Show Notes:

Welcome to Hello Rebecca Ray, our collective home for courage, growth, and human to human connection. I’m your host, Dr. Rebecca Ray, human, clinical psychologist, author, and educator. I know only too well how fear, comparison, and self-doubt can stifle your potential. This podcast is all about brave and meaningful living, and how you can make your authentic contribution to the world today, and everyday.

Hi lovely ones, welcome to episode number 79 of what I know what I don’t know about book writing and publishing. If you’re out there, watching authors release books and thinking, I wish I could do that, then please know you’re in the right place. I get asked a lot about how you get published, how to write a book and everything in between. So I thought I would combine what I know into a podcast episode that hopefully is helpful for you. But also lets you know the things that I’m not sure about, because they’ve not been part of my experience.

So first of all, you need to know that my experience was a-typical. So, you might hear about lots of authors that go through many, many rejections of their manuscripts before they actually find a publisher that will publish them. That didn’t happen to me. I in around 2016, I built my first Instagram page, which was called Happy Habits to about 200,000 followers. By the time I received this DM, I no longer have that Instagram page, now that Instagram page is actually managed by my brother. But I’m not associated with it anymore. And when I did have it, though, in 2017, at this stage, I received a DM from a publisher in the US. And she had an unusual name and I initially thought that it was spam. I absolutely I even said to my wife, Nyssa, what, who sends a DM asking someone if they want to write a book? Because that’s what happened. This person said, Rebecca, I love your work. And I’m just wondering whether or not you would like to write a book. I thought, how on earth does this happen? Because honestly, I I’ve written on and off since I was a kid, I had dreams as a child of being a published author, but I never pursued it because it was kind of not really a real job. Not seen as something that was stable. So if I ever wrote it was just kind of in the background. But here I was receiving a message about did I want to write a book and I was thinking, well, yes, I want to write a book. But is this actually real? So I googled the details of the publisher. And that turned out but it was very real. She asked if I would like to write a book and suggested a particular type of content that she was looking for.

Now, bear in mind that I agreed, knowing that I was given no choice in the genre. So from the very beginning, she was looking for a gift book that was practical, kind of had practical self-help advice in it. I wasn’t really given any choice in the title. And I certainly wasn’t given a choice in the cover, or page design, even though I love the cover, and I love the page design, everything worked out. But I agreed on those terms, because I would like to be published. Thank you very much. I was really excited thinking, oh my goodness, I’m actually going to be a published author. I didn’t know what I was doing though, I had absolutely no idea. I didn’t know how to write a book. I didn’t know how to manage book contract negotiations. So I googled literary agents Australia, picked someone from a website and emailed her and we had a phone conversation and she agreed to represent me and remains my agent to this day. So we’ve been working together for years now on we’re currently on our sixth book together. And the first one Be Happy – 35 Powerful Methods for Personal Growth and Well Being was born in 2018 released into the world. So what happened after that was my agent then use that publication to shop me around to Australian publishers. So the publisher that DM’d me on Instagram was based in New York in America. And I wanted to grow my footprint in Australia, and my profile in Australia. So my agent went to work pitching me and the book idea that I had at the time to Australian publishers. Pan Macmillan liked my work, but they weren’t interested in the book that I had in mind. At the time, and this has turned out to be pretty much how we roll, I have an idea and they say look, thanks. But what about this idea. And generally, they know the market much better than I do.

