Encyclopedia of Self-Punlishing

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Apr 19, 2018
At the end of a long career publishing fiction, memoir, biography, local history, etc. I have one more books left in me: The Encyclopedia of Self-Publishing. I have been fortunate enough to place my books without the services of an agent but for this last word I do need help. Old age is closing in, and I I'm not of a mind with a hassle find a publisher on my own o even self-publishing. After looking over the query I have been sending out can anyone suggest of the name of an agent who might want to take on such a book? I would also welcome suggestions for less obvious or more specialized interested I might include. I will be grateful for your help.

Here's the query:

I am seeking representation for my book The Encyclopedia of Self-Publishing.

Written in a relaxed, anecdotal style, entries invite browsing as much as a straight information gathering and are rich in how-to advice.

Two entries from the first few pages illustrate these two goals: ABA and Anecdote. They are reproduced at the end of this query.

Although the text is in a sense complete, doubtless you and the eventual publisher will suggest additional entries that I will then write and incorporate into the text.

The Encyclopedia of Self-Publishing will be a lucrative, ongoingd book project. New editions will be necessary at regular intervals, as were Dan Poynter’s classic The Self-Publisher’s Handbook and John Kremer’s 1001 Ways to Market Your Book.

My qualifications to write this book: I know the publishing business inside and out. I am the author of How to make $100,000 a Year in Desktop Publishing (Betterway Books, later Writer's Digest books). This book was a Writer's Digest Book Club selection. How to Publish Your Own Magazine Guidebook, or Weekly Newswspaper, Get Paid to Write, and Poet Power, the Practical Complete Guide to Getting Published were self-published, then picked up by indie publisher Sentient Publications of Boulder Colorado. Two other books were published by university presses (Georgia and Alabama). My novellas, The God beyond God and The Editor: How the Brewster Gazette Became the Brewster Macrocosmos, the World’s First Metaphysical Newspaper were pbblishd this year. My freelance articles have been published in magazines ranging from Esquire to Entrepreneur. I have edited and published regional magazines (The New East Magazine and Tarheel, the Magazine of North Carolina) and a weekly newapaper (the Mecklenburg Gazette).


Thomas A. Williams, PhD"

Two sample entries:

ABA. The American Booksellers Association is the national trade association of independent booksellers. Until 1990 the association’s membership was open to all booksellers, large and small, chain and independent. At that time the independent bookstore owners decided that their interests and those of the big box stores were in conflict, and they voted to limit their membership to the non-chain, independent bookstores.

The ABA web site is a useful one for publishers to peruse. On the site you can find list of the association’s members, by state and town. As I am writing this, for instance, I pause, go to the ABA site, and click on Statesboro, Georgia, a small city near my home. There was one member bookstore there. This is the information I got:

The Book and Cranny
721 South Main Street, Statesboro, GA 30458
Phone: (912)681-2436
Fax: (912)681-1066
Type of Books Sold: Primarily New
Description: Intimate home library setting featuring comfortable chairs and friendly staff. Located in a brand new shopping center with a popular coffee shop, a high-end ladies apparel store, a shop specializing in esthetic solutions, a national toasted sub shop, and a sunglass store.

I then click on Books & Books, an important independent bookstore in Coral Gables. Florida. Here’s what I find:

Books & Books, Inc. [Coral Gables, FL]
Address: 265 Aragon Ave.
Country: USA
Phone: (305)442-4408
Fax: (305)444-9751
Email: books296@aol.com
Description: Since opening in 1982, Mitchell Kaplan has encouraged book lovers to browse our extensive collection of fine fiction, art and architectural books, poetry, classics, nonfiction, best sellers, children’s books, and cookbooks. Rare and Antiquarian too!

This listing tells you that Books & Books is an independent bookstore with a general collection of titles leaning toward the literary. The contact person is Mitch Kaplan, the owner. The street address, telephone number, fax number, and email address are all given. The ABA web site includes similar listings for over four thousand bookstores across the country. There is a lot of usable information there. You can also browse their Book Buyers’ Handbook and Booksellers Resource Directory, both useful sources for self-publishers who want to understand the book business from the inside out.


