those buyers might best be approached: mostly by what media and how they will see it. Add to that the usual bookstore, Internet venue, library purchase, book club, or other more public displays. Then they knew what kind of back-cover copy, fliers, promo tie-ins, and pre-printing specials they could use to enhance sales.

The alternative is to write and print a book, then try to find buyers. Going that way, you do at least have the book (and my congratulations). But that’s such a long-shot to publishing success, I can only admire such heroism, like putting big bills on the least known horse, with the longest odds, to win!

The message is that without knowing who wants to read (and buy) what your book says before you shape and sell that craft, the chances are too great that you have the wrong sails for the wrong sea. All I suggest is patience, prudence, and a fair bit of boring prep so your idea, dream, purpose, words, and pages are in alignment before you set it to sea.

Or if my suggestions are fuddy-duddy, please at least stay in sight of land until you’ve proven me daft!

Three tested prep books to help here are the most recent editions of Dan Poynter’s The Self-Publishing Manual, John Kremer’s 1001 Ways to Market Your Book, and my Niche Publishing: Publishing Profitably Every Time.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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Writing an article or book about something you know very well?

Seems like an odd question, and title.

A familiar topic would sure be a lot easier to write, you know what the readers read, and having it on those pages would strengthen your perception of expertise to the editor. (But if you are empire building and this article is part of the core of your empire, right now keep that to yourself. Editors flee if they feel they are being used.) If, for example, you know widget shipping and you want to write “How to Quickly and Inexpensively Ship Widgets,” bingo!

Don’t shy away from these kinds of articles—where you are well based and have experience—but there are things you must be aware of, like the pace.

1. If it’s a new editor (to you), sell yourself modestly. Only sell the key article you want to put in print. Write a super query letter—and don’t bug the editor if she responds a few days later than you expect.

2. Let this editor realize on her own that you will be a long-term benefit on her pages, by performance. Make the article hum; keep it the length suggested, and get it in on time.

3. After it is bought, send a new query with another article suggestion about a topic that also seems irresistible to the editor. Still, with humility and proof that you can convey the goods on paper.

4. If there is also an association of widget shippers, and it has a magazine or newsletter, follow the same modest path suggested above. This piece should be different than your article in (1).

5. Since the editors read the others’ publication, they will “discover” this new gem in their field: you!

6. See if you can get a seminar, speech, or workshop scheduled at the next association gathering using the topic of one of these articles.

7. Now is when you write the core book about your expertise, and extend your empire into the future around this topic with more articles, speeches, workshops, classes. (Consult too.) If you have a publication date for the book, mention that in the bio plug with the articles. If possible, have the books available by the time you do your major speaking.

8. The example above is for niche publishing, where you should also pre-test your book before writing it. But there aren’t many changes (other than pre-testing) if your topic is broad or general.

This blog mostly helps with the order of things, starting with articles. It also talks about gently selling yourself, with humility in querying.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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What dooms a book even before it’s published?

It’s odd that I’m rarely asked such an obvious question, considering that I review non-fiction books before they see light. Or maybe they don’t ask because I will reply—and they are so eager to invest lots of time, money, and prestige into some idea, and my response will probably slow them down.

There are usually a dozen niggling things in a book that need to be corrected or cut, like poor organization, archaic or invented spelling, one-paragraph chapters, humor unfunny, a cramped style that defies the reader to comfortably puruse its pages, and even prose that starts one direction, curls back and away at every opportunity, and ends up somewhere else.

Actually, very few of the manuscripts I read suffer from those flaws so badly that the whole challenge should be abandoned forthwith. There’s usually some second draft redemption once the respective ills have been identified.

But there’s no real hope for a book that goes nowhere, that fails to enlighten or amuse or inspire—by intent. Even if a direction and purpose can later be found, all the structure must be rebuilt and the furnishings must be totally refit. Does that happen often? Not at my level, since I’m sort of the court of last resort and the books I see have been read by many others, and the non-starters died along the way.

But in the larger writing world, the countryside is dotted with almost-books that absorb months of time, are grammatically fine-tuned to nobody’s avail, and give the appearance of being fit for any editor’s blessing. Surprise!

To avoid doomdom, all the person has to do is answer a few starter questions. Like, what is the purpose of this book? What is unique about it; how is it exceptionally different? Why would a knowledgeable reader gladly give it an enthusiastic testimonial, or at least eagerly recommend its reading (maybe even its purchase) to his or her friends?

Determine the singular distinction, or many, of your new writing venture. The rest of the words and pages just make that happen. Replace doom with zoom. But don’t start writing or displaying your book’s structure until the answers to those questions are so clear that they must be shared in glorious print almost forever.

For some, this blog may be a downer. But for many more it’s really a straightforward, do-it-yourself guide to salvation

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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Keep your book title to yourself–at first!

The danger of broadcasting your book title too early is that others may write and publish it before you do!

“No way,” you say. “They’d have to do the research, get the interviews, write the draft, get it proofed, and have it printed in just a couple of months–or at least before I go to press.”

That’s the very issue. Unless you are weeks from the book’s release (or even a month or two so you can get some pre-print testimonials for the book and its cover), there are plenty of wordsmiths out there who can wrap almost any book up in a couple of weeks, particularly if you give them the words and details. In the interim, before they get a paperback out, they can publish the book digitally almost as fast as they can submit its copy and cover to Kindle, Nook, iPad, and other ancillary publishers. (Sorry, but I tell them precisely how in How to Get Your Book Published Free in Minutes and Marketed Worldwide in Days.) Even worse, they can just announce their coming book right now, using the very same title, subtitle, and benefits and promises you plan to use, to the very audience to whom you plan to sell.

