Let's talk about money
Hi Manuscript Workers,
Toward the end of this post I’ll share some upcoming events I’m offering for free, so read (or scroll) to the bottom to make sure you don’t miss them.
Last week, I shared a guest post from a freelance book publicist about how authors can gain wider exposure for their expertise.
One thing not discussed at length in that post was the monetary cost of professional services, such as freelance book publicity. I’ve written before about the costs that scholarly authors might incur in the process of getting their books published, and it’s certainly true that getting professional support—whether from an editor, a coach, an indexer, or a publicist—doesn’t come cheap.
It’s tricky, because scholarly book publishing should be accessible and inclusive, yet high costs for professional support services work against this. At the same time, the individuals who provide this support deserve to be compensated for their labor and the years they’ve spent building up their expertise and networks. For many of us, this is our only source of income—I’m not employed by any institution and I don’t draw a salary, so charging for some of my services is the only way I can keep providing them (along with the ones I don’t charge for).
In this week’s newsletter, I want to chat a little bit about alternatives to spending your own money on getting your scholarly book published and also talk about when it might be worth making a greater monetary investment.
One way to avoid spending your own money on getting your book published is to take advantage of the free resources already available to you. For example, we learned last week that you can hire a freelance publicist to help promote your research in the broader media, but this is also something your press’s in-house publicist should be equipped to help with as well. See my newsletter from March 1, where I talked to Maria Whelan of Princeton University Press on how authors can work collaboratively with their press’s promotions team to get the most attention on their books.
The level of engagement you get from your press’s promotions team may vary, but you can at least take the initiative to pursue as many opportunities as possible, such as asking for help pitching op-ed essays, asking your press for tips on getting media appearances, and finding out if and how your press can support you with speaking gigs and author events.
For other services, like editorial support or proofreading and indexing, your institution may have a writing center with professionals who can help or you may be able to draw on research funds to hire a freelancer.
In addition to exploring free resources, you can also hone your own skills and DIY some of the things that others outsource to professionals. You might want to invest in some low-cost educational resources to set you on the right track—such as books or courses about indexing or proofreading—but you can also probably find these for free at your institutional or public library.
Of course there is still a cost to DIYing, because you will be spending your time and you won’t necessarily be getting expert-level service from yourself. You have to make the calculation as to the value you place on the time and expertise provided by a professional relative to your own time and effort.
Which brings me to how you decide when it’s worth it to make a monetary investment in professional support. Your budget plays a huge role in this, because you can’t spend money you don’t have and I wouldn’t encourage anyone to go into debt for a scholarly book. But if you do have the funds and just need to decide whether this is how you want to spend them, I have some questions I suggest you ask yourself.
Will you make the money back via royalties or an advance?
Investing in professional support to strengthen your book proposal or book manuscript could pay off when it’s time to pitch your project to publishers. If you show up with a well-crafted, competitive pitch, publishers may think they need to compete to land your book and offer you some monetary incentive in the form of a cash advance or higher royalties. Hiring a publicist to help promote your book could also pay off in book sales down the road—but do some math to see how many books you’d have to sell to cover the retainer fee, because it’s probably a lot of books and publicity doesn’t always lead to sales.
[Note: in an upcoming newsletter, I’ll be talking about royalties and advances in more detail and will reveal some *actual monetary figures* from my deal for The Book Proposal Book. Stay tuned!]
Will you make the money back via other income-generating opportunities that come as a result of your book?
An obvious example here is when your book aids you in getting a professional promotion, such as tenure or advancement from associate to full professor. You might spend a few thousand dollars to get support from a developmental editor, but if that support makes the difference in getting your book out in time to go up for promotion and salary increase, you’ll likely see a return on your investment many times over as your pay increase compounds over time.
Another example would be if you are hoping to leverage your book for a greater public presence as a recognized expert. The payoffs of hiring a publicist for this kind of thing may be indirect, but over time your broader platform could lead to attractive job offers or supplemental income streams such as paid speaking engagements.
Are the benefits of hiring professional support intrinsically valuable to you?
Here’s where the time question comes back in. If your time is very valuable to you, and you’d much rather be spending your time with your family or doing something personally meaningful instead of learning how to make an index for your book, the money to hire an indexer might feel well worth spending.
You might also consider how you want to feel about your book when it’s published. Does it just need to be good enough to get you a line on your CV, or do you want to feel like you published the best book possible with the best publisher possible? How you define “best” in these contexts is totally up to you, but if spending money to get your book closer to what and where you want it to be will give you peace of mind for years to come, the monetary costs might be worth it.
Finally, for some people, publishing a book is a lifelong dream. They might feel that hiring professional help to fulfill that dream is just as worthwhile as spending the money on a vacation or a hobby or new furniture. (And, again, I understand that not everyone has the budget to spend money on any of these things.)
These are all super personal questions and there aren’t wrong or right answers. I’m not saying you should want to invest money in getting your book published, or that you have to spend your own money in order to have a high-quality, successful book at a great press. My point is only that it’s worth giving some thought to what kind of value you will get in exchange if you do decide to make a monetary investment.
Because I understand that paid professional support is not accessible to everyone, and because I have a personal mission to help more scholars have book publishing experiences that they can feel good about, I am very intentional in my business about offering a mix of resources to fit all budgets.
For example, I regularly offer free webinars about scholarly book publishing, such as the one I have coming up next month: How to Publish Your First Scholarly Book, on April 12th. I also run a free 5-day challenge on finding the best-fit publishers for your book project. You can sign up for both today if you want.
I also make recordings of previous webinars available at no charge and have a public archive of past newsletter topics that answer almost any question a prospective author might have about scholarly book publishing.
For a modest price-point, I offer additional resources, such as The Book Proposal Book and some low-cost workshops that go deeper on certain topics, such as writing a book proposal that will stand out in the eyes of scholarly publishers.
For authors who want more structured, ongoing support and are able to invest a bit more, I have an online program called the Book Proposal Shortcut. This program walks you efficiently through the steps of writing a book proposal and pitching it to scholarly publishers, provides a library of sample proposals and other documents such as letters of inquiry and responses to peer reviews, and allows you to ask me direct questions at any time. It can be enrolled in at any time and you keep access to the materials forever.
And finally, for those who want even more hands-on support, including feedback on proposal drafts and regular online Q&As, I have my Book Proposal Accelerator. This cohort-based program runs once a year and I’ll be offering it again in July. Enrollment will open in May, so if you’re thinking this program might be worth the investment for you, check out the info page and stay tuned to this newsletter for registration updates.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. I really appreciate everyone who takes the time to open and read this newsletter, because I know you have so many other things you could be doing with your valuable time.
See you next week!