Anecdote. For many years I published regional magazines and weekly newspapers. To help beginning writers whip their material into shape for these traditional “break‑in” markets, I explained to them that anecdote and personal experiences were the lifeblood of readable articles.

I put the structure basic to all good nonfiction writing into “one‑two‑three” form and gave it a name: the “freelancer’s paradigm.” Results were almost immediate. Marginal articles suddenly became publishable articles.
The paradigm is a simple pattern, but it is a very important one. It works the way our minds work, moving effortlessly from the general to the particular, leading the reader on with effective story‑telling. It consists of three parts:

a. A general observation, statement of fact, or question;
b. Followed by a narrowing of focus to a single case;
c. Followed by an example, anecdote, or quote.

The following paragraph—which I just turned to at random from stack of magazines beside me is a paradigm in the lead paragraph in an article for Southern Lady magazine:

"You can usually spot a TaylorG garment. It’s a combination of wonderful fabrics, so creatively detailed with buttons, ribbons, and trims, the outfit instantly snatches your attention. “Women want to feel special, and my garments make them look pretty,” says Lori Taylor, who founded TaylorG in Dallas, Texas, 11 years ago."

In this paragraph, writer Phyllis Hoffman has used the technique of the paradigm: general observation (You can spot. . .), a narrowing of focus (combination of wonderful fabrics, etc.) and a quote (“Women want to feel special”). Nothing dramatic here, just good, solid magazine writing. The better and more experienced the writer, the more invisible and seamless the paradigm becomes. In the hands of a seasoned pro, it is open to virtually infinite variation. But whatever form it takes, it is always there.

The freelancer’s paradigm is basic to successful non-fiction writing. The writer’s job is to hook the reader, lead him through the book, chapter, or article easily and enjoyably, and teach him something useful along the way—all served up with a liberal helping of human interest.

The paradigm enables the writer to do this. It is an antidote to the stale air of abstract fact. It lets the fresh air of personal, one‑on‑one experience waft through your narrative. In a recent article for Publishing for Entrepreneurs magazine, for example, I wanted to get across the idea that anyone with imagination and energy can make money publishing advertising-based local and regional publications. I could have started my article a very matter‑of‑fact way:

Periodical publishing on the local and regional level can be quite lucrative. Publishers of tabloids, city magazines and tourism guides regularly make incomes of $100,000 a year and more. Today the typesetting and page layout capabilities of desktop publishing have put such projects within the reach of any entrepreneur who will take the trouble to learn to use them. Statistics reveal . . . .

Instead, I chose this brief paradigm:

Hometown publishing is a low‑cost, high payoff opportunity. I went into this business five years ago with a Mac Plus, two used desks, and a laser writer. This year my company will gross $800,000. Next year we expect to top $1,000,000. What I did, you can do, too.”

General observation, particular example and personal experience. This paradigm-based lead not only tells the story, but whets the reader’s appetite for the details to come. The facts are there in both versions, but the paradigm translates them into the language of personal experience and makes them come alive.

Some very successful books are constructed almost entirely of paradigms. This is particularly true of the classic best‑sellers in the salesmanship and motivation genre. Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, Zig Ziglar’s See You at the Top, W. Clement Stone’s Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude and Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People all fit into this category. So do more recent titles such as Wayne Dyer’s Your Erroneous Zones and, on a somewhat more intellectual level, M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled. Not to mention the granddaddy of them all, Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking.

Television news could not survive without the paradigm, which moves effortlessly from the general observations of the news anchor to the particular and the inevitable sound bite of the individual reporter in place. “Nature is a powerful adversary,” the anchor intones from the New York studio. “When disasters strike no one can withstand them. The people of Argus, Oklahoma, learned this first hand this afternoon as a devastating tornado ripped through the town. John Johnson has the details.”

The anchor then asks his man on the scene, “John, what are things like in Argus tonight?” Reporter Johnson appears on the screen, standing before a wrecked mobile home park. “The people here are just trying to assess the damage and begin to pick up the pieces.” He turns to a distraught woman nearby.

“Mrs. Wiggs, you have lived right here for five years. Now your home is gone. How will you live?”
“We’ll just have to go on living the best way we can,” Mrs. Wiggs replies bravely. “That’s all we can do.”

