Professionalism, Please!

There is a lot of advice out there – good advice – about what do in publishing your book that will make your work look professional: have it professionally edited, beautifully designed, author-owned ISBN, Library of Congress control number, CIP data block, etc. The idea is to make your book look just like a traditionally published tradebook so that when put into the hands of a distribution professional, bookstore manager, or librarian, they will have no thought as to the credibility of its publisher. Intuitively, this seems like a good idea.

But in many cases, it is deceptive.

Many authors I have encountered want me to validate what they are doing, rather than advise them on what yet needs to be done. Most do not understand why a tradebook looks the way it does – and they don’t want to know. So I press on, venturing deep into the politics of trying to convince the client to up their game.

But today, I am stopping mid-project to reflect: If the book shepherd is working harder than the author to conform the details to industry standard, than something is wrong. And what’s wrong is in the realm of the author’s ego, enabled by deep pockets – and by a co-dependent book shepherd.

The book is your product, not your baby. You have to be willing to kill your darlings, and produce the book that distributors will want to sell, that bookstores will want to stock, that librarians will want on their shelves, that readers will want to read. Going into the project, if the author does not embrace professionalism, then we are wasting time and money producing a book that will not have an audience.

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