So, what Pan McMillan wanted to do was to sign me with a view to a long-term relationship, starting with testing the selling waters with a couple of gift books. So the Universe Listens to Brave and The Art of Self-Kindness were born in 2019. Those books are collections of my quotes from Instagram, in with just a little introductions to each chapter, on the various topics that I’m talking about in those quotes, and my relationship with Pan Macmillan has actually been truly fantastic, really rewarding. We’ve since published two more books, Setting Boundaries, which is now a best seller in the self-help market in Australia. And just last month, we released my fifth book, which is Small Habits for a Big Life. And I’m now working on my sixth book, which will be released in 2023. My relationship with Pan Macmillan has been so rewarding that I’ve actually never looked elsewhere for another publisher, since we published The Universe Listens to Brave together. There’s something about having a relationship with a publisher who gets you and I have such a great relationship with my specific publisher at Pan Macmillan, that I’m, I see our relationship as something that nurtures my creativity, something that nurtures the work that I want to put out into the world. And so I don’t see myself going anywhere else. Certainly not at this stage anyway. And so what I wanted to share with you is in no particular order, here’s some things I figured out along the way, because a publishing industry can be a little bit secretive. I’m not sure why that is. But it can be, if you hear that groaning that’s my Irish Setter, Jackie, he’s trying to get comfortable. But the publishing industry can be a little bit secretive. I’m not sure whether that’s done on purpose. I don’t think it is. But I certainly didn’t know much about the industry. And I’m still figuring things out along the way. So I wanted to share some things in case they’re helpful.

Firstly, publishers will take you much more seriously if you have an agent representing you. And some publishers won’t even take submissions unless they come via an agent. Now, if you’re thinking Beck, how on earth do I get myself an agent, the thing that I would suggest that you do is just walk into a bookstore, and go to the shelves that hold the books that are of the genre that you want to write. And then find the authors that write something similar, and look who they’re published by and who they’re represented by. Most often, authors will often have who their agent is on their website, or you can Google them and find out who represents them. And then track down that agent and find out either from their own website or from their agency’s website, whether or not they’re open for submissions, and what type of submissions they specialise in. So agents all have their own specialties. Some do nonfiction and fiction, but many just do one or the other. And they often specialise in subspecialties within that. So you might have an agent who specialises in self-development, or an agent who specialises in romantic fiction or Science Fiction, or whatever it is. So what you’re looking for is first, who’s on the shelves that you want to be on, and who would aver is represented by.

Now, in the world of nonfiction, and again, this is my specialty, because I don’t write fiction, the book idea that you have may not be the idea that the publisher thinks will sell. So none of the books that I’ve written so far have been books that I set out to write. They have each evolved based on a lot of massaging between what the publisher wants to offer the market, and what they’re willing to invest in me and how sure they are of what will sell and what won’t. I have learned that my publisher knows the market much better than I do. So I trust both topics suggestions, and also covers suggestions and format suggestions, so much more than what I think I should do. And as I’ve learned along the way, I’ve just gotten smarter about what helps to sell books in terms of covers, in terms of formats. I used to have a history of writing way too much, which is just not fair to the reader. Being succinct will always be received so much better than being lengthy so I’ve learned to not be so boasts. And I’ve learned to trust that my publisher knows just much better about covers and cover design. I used to be super precious about what the cover looked like. Back in The Universe Listens to Brave days, I insisted on a certain colour pink. Because it matched what my branding was at the time. I have to laugh about this, I actually laughed about these with my publisher the other day. I apologised to her and said, look, I was I’m sorry for being so precious, I thought that stuff really mattered. But actually, they just know covers so much better. So now I let go of control of certain things, because I just trust that I don’t need to know what works because they already do.

Now, having said this, it’s up to you how flexible you’re willing to be. I am really quite flexible with my publisher. I’m flexible around topics, especially because I don’t always have ideas about what to do next. So my publisher will often come to me and go, I really would love to see a book about x topic, do you think that that’s something that you can write to and then we’ll work together on how to bring this topic to life in a way that feels like a fit for me. Now, I wanted it to be published to reach a long held dream. So when someone suggested I write a book, I jumped at the chance. And I also wanted to raise my profile, because that helps with the brand overall and getting my message into more people’s hands, which is important to me. So the more flexible I’ve been, the better the process has been for me. But I will say that I haven’t sold my soul with it. Everything that I’ve written, I believed in, even though the original idea I had for a book is actually long gone. So the original book I wanted to write doesn’t exist anymore. And I don’t think I’d ever return to that idea either. Because I’ve moved on from it.

