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​Why I see so many good authors fail.

Book publishing is a creative pursuit. Writing a book is creative. Designing a book cover is creative. Marketing a book is creative. Or is it?

Book publishing is like construction.

Architect Jørn Utzon designed the Sydney Opera House. He used his creativity but within a constraining framework of physical laws. He designed the Opera House making sure it could withstand weather conditions, suited the geology and would not collapse under its own weight. In other words he couldn’t ignore the laws of the environment, geological realties and the law of gravity. These laws are immutable – these laws are rooted in science.

When you enter the Sydney Opera House you certainly don’t feel its about to collapse. It’s a great experience.

The laws of successful book publishing.

New authors who come to me wanting to self-publish know little about what I call the immutable laws of publishing. Full knowledge and understanding of these laws takes many years. I’ve leaned some of these by trial and error (a tough way to learn). And some by being mentored by some of the best in the business.

Unfortunately many authors focus on their creative prowess while at the same time being completely ignorant of the science of book publishing.

Here are just a couple of these laws that I will then summarize in a single mega-law.

Law No. 1  Design a book cover for the market not for the author. Books that fail often do so because of a poor cover design. Poor cover designs are usually dictated – often in fine-grain detail – by the author (who might be publishing their first ever book). Green Hill’s lead designer has personally designed almost 1,000 books – does she understand the law of book cover design? Yes, she certainly does.

Law No. 2 Editing is important. This is very similar to Law No. 1. While writing is a creative pursuit, an experienced editor will use their skill and experience to make the manuscript better (in many cases superior). Authors often break this rule pushing-back on the editor with “I don’t want my writing changed” or the old classic “you’ve removed my voice”.  There are immutable laws of good writing including structure and grammar that when violated are done at the author’s peril.

The mega law Successful book publishing is both art and science.

If you are a new author leave the science to the publisher and their staff i.e. book designers, book editors and book marketers. These professionals will approach the publishing of your book based on their hard won knowledge of the science shaped by empirical evidence. Publishing a good book is much about science.

Understand the ‘mega-law’ – only then will you improve the chance of your book’s success!

David Walters

Director, Green Hill Publishing

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The Little Book of Big Publishing tips goes into the essentials of self-publishing a book, outlining the business and financial side of publishing, legal issues, design, editing, sales and marketing. There's even a section on how to identify a vanity-publishing scam.