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.

Capsulize and Publicize

You self-publish a new book and in order to sell copies people have to know about your work. They have to. That’s a “no-brainer,” right?

“But I am not a smarmy salesman,” you say. I hear you. In my 40 years of working with creative people, I can verify this paradox: the very person who needs to sell the work, the writer, is the least-equipped person to do it, and resists doing so from the very core of their being. Believe me. I feel your pain.

But I propose that there is a very accessible zone of due diligence that falls way short of being sleazy, yet falls right into the hands of the writer turned self-publisher, and here it is:

1. Capsulize. Succinctly summarize the key information about your book and post it on your web page, with a link to where it can be purchased.  This posting on your website becomes the anchor for everything else you will do going forward.

Here is an example of a capsulization:

“As writers of fiction, we have godlike power to create worlds and populate them with beings. It’s a delicious feeling when we’ve done it successfully. Successfully, of course, is the key word. We have to know our characters’ desires, fears, beliefs, and motivations – the deep traits that persuade readers to follow imaginary people as if they were real flesh and blood. Since a believable story depends not only on who your characters are but also why, this book is a study in motivation and how to use it to create plot. Make the imaginary come to life. Write Deep, Believable Characters.” Available now on

Now that your book has a home on the internet you are ready for the next simple step:

2. Publicize. Make one reasonable effort to draw attention to the link to your product. For instance, just post a sentence or two about your book, with the link and a picture of the book, on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Done. You are now initiated to the world of promotion.

That simple act of sharing the link, can be repeated over and over, and in multiple forms: book signings, speaking engagements, blog tour, more postings, etc. Whatever you do and wherever you are, you share the link. Easy-peasy.

This capsulize and publicize formula works for music and video projects, too.

In a future post, I’ll show you a simple thing you can do to leverage your capsulized post for greater visibility.