The important thing to remember is that publishing, just like construction, is a team effort.
Let us begin by taking a look at the world of construction. To keep things simple, let us say there are three types of construction: buildings, institutional and infrastructure projects. Buildings can vary from a small house to a skyscraper. Institutional construction are campus projects such as universities, government buildings or hospitals. Lastly, airports and dams are example of infrastructure projects. They form the biggest share of construction, and they typically take the longest time to complete.
In the book publishing world, there are three major types of books, namely, fiction, nonfiction, and academic. Fiction and nonfiction books, which account for the most, could be considered analogous to building and institutional projects. Academic publishing, which includes textbooks and Journals, accounts for about 70% of the USD 4 billion in sales, according to the 2015 Neilsen India Book Market Report. Textbooks and journals also take the longest time from conception to writing, publishing, and distribution. For the purpose of this article, we will focus on building construction only, that is, for the fiction book market.
Now let us look at the professionals and the players. In a typical construction project, there is a real estate developer, an architect, an engineering designer, a contractor, a building and facade specialist, and a real estate broker. The architect draws up the plans for the building. The designer prepares the blueprints and gives a structure to the plans. A contractor builds off these drawings, the building and facade specialist decides the look and feel, and a real estate broker helps in selling the building. The real estate developer manages the entire process, takes the highest risk, and raises the capital for the project.
In traditional publishing, the publisher is the developer. They take the highest risk, invest the money, and coordinate the entire book publishing process. The author is the contractor as well as the architect. The editor is the design engineer who gives the story a structure. Book formatting and cover design specialists give the building its 'look and feel'. Finally, the book marketer is like the real estate broker who helps in selling the finished product.
If an author decides to self publish their book, then they have to wear multiple hats. A self published author is the developer, the architect and the contractor combined into one. Maybe they are even the real estate broker, if they take up the book marketing role. I had created an infographic last month which shows the similarities between construction and book publishing, and posted it on Medium.
You might wonder why am I telling you all this. Here’s why: I quickly figured out that the known world (i.e. construction) that I was leaving was not very different from the unknown world (i.e. Book Publishing) I was stepping into. That helped me in putting my years of training and experience to use right away. I knew my areas of strength - planning, scheduling and execution. As an author, I was quickly able to plan, schedule and get down to writing my books. Construction projects are driven by schedules, and so does book publishing. I developed the roadmap for my next three novels, at least two of which should see the light of the day this year. A good construction project requires planning, focus on quality, and marketing. Similarly, book publishing also requires planning, quality and of course, marketing. A self-published author needs to prepare a budget and find the money to finance the publishing, just the way a real estate developer does. Since I chose to self-publish my books, I was able to prepare an estimate for editing, cover design and formatting for each book.
The planning phase of book publishing must involve a book marketing plan. Production, that is the writing process, benefits immensely by adhering to a strict schedule. Let us say you are writing a sixty thousand word novel and your daily word-count goal is one thousand words. You must complete the manuscript in sixty days, otherwise your post-production activities such as editing, layout, beta readers will all get delayed. We all know that delays in construction projects are a recipe for failure. There was no room for failure on account of delay in completing the manuscript because I was going to invest my own money.
Bringing It All Together
I would encourage every debut author, who is not a writer by training, to relate book publishing to what they know. It might make your life easier, and allow you to focus on the task at hand. For example, if you are a surgeon, you may be able to relate the professionals in book publishing with different members of the surgical team. The important thing to remember is that publishing, just like construction, is a team effort. This helped me realize while the process of writing is a solitary, often lonely task, publishing a book requires a team. I quickly looked for editors and cover designers, signed them up, and concentrated on the writing and marketing.
Which profession or industry are you able to relate book publishing to?
These days he lives in Bengaluru (Bangalore) in India. In his spare time, he likes exploring offbeat places, learning Gujarati from his wife, and spending time with his dog, Buddy.
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