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Sales Speaker Offers Book Publishing Advice To Aspiring Authors

Author: Dr. Gary S. Goodman

I received a pleasant note from a multi-talented author that would like to self-publish or have a major house do the honor.

This is not an unusual goal.

But today, I decided to spice my reply with a little more sour than sweet, revealing in the process where I believe the book industry is at this point, and what it is requiring. I think these comments are applicable, generally, and I hope you, too will find them useful.

You must be careful in what you reveal to publishers about yourself and what’s occupying your professional plate, at the moment. Is it full with unrelated, but glamorous activities?

If you have varied interests, and mention them, my first impression is, “How cool.”

But if I’m a publisher and I see varied interests, it could backfire.

“Now, it seems this gifted creature wants us to publish her book. Is she willing to dedicate the next two or three years to becoming our slave; to refining it and promoting it? How many copies will she personally purchase?”

That’s right. As an author, you are going to do the heavy lifting, whether you self-publish or a big publisher takes on the project. Chances are very strong you won’t sell many copies, unless you’re the purchaser.

As a sales and marketing type, I find that prospect very disappointing, having sold hundreds of thousands of copies of some titles (to strangers!), while other titles were commercial flops.

Which makes us revert to the most essential question: WHY do you want to publish this book? If that WHY is strong enough, it will be worth the transaction costs of accomplishing the mission, while potentially putting your other interests on hold.

If not, if a published book is just another laurel, an entry on your life’s resume, then WHY becomes WHY BOTHER?

If you seek to get rich from book sales, I would advise buying lottery tickets.

If it is for fame, that’s a surprisingly realistic objective, as a byproduct of promoting a book. With relentless promotion, you can get your 15 minutes and beyond. And it’s FUN being on TV and radio, but does publicity of that type sell books? If the exposure your title gets isn’t on Oprah, then not really.

Publicity sells you back to yourself. It’s a vanity-gambit, a great ego massage. But don’t get carried away. It can become a narcissistic narcotic.

Noting the book publishing industry had changed for the worse, I sold my most recent book projects to audio publishers instead, and they have been profitable, as well as quick-to-the-market. In one case I declined a book contract ($ + royalties) because the publisher was counting too much on me to promote. I wasn’t about to sign a blank check for my time.

But let’s get back to you. While I’ve had no experience with e-books, it seems to me they are a cheap and fast way to get your work out there, and to garner at least a trickle of income. If you are successful in e-books, selling hundreds to say a few thousand copies a month, many publishers will take a look at putting you into hard copy. They may even pay an advance against royalties, and agents should be interested, as well.

If I were to choose any single reference book on publishing, it would be Jeff Herman’s “Book Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents.” It is a practical and continuously updated directory of names, phone numbers, and tastes of the folks mentioned in the title. Plus, there are some useful essays on breaking into the biz. I’ve sold about 4 of my books with the intelligence I gleaned from his tome.

But I broke one of Herman’s rules, which he has since revised: I sold my books to editors by telephone.

Good luck!

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About the Author

Dr. Gary S. Goodman is a top-ranked sales speaker, negotiation speaker, and customer service speaker at Google, and a distinguished, sought-after telemarketing speaker, motivational speaker, and attorney. President of, he is a frequent TV and radio commentator and the best-selling author of 12 books and more than 1,750 articles that appear in 25,000 publications. President of, Gary conducts seminars and speaks at convention programs around the world. His new audio program is Nightingale-Conant’s “Crystal Clear Communication: How to Explain Anything Clearly in Speech & Writing.” His web site is:, and professional speaking, seminar, and consulting invitations can be addressed

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