Do you want to publish a nonfiction book? Perhaps you have a story to tell, or expertise in an area. Maybe you want to help others. You are not alone. Roughly 80% of people want to publish a book yet only 3% end up succeeding. Why do so many people not follow through? For starters, the task can be quite overwhelming. Writing a book, editing and getting it into the readers hands requires a lot of time and energy. Not to mention, the industry has changed and regardless of what publishing path you choose, you will need to find ways to help market your book. It is helpful to know that the traditional way of publishing isn’t the only way and we will share some secrets to the publishing process in this blog post.
When Elena Joy Thurston, founder of The Pride and Joy Foundation, had a TEDx Talk go viral in November of 2019, she had prominent literary agents inquire about a memoir by Jan 2020. It was exciting and she signed with one. She was told to get a book proposal, sample chapters, and build a platform of at least 10,000 followers via a newsletter or other social media avenues. Elena spent the next year doing exactly that. After completing the memoir, building a platform, and writing a detailed proposal, she was told her story was exceptional, the writing was excellent, the proposal was informative, but it was not enough: she was short on followers. This was incredibly disheartening to hear.
Frustrated with these “rules of the game”, Elena Joy started her own small press, Pride and Joy Publishing to elevate LGBTQ+ voices in the literary world that is 97% straight. Their flagship book, Thriving in Business; Strategies for the LGBTQ+ Entrepreneur, has been well received and Pride and Joy looks forward to publishing more in the upcoming months: a fine art photography book titled “Sensuality” by Debra Gloria, a Latina lesbian based out of Dallas and a narrative nonfiction titled “My Own Worst Enemy” by Jay DeFazio, a trans man based out of Cincinnati.
Publishing has become harder but also easier with increased access to content and information. There are four paths to choose in the publishing world: traditional, small press, hybrid and self-publishing. Pride and Joy’s official book coach and author of Graveyard of Safe Choices, Suzette Mullen, lays out publishing decisions based on three factors: money, control and distribution. Here are some helpful tips and tricks to publishing your nonfiction using these three factors as a guide.
Traditional Publishing. This includes the “big five publishers” (Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster) and some of their imprints/similar publishers. Publishing the traditional route with larger publishers will get your book in the major book stores and retailers like Walmart, Target and Barnes and Noble but may not be as easy to get a deal with. They can be quite competitive.
With an incredible distribution scope, this is the biggest pro if you do not have a large platform to build off on your own. In exchange for a large distribution, you lose out on control and money. Typically there is a smaller royalty around 10-20% and the advance is rather small. Additionally, in order to make your royalties, you must first sell enough books to pay off the advance before collecting royalties. In terms of control, you give up a lot of that. Any changes will be at the discretion of the publisher and the writer loses control of titles, book covers, edits and even storyline. As a writer, you would give up a lot in order to reach a larger audience.
Small Press. University presses and smaller publishers like Pride and Joy Publishing are all considered small presses. The biggest pro going this route is your control. You work with the publisher and have a say in title, cover design and edits. You may not see the book in larger stores as the distribution may be smaller compared to the more traditional route, but your book will make it to other stores via the relationships built with small press distribution. Many small presses rely on conferences and relationships with independent bookstores which can be huge for distribution if you may not have a large follower platform. There is room for negotiations associated with money and royalties that aren't allotted for with larger publishers.
Hybrid. Small presses and others can blend into this gray area of hybrid presses. You may have some with more control and less money versus more control and more money but little distribution.
Self Publishing. In today’s age of digital access, this is an incredibly easy route to take. Amazon was a game changer in self publishing. All you need to do is download the KDP software and upload your manuscript and BOOM- it’s on Amazon. However, just because your book is now on Amazon doesn’t necessarily mean it will sell. The benefits of self-publishing are you have all the control, you set your book prices and your distribution model. If you are a live speaker or work where you attend a lot of conferences, your distribution scope is great. If you can front the initial costs of publishing and you have the time, energy and platform then this could be a viable option for you. This may be considered more of a “publish at your own risk” mentality.
As you can see there are many avenues to publishing a book, and the traditional way may not always be the best route for you. Look at all factors involved and weigh out your personal strengths and weaknesses to utilize a path that feels good and right for you.
Here are some questions to reflect on as you navigate your publishing route:
Regardless of what publishing path you choose to follow, you will need to market your book in some capacity. This is the new normal and an important reality to accept. The sooner you embrace this, the easier it can become. Essentially, there are two options when looking at your marketing: hire a publicist or do it yourself. If you do choose to go about it on your own, you are not alone. There are so many resources out there, especially with binder groups. Some people’s jobs are literally to help you build your platform.
Pride and Joy highly recommends the author accelerator. , and working with an author accelerator-certified coach. Below is an incredibly helpful graphic that outlines the four publication models. If you look at the graphic, you will notice all columns lead to the same result: get the book in reader’s hands.
In addition to your manuscript, you will need to prepare the following for querying your book:
The proposal should range 30-70 pages and include the following information:
These tips and tricks to publishing nonfiction may still feel daunting, but remember, there are professionals out there to help you, including our very own book coach Suzette Mullen. Check out when our next OUTWrite Author series begins if you need help organizing and shaping your book. When you begin to query your book, keep Pride and Joy Publishing in mind should you choose the small press path!