Again, the paradigm moves from the general (nature’s power), to the flesh and blood particulars of Mrs. Wiggs’s tragedy, and ends with a quote. And it works, every time.

The anecdote appears in the most unlikely places, and even the most highbrow authors ignore it at their peril. Take the case of Immanuel Kant and René Descartes. Kant wrote a monumental tome called the Critique of Pure Reason. Descartes wrote a slim volume called the Discourse on Method. Both writers were brilliant. Both altered the course of the history of ideas. Yet only one of them—Descartes—is widely read, widely quoted, and universally hailed today as the “father of modern philosophy.” Why is this so? It’s the power of the anecdote. Kant’s book is a dense and virtually impenetrable jungle of thought, a veritable collapsed universe of ideas and analysis. Descartes, on the other hand, starts out with a first person narrative and a fabulous use of the paradigm:

“I always wondered why mathematicians agree on everything but philosophers agree on nothing,” Descartes begins. “Then one cold winter—it was 1637, 1 believe—I was holed up in a small room, stoking a pot‑bellied stove and trying to keep warm, and I had an idea. What philosophers needed, I decided, was an absolutely universal starting place, a proposition like “a straight line is the shortest distance between any two points.” But was there any such proposition? I proceeded to doubt every idea in my mind, except for one. I could not doubt that I was doubting. My thought processes proved at least my own existence.
“I think,” Descartes concluded, “therefore I am.”

Anecdotes translate your ideas into the language of personal experience and make them come alive. An anecdote, by the way, can make a strong lead for a query. It tells an editor a great deal about your slant, your wit, and your writing style.
I'm wondering why a book that purports to be about self-publishing (although, when I read the post title, I thought it said 'punishing') isn't self-published?

But the introduction isn't talking about one book; it's to be a regularly updated book. A similar book to others, which list businesses, but which has no history, no statistics stating the need for such a book/set (commercial viability), and no TOC. There is no defined proposal of contents, let alone how it would be updated or why (without the stats defining the need, the why is irrelevant). Do you have a proposal, rather than an introduction letter? It would need to include economic viability and potential market, especially if it is to be updated regularly.

I don't see the above being about self-publishing (is it a listing of businesses associated with books?), therefore, I'm confused, especially as the examples allude to copywriting strategies (and desktop publishing), rather than self-publishing, or even independent/small press publishing.
If I understand your idea right, ... isn't this sort of, kind of, more or less, pretty much ... what Writers&Artists is doing already? (Apart from the anecdotes, but W&A do have how tos and tips.) In which case W&A will have market dominance and I can't see why an agent would want to take that on because it would be very hard to compete with the industry 'Bible'. But I dunno. Maybe I'm misunderstanding this.

Like Brayati above says, it looks simply like a list of businesses. That's not necessarily a bad thing. But ... W&A exists.

Your anecdote reads less of an anecdote, but more of a scientific study / dissertation. That might be a hard sell. In the example you're showing us here, I'm not sure where the interest lies for the person who seeks to self-pub. Having read thought it, I'm no wiser how to self-publish my book. Your target readers (us writers) want exact how tos of what works and what doesn't and where to go to do it. I'm not sure how your anecdote serves the reader. Anecdotes of the hurdles you faced on your journey (i.e. did you ever upload the wrong file on KDP following the headache of uploading it in the first place) would be more useful.

I'm not sure how the info on the Book and Cranny place being located in the shopping centre with the ladies apparel stores and sunglasses applies to the self-publishing writer. It seems filler information.

You might want to add to your query how you propose to update. Presumably yearly? That's presumably a high risk for a publisher (new printed editions EVERY year) and hence a hard sale because of the financials.

There are many many self-published authors who offer up their experience of their journey to help those who are embarking onto theirs. They use the internet mainly. Alessandra Torre comes to mind. Check out how she does it. She's fabulous. Having said that, she doesn't have a listing of businesses, and I suspect I know why. It's hard to keep up with the changes.

Sounds like a project best suited for a blog, or a website listing.
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When querying a manuscript or book proposal, it's essential to catch all your typos. We all make typos and spelling errors, though leaving them in is a massive red flag for any agent or publisher.
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