Where did they get that title, subtitle, and your selling copy? You told them! None of that is legally protected, right now or even after your book appears. (You can’t copyright titles. Want to write The Holy Bible again, with a different cast? You can, though some may catch on.)

Incidentally, you also gave them your outline (the table of contents) and the artwork you have in mind, even some expert interview material. How can they find out what you think about the topic? Do you have much of the book already shared in blogs, a newsletter, articles, and related writings or books? All there to be directly quoted even though they never say a word to you. All that idea sharing is fair game to build on and quote from.

This is particularly the case in niche publishing, and doubly the case where you want to create an empire to build from where your new book is the core publication, or at least a key publication in your offerings.

It’s a delicate balance, when you tell what’s in prep and how much you reveal.

One way to get your research material without having to spill many of the beans is to write several different articles that you can later pull into the book. Some of these you may have queried about and thus you have a clear purpose and a printed destination to tell those you wish to quote. Others may be “future pieces” you are putting into query form.

The time you must expose the guts of the book is when you create a pretest for a segment of your niche or expected buyers. You need a flyer that likely includes the title, subtitle, contents, author bio, and many of the benefits (or reasons the person may buy that book). You are vulnerable here because you will probably wait to see the pretest responses (again, title, price, contents, and format) before you put the final book together. About the only thing you can do is not include the honchos in the field or the related association(s), other niche authors, and staff of the related publications in the pretest.

Let me give you an example. When we were creating the first standad operating procedures (SOPs) books for dentists, a few years ago, we took huge steps not to share the good tidings before we sent the first sales flyer to all of the dentists or specialists. We did conduct a pretest but it was small and to a Nth selection of the full dental mailing list. We wanted 99% of the dentists to first see the book in final, ready-to-buy and -use form so that if any other writers/publishers then popped up with a similar item, it was clearly a copy-cat version. It worked: for years nobody produced anything similar for dentists. And from that core topic we developed an empire, with related books, digital renditions, audio cassette programs, a video, and lots of consulting and convention speaking.

That’s it. The more explicit you are about a book in the hopper, the greater danger you subject your project to. Is the scenario painted above very likely? Not really, but that one in a hundred occurrence could cost you dearly in lost sales or a lost empire. At the very least, it would ruin my day–and month.

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Why you may not want to niche publish

The past four blogs have explained, perhaps a bit stridently, the virtues of niche publishing. And there’s much to be said for it, except if your book just isn’t for niches: it’s a kid’s book or a novel or it (also a bit stridently) preaches world salvation. The niche system fails miserably when the buyers are widely and erratically scattered out and are finding out about you and your message on their own.

These are the most obvious disadvantages to niche publishing:

(1) Niche publishers will never get their book on any major best-seller list, except in their niche, where indeed they will be a big cheese. Just don’t look for a niche book at Costco, or more than one copy at a time (with luck) at Barnes and Noble. Yes, it will be on Amazon, but it will probably be very lonely.

(2) Some authors decamp to create their own niche-publishing firms. Others won’t do public speaking. This is important only if you are the publisher and are gathering up a cadre of top authors and you want them to write and publish more books through you so you can build your empire. You also want them to be public, particularly speak often, so you can sell their books by the box rather than the ones. Two observations. If you don’t do good for your authors, maybe you deserve the desertion. On the other hand, it’s a lot peskier to write and publish. They may be back with their new book in hand, and their empire not, asking you to sell the book and let them back in the fold.

(3) This is by far the biggest disincentive: for about 20 days, after fliers are mailed and until orders arrive in volume, niche publishers need a bucket of money to finance that first printing and initial flyer mailing. (Sleeping pills are helpful too.) In Niche Publishing: Publish Profitably Every Time I tell how that can be controlled. Use the fat cat, skinny cat, or alley cat approach. It also helps if the printer will give you 30 days to pay after printing, or at least a small amount down and the rest in 30 days. (They won’t take spouses or children as collateral.) The ogre is the Post Office. They want you to pay for stamps immediately. The good news? If you did a solid pre-test and the buying ratio is sufficient, as long as your book (and flyer) are in fact as promised in the test, you should be in the black within a month. I know, that sounds impossible. But it’s just the opposite: if the test is solid, the potential buying ratio is well into the positive realm, and you follow through as suggested, you can actually breathe again in about three weeks.

(4) Niche publishers sometimes bind themselves to a niche and authors they eventually dislike. As with marriage, it’s a whole lot wiser to court slowly. Niche publishing properly established is much more than a one-book commitment. It can take several years to hit full flower. Alas, it can sometimes take nearly as long to sensibly de-root.

(5) Fulfillment one book or product at a time is tedious and seldom very profitable. That’s why you aim at the heart of the niche and you set up your strategy to sell by the dozen or the box (often about 40 books), and hope that that reduces the single orders quickly and almost forever.

(6) The whole process is sort of overwhelming in the beginning. All the marketing, like all the horses, go before the niche cart, and all of it requires proper timing and attention to detail. Still, done with courage and patience, it’s hard to tip the cart over since the publisher can always pre-test again and again–and if it still isn’t working, can back out without having written the book (or had it written), printed it, and mailed many fliers. But the first time(s) there is the sense of both having created the flood and having one thumb too few to hold it back.

In publishing, even in writing, I still think the niche way is the best deal around.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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