For those of you who read this week's Monday Book Review and want more information, I bring to you an interview with Jerry D.Simmons. Jerry retired in 2003 as a vice president/director of field sales at Time Warner. He is the author of What Writers Need to Know About Publishing and runs the WritersReaders website.
1. Why did you write this book?
JDS: It was never intended to be a published book, it was a self-imposed form of self-therapy that I needed after 25 years in corporate publishing in New York. It was my intention to make some copies and place on my bookshelf as a reminder of my career. Then an author friend called one day and asked what I had been doing with myself since leaving NY and when I told her, she asked for a copy of the manuscript, which I gladly sent along. Then she forwarded it to some other author friends of mine and they all agreed I should publish. But they warned me that no NY publisher would want to take it on, so I should do it myself. That is how it ended up as a self-published book.
2. If writers could take away three things from this book, what might they be?
JDS: The first would be that publishing is a business and it’s extremely important for every author under contract to understand that fact, it’s not about great writing, it’s about revenue and shelf space. The second would be they must protect themselves from the business by becoming a student of the market, which means visiting bookstores regularly, reading the trades such as Publishers Weekly, learn how to develop relationships in-house, ask the right questions and know what the answers mean to their book and career. The more intelligently they can speak about the business, the better chance they have of separating themselves from all the other authors on the list. The third thing would be that every author under contract must have a positive attitude when working with their publisher. Most authors work from the position of “what is my publisher going to do for me?” The better approach is “how can I help my publisher sell more books?” If you make that your premise every step of the way, you’ll have a better chance of having your suggestions heard and acted upon.
3. What is the number one mistake that writers make?
JDS: Signing a contract and then walking away, leaving every decision to their publisher. There are few authors who take an active role in the publication of their book and it is in the best interest of every author to become involved without being a pset. Learn how to do it, ask the right questions, and you can impact what happens to your book once you are under contract. Authors have one good shot at selling enough copies to continue a career as a published author, take advantage of that fact and make it a good one.
4. In your book, you give a lot of very specific information about the publishing process. Why do you think it is so important for writers to understand the process?
JDS: When you're a writer who spent months if not years writing and perfecting your craft, it's important to understand what happens once you sell the rights to your work. The business of publishing is about producing books, not publishing. One book with a bad sales history and that author could be finished forever as a published author. I feel it's important for every writer to understand their options in publishing, know the facts about the corporate publishers, and understand how to act on those facts to improve their chances of selling copies and maintaining a career as an author.
5. Is there anything else you would like to share with my readers?
JDS: There are two distinct parts to becoming a published author: the first is the writing to the point where the work is ready to be published, and the second is everything from that point forward. This includes every piece that goes into creating a finished book. The more you know about the process, the business,and what is involved, the better chance you have of being successful, which means selling books. It's very easy to get a manuscript published today, but it is not easy to market and sell books. Every author needs some help, so spend some time learning the business as well as writing and you'll be in a much better position to have a long and successful career as an author.