Part II (of how does a book get published)
So, you have a manuscript and naturally you want to get it published in the best possible way. We’ll talk about what goes into the actual writing at a later date; for now I would just say that unless you are an already-experienced author, it is probably best to write your first draft straight out, from your heart and imagination, following your original inspiration, and don’t worry about grammar, scripting, editing and all that stuff till later. This is the point (i.e. you have a manuscript) from which we shall now proceed:
Sit back and take a good look at your manuscript – easier if printed, but electronic will do – and think of it as a mere object. Forget for the moment about the content of your writing, just look at this thing before you, and the questions crowd in: who will I market this to? How? Who will buy it? What packaging will I wrap it in? How will I manage the process and keep control of the finances? Printers? Publishers? I don’t want to lose my copyright! What should I charge? Help! These questions, and many more, can be managed by what I call ‘The Business Method’ (TBM), and to get some understanding of it, let us imagine that your manuscript is a chocolate bar.
You love chocolate and have for some time been messing around in your kitchen, trying out various combinations of ingredients to make the perfect chocolate bar. One day, it all clicks together and you have a product that your friends and family simply rave over. At this stage, it’s a brown goo that you poured into a baking tray, scored some lines across, and broke into pieces when set. It sure tastes great – you love it and all your mates do too. In fact, it’s so good that you begin to think: hmmmm, I wonder if I could market this? Make a career as a chocolatier? Maybe even make some money from it? Wow, wouldn’t that be fun!
o you start to think along practical lines – what would be needed to achieve that? Premises with a commercial kitchen – I could rent that shed at the back of the industrial estate but it would cost a packet to equip it…aren’t the rules for food manufacturing hygiene and all that stuff pretty strict?…would I get away with second-hand equipment?…would the bank lend me money to do this…I’d have to get the ingredients in bulk… I’d need someone to help me…can’t afford to pay wages…would need a van to do deliveries…don’t even know if this going anywhere….ach, forget it, just a crazy idea! It’s all way too complicated! Don’t be silly….
…but it’s an awfully good chockie bar. An unusual combination that nobody else is doing. Everybody just loved it… (just like that manuscript of yours – that’s pretty good, too, isn’t it? And it’s unique – no one else has written one like it…)
Well, maybe I should go and see what the bank has to say about the marketing of chocolate bars? Oh dear – they talked about ABN’s and business registrations and regular repayments and wanted to see my business plan. My what? A business plan? Heck, I’m a chocolatier (writer) not a business person! What would I know about all that boring financial stuff? Well, it may be boring and not your cup of tea, but what isn’t boring at all is the thought of getting that bar (book) into the shops and selling well. And if, as seems sadly likely, the big publishing houses are not going to do that job for you, then you must do it yourself.
Step One of the TBM is to go from thinking of yourself as a mere manufacturer (writer) to learning about business. The hard-core stuff about your market place and how to get your product out there. There will be a lot to learn and it will cost you some effort and some money, but if your chockie bar (manuscript) is good enough, it will be worth it, yes?
Next week, we’ll look at Step Two.