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I'm writing a book in a niche market, and it's my first one. It seems to me that the following things need to happen to publish my book:

  • Finish the book
  • Design cover (a friend is helping)
  • Edit manuscript (help of multiple people)
  • Convert manuscript into proper format for print and ebook (I can do this myself)
  • Get the book printed (Amazon)
  • Get the book available electronically (Amazon)
  • Marketing for the book

I can do some marketing on my own. I have a healthy readership on my blog that can be valuable for marketing purposes. I can handle most of the components I listed. Am I missing any major components to publishing? In the end, what do publishers do for me?

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Publishers are most useful with mass-market books. If, for example, you had written a new horror or sci-fi novel it would be very difficult to achieve the same level of marketing you would get from them. They also, if they're good, get your book in front of the people best suited to spread the word about it. They have marketing connections in the industry that you can't hope to match without years of work. They can not only get your book onto store shelves, they can encourage stores to make it more visible if they reallly want to sell it.

In niche markets they are less valuable. In niche markets (like adventure motorcycling, which I'm assuming yours is about) there is a very limited audience to reach, they are primarily reachable through the internet, and getting your book into thousands of brick-and-mortar stores would result in a lot of unsold copies sitting around, because most people don't care about your niche (or any other niche, by definition).

With that said, there are better ways to get your book printed than Amazon that will still get your book ON Amazon (both printed and kindle versions) however, addressing that issue is far beyond the scope of this question.

  • I am addressing a niche market (adventure motorcycling). I've been thinking about strategies to market through social media. It would be a programming problem as much as a marketing one. I wonder if the cuts publishers take justify the work they do in marketing if I can match it even 50% – AtlasRider Feb 9 '12 at 17:42
  • We've got two books planned in the same niche. We've set up our own co, and plan to buy our own ISBNs and use Print-On-Demand publishing (although not Amazon's). In this niche I believe that the audience is not only easily reachable online, but the members are hungry for new material and love to share their discoveries with each other. We intend to hire a professional editor, and can probably find a friend to do cover design. I'd expect a long running trickle of sales for a good book. – masukomi Feb 10 '12 at 8:39
  • I think you have an accurate description of our niche. Like you I also am looking for a long term trickle of sales as a sign of success. I'm not looking to make the NYT Best Sellers list. Good luck with your books. Look forward to checking them out. – AtlasRider Feb 10 '12 at 14:45
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Publishers can do all of the things you identified in your list for you, but the degree of commitment that they apply to each will vary based on a number of factors. If they believe that you have a truly commercial product that has the potential to reach a very large fan base, they will devote more time and resources towards making your book successful.

The problem here is in getting them to agree to publish your book in the first place. Since you indicate that your book is targeting a smaller niche market, your best chances of getting picked up by a publisher would be for you to find one that specializes in your type of product. Failing that, you're facing a very difficult road.

It sounds like you already have a plan/idea in place for pursuing self-publication, which is most likely a more viable option for you. There are a number of advanatages that have been discussed in other posts, but it will also require a lot more effort on your part. In spite of that, you probably have a better feel for your intended audience than a major publisher would have, so you would probably have better success pursuing this on your own.

  • Thanks Steven. I do have the time and motivation to do a lot of this myself, and as you said, I do feel like I understand my market more than most publishers. – AtlasRider Jun 5 '12 at 4:33
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Your book looks like just the sort of rippin' yarn I'd enjoy myself -- I was a corporate type in the US for many years, and unwound on a Triumph Tiger in the Rockies whenever possible.

Having said that, I hate your cover design. Have you looked at cover designs for adventure motorcycling books in the shops? Don't forget that they are there to attract a particular type of person and they are therefore all a little bit of-a-type -- bloke on bike on high mountain pass, bike on side in swampy jungle trail, that sort of thing. The purpose of a cover is to get the book off the shelves into the potential buyer's hands, and you've got a pretty distinctive look yourself and would probably "sell well" on a cover. Books also have to be sold to retailers, and that is based muchly on synopsis, marketing, and cover.

Long story short, I'm afraid your friend who helped you with the cover has not served you well. It looks like a cheap self-published book with dubious production qualities.

To answer your question, a publisher would have got you a much better cover than that.

  • Hi David, thanks for the feedback on my cover design. I was actually considering the design for viewing on the web. I'd rather have the thumbnail look more appealing, then it look good on a shelf – AtlasRider Apr 22 '13 at 18:20
  • but then again, you can hire a professional designer for the cover, right? – Ooker Mar 22 '17 at 13:23
  • @Ooker That's true -- I'm happy that Bill went with something more conventional at some point amazon.com/dp/061576021X – David Aldridge Mar 22 '17 at 16:38
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Inspired by David Aldridge's answer, I think the value that a publisher can give you is to set the high standard for your book. That's why they are a publisher. It's not about doing trivial tasks that everyone can do.

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Publisher do two things for you, other than those you have listed, and they are things that you absolutely cannot do for yourself.

  1. They provide provenance and branding. Once published by an established publisher, your book enjoys the provenance that comes with that publisher's name. More people will buy, more publications will review, more foreign publishers will consider, more libraries will purchase, more book clubs will read, more movie studios will consider, a book with the imprimatur of an established publisher than one without it. You may have your own brand, of course, but then if you publish with an established publisher the power of their brand is joined to the power of their brand, so you are still better off than with your brand alone.

  2. They provide access to channels. They have a channel to bookstores, a channel to review editors, a channel to libraries, a channel to book clubs, a channel to the foreign market, a channel to the studios. They can get your book to places you cannot, and can do it much more economically. Yes, Amazon is a major channel, but actually not the most effective one by itself, because it is terribly non-selective and does no promotion. But Amazon is only one of the many channels that a publisher can get you into, and your performance in those other channels can boost your performance on Amazon. Remember that while many books are purchased on Amazon, reader first discover those books on other platforms, and publishers have channels to those platforms that you do not. Again, even if you have better access to some of the newer channels than they do, that simply adds to what they can do for you.

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