Friday, December 2, 2011

Writing Consultants – Do We Really Need Them?

It’s been a few years now, so I’m less embarrassed to admit one of my biggest writing mistakes. What was it? Paid a free-lance editor to review my manuscript.

“What’s wrong with that?” you might ask.

I took the “finished” manuscript right to my printer and paid for 1000 books . . . without reading the final proof. I trusted her. Imagine my shock when I received twenty cases of books, complete with typos that my editor should have caught. Even worse, I had an order from Barnes & Noble to ship through my distributor and no time for a reprint. I had to live with the result. Sure, she refunded my money (after admitting that she did not finish the job) but this lesson nearly cost me $4,000! Ouch! What is even more painful is that it could have been avoided at a nominal cost if I just asked for advice from a publishing consultant.

Writers wear many hats, not just that of wordsmith. Successful book sales depend on a myriad of skills that follow completion of the manuscript, synopsis, blurb and killer query letter. These things are only the basic foundation for good book sales. Once a literary agent gets an acceptable contract offer, a whole new set of skills come into play. Marketing, accounting, public relations, cover art design and layout, distribution, author platform development, internet support, and more. Authors who think the publishing companies will “take care” of all that stuff are naive.

Smart writers cultivate a team of experts in book production and sales. For example, a current buzz phrase in publishing is the “author platform”. What is a platform? Where do you buy one? Do they come in designer colors? Okay, so much for making fun of this industry notion, but the simple fact is that publishers don’t take it lightly. Build a “platform” or suffer the consequences. A good agent or publicist can help with platform development. Same with market development skills and contacts. Can you set up radio/TV interviews, celebrity endorsements, big-name critic reviews and high profile book signings by yourself? A good marketing agent can. And, the book-support team is even more important for self-published authors or those going with a small press. It’s not uncommon for authors to decide on cover design, graphics, book size, font style and a host of other important decisions about the BUSINESS of being an author.

Did you catch that word?  BUSINESS.

That’s right, being an author, no matter if it’s through a traditional publisher, small press or self-published, it IS a business. Do you know any successful business owners? Ask them why they pay an accountant instead of taking a course in accounting and taxation. Find out if they design their own advertising programs or use professional agencies to generate sales campaigns. Heck, they probably don’t even sweep their own floors. Why? Because it’s more cost effective to invest their limited time generating new revenue for their company than to clean floors. The BUSINESS of being an author is no different. Sales and profitability improve with the help of a team of dedicated consultants. Your book is your “business” so get the help you need to maximize success. Or, get yourself a small piece of cardboard, a magic marker and write the following, “Starving author. Will write for food.” You know the rest of that story!


  1. That was unlucky, Dean, but if you have a writer consultant or good line editor you trust, it can work. Each time I've found the last minute rush with line editors a pain and a few typos have got through. It's hard to see the errors in your own work.

  2. Writing is a business, if you hope to sell books--and for the artist/writer side...when I say sell books, it is the same thing as attracting/finding readers. You're right, Dean, a writer can't be an expert in everything.


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