The shifting publishing industry is a confusing encryption. To crack the code, David Fugate offers The Unconventional Guide to Publishing.
Fugate is the President and Founder of LaunchBooks, a literary agency that has successfully represented more than 1,000 books to over 40 different publishers that have generated in excess of $15 Million for authors.
In partnership with his client and friend Chris Guillebeau, Fugate’s Unconventional Guide to Publishing is, per my study, a comprehensive, considered and honest examination of the state of affairs in publishing.
The book tackles a big subject with a bigger promise…
…I can promise that by the end of this book you will know more than 99.9% of humanity about the world of publishing.
That promise is angled toward mastering knowledge and know-how of the traditional publishing universe. But self-publishing opportunities and analyses share the stage, culminating in the book’s true purpose, and genius…
More importantly [than landing an agent or getting a book deal], going through the process we’ll talk about in the next several chapters to develop your book concept, your pitch, your proposal, and your marketing platform will 1) make your book better and 2) push you to focus on your audience and your market in a way that will leave you much better positioned to succeed with your self-published book.
If you’re reading this review for the punchline only, here it is: this book delivers on its promises and purpose.
A good book review, however, doesn’t stop there.
A good and useful review probes the depths of a book’s message to reveal the quality of its themes, attitudes and ethics. The following is precisely that, which I hope informs further your views on the publishing industry and encourages you to heed my endorsement of the book.
Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing:
Traditional publishing isn’t all things evil. Self-publishing isn’t all things saintly.
Such absolutes don’t exist, a view that flies in the face of modern publishing lore and popular hyperbole that unanimously chastises one side or the other.
Fugate, is sensitive to these realities, explaining—with traditional industry savviness and open-minded thinking—that. . .
Traditional publishing and e-publishing both have significant—and very different—strengths and weaknesses, and understanding them will help you determine the best way to proceed with your project.
The project in question is your book. The answer you’re seeking is the direction you should follow that will afford the greatest chance for success. The terms of your success are unique to you. Hence, the correct path isn’t a function of vogue, it’s a function of variables. Your variables hinge upon your circumstances. As Fugate concludes, the correct path should be determined by “what your goals are.”
In the book, Fugate lays the groundwork for carefully assessing this decision thus:
The advantages of self-publishing (and especially e-publishing) are: 1) speed, 2) the amount of revenue per copy sold, and 3) control.
The advantages of traditional publishing are 1) upfront capital (the advance), 2) physical distribution and the publishing ecosystem, 3) credibility, and 4) help, in the form of a team of people dedicated to making your book better and then selling it.
He then examines each of these advantages in meticulous detail.
I enjoyed the fairness of his remarks on both sides. For example, he confesses that traditional publishing is painfully slow, and provides insights as to why. Further, he validates why self-publishing is a far cry from guaranteed success, using reality-based book selling scenarios and refreshingly rationalism. Whenever necessary, he inserts credible industry numbers (e.g. print on-demand publisher sales figures) and/or real-world examples (most notably involving Chris Guillebeau).
At the end of his analyses, you have a unbeatable framework with which to objectively assess your circumstances and make the most intelligent decision for you and your book.
Ignorance Isn’t Bliss:
Porter Anderson recently shared here on Winning Edits the truths about the divide between authors and publishers, fueled largely by ignorance on both sides.
In the case of authors, such ignorance handicaps their book’s potential for success by limiting their understanding of what publishing options exist, what the business implications are of each, and how to properly evaluate them against each other. This can lead to books that are under-developed, abused by contracts, poorly promoted, and/or subject to other sad outcomes of publishing malpractice.
The Unconventional Guide to Publishing offers an inoculation (if not a cure) against these thorny unknown-unknowns.
Fugate puts such treatment of ignorance thus:
I can’t come up with the right idea for you, but I can teach you what publishers are looking for in both an idea and an author, how to find the best possible agents for your project, how to pitch yourself to them, how to create the kind of book proposal that the major publishers look for, what will happen during the pitch process, what to look out for in the publishing agreement, and how to make sure your book is successfully published once you do land a publisher.
Fugate executes on these pledges by teaching. . .
- How publishing works: the advance, royalties, net royalties, ebook royalties, and foreign rights income.
- What publishers look for: the compelling idea, the instant appeal test, audience relevance, the right platform.
- How strong book proposals are made: about the author, promotion by the author, related books, chapter summaries, sample chapter.
- How to find an agent: how they get paid, how to contact them, how to land one, real query letter samples.
- What the pitch process feels like: step-by-step including author-agent relationship terms.
- How to be published well: writing the book, editing, promotional plan, why your first book needs to sell well, value of publicists.
The quality I respected most about Fugate’s teachings was its utility to both traditional and self-publishing pursuits. Sure, some segments are specialized toward landing a traditional book deal, such as “how to find an agent.” But even there, you can adapt the ideas to “how to find a quality book designer” or some other professional should you desire to recruit your own independent publishing team.
At large, the book development components and thought experiments stressed as part of the traditional process are easily portable to good self-publishing practices. By the end of the read, you may feel like Neo taking the red pill in The Matrix, suddenly able to see how deep the rabbit-hole goes.
Professionalism is an Invaluable Virtue:
Professionalism and independence (“indie”) are not mutually exclusive ideals. An author can be both independent and committed to the utmost quality of her writing. Such a sense of personal responsibility is an ethic that transcends book form and publishing function.
It would seem that Fugate agrees, writing. . .
As it gets easier and easier to publish anything (at any length and any quality) those average [book] sales figures will be pushed even lower. In the end, the authors who’ll succeed with self-publishing will for the most part be the same authors who would have already been positioned for success in traditional publishing.
To me, this is The Unconventional Guide to Publishing’s most endearing theme and attitude. In this light, it’s easy to argue that the knowledge within is built to best serve those authors of a high caliber of self-responsibility and professional ethic, and not those of a pre-conceived publishing mindset. In fact, I dare say that some readers of the book may even flip their intentions on publishing strategy as they become more educated on the facts, hurdles and opportunities.
The salient point (and key lesson) is this: self-disciplined, hard working, continuous learning, diligent authors win regardless of form or function.
This spirit and orientation toward helping serious authors develop better books and position them for the best success is apparent throughout the material. I wager it’s impossible to walk away from this book worse for the wear. In all likeliness, you’ll emerge several levels above your current grade.
Winning Edits is devoted to aiding the independent author who seeks to win her readers’ hearts-and-minds by producing the best book possible and publishing it via the smartest channels. I feel The Unconventional Guide to Publishing complements, strengthens and upholds this standard.
The book leans toward traditional publishing, and does so fairly. As analyzed above, this should be of little concern to professional indie authors who, at present, favor self-publishing outlets. Here’s why. . .
First, smart authors of any persuasion are learned in the ways of all publishing. This book will bring your intelligence up to snuff if you’re lacking on either front. Second, smart authors subject their plans to stress-tests. This book will do that, helping you understand if your publishing strategy accurately reflects your circumstances’ unique variables and, accordingly, projects attainable success per your goals.
If I have the means, I always error on the side of education. If you agree, then consider getting The Unconventional Guide to Publishing.
Disclaimer: Winning Edits is a proud affiliate of The Unconventional Guide to Publishing. That means we’ll earn a small commission if you proceed to purchase this book from a link in this article. We only recommend resources we know, use and love. And the small commissions go to feeding our bellies. That said, you can easily bypass this link. However, the price you pay will remain the same.