The other thing that I want you to know is that publishers are usually fairly insistent that genres don’t mesh together. So what I initially proposed was kind of a combination of my own story mixed with self-help advice. And their response was like, yeah, thanks, but no thanks. So they don’t usually publish memoir and self-help, because that would cross genres. And that’s what I’d proposed. So it needs to be one or the other. And the other thing to note is that they don’t usually publish memoirs, unless the story is really remarkable in some way, or the person in question has a high profile, and while, everyone has remarkable parts to their lives, my profile certainly wasn’t high enough at the time to warrant them doing any kind of memoir with me.

The other thing to know is that advances these days are actually really small. I don’t live off my book advances by any stretch of the imagination, it has cost me money to write all my books, in that there’s no way the advance would cover the amount of hours spent on writing the book. Now, this might change once you’ve proved yourself as a sellable author. But that can take years and you need to have like books that fly off the shelves in order for that to happen. I have additional income streams to support the time that I spend writing my books, I don’t use my books as my income. So that’s just something to be aware of, especially if you’ve read blogs, perhaps, that have come out of the US and said that you can go and get a six figure advance, or even seven figure advance, unless you’re someone with a huge following, then that’s just not what happens in Australia.

The other thing that is unusual, and I’m not really sure why this is the case, but it is, being traditionally published and what I mean by that is, is a publishing house publishes you rather than you self-publishing, gives you a little bit more credibility. So it’s taken a little bit more seriously, I guess, maybe that’s because every man and his dog can go and publish a book themselves. So, it doesn’t necessarily need to be quality. But traditional publishing is not the only way by any stretch of the imagination. Self-publishing is still an option for many people to choose so that you don’t have to compromise your ideas or your format or your design. And I completely understand people that want to go down that path, especially if what they’re trying to put out into the world is fixed in their mind and they don’t want to have to negotiate around what that looks like. Just be aware though, that when you do self-publish, it costs money. It’s actually a really costly endeavour and then you have to pay for stock of the book and you have to store that stock for the book and you are then in a place where you need to work out all the distribution of your books, how to get it into the market, you need to make sure that you have the cover design, you pay an editor to edit your work, etc, etc, etc, all of that is funded by you. That said, obviously, if you self-publish, you’re in control of all the marketing, and you need to have a marketing plan around that. But even when you’re traditionally published, there’s still a heavy pressure to promote the book placed on the shoulders of the author themselves. So my publisher is always telling me that I should be promoting my books more, always, always. And in the lead up to a book being launched, there’s often media, radio, and for me, most recently, TV commitments, and I have lots of social media promotion that I do to boost pre-orders and initial sales. So just because you’re traditionally published doesn’t mean you get out of promoting your book, publishers rely on you doing that, because you have a direct connection to your audience.

So, if you are listening to this, and you do want to get traditionally published, if you want to get self-published, go for it just Google self-publishing and there are so many options now and even companies that will help you through the process, but just bear in mind that you’ll need to have some funds aside to support that endeavour. If you’d like to get traditionally published. Here’s what I can recommend based on advice from my own publisher.

First of all, go and get yourself an agent, they will help you to navigate the industry and the nightmarishly detailed contracts far more effectively. Contracts are not my strong suit. So I really really value my agents capacity to help in that area and to translate contracts, speak into layman’s terms for me.

Check the publishers submission guidelines on their website and follow them. My publisher Pan Macmillan confirm that every single submission they receive actually does get read, which is a great start. So I can’t speak for other publishers, but I can speak for Pan Macmillan. But I just want you to know that if you don’t follow the submission guidelines, then you actually run the risk that your submission might be overlooked because it’s not in the format that they need it to be.

Check with genres are currently being accepted by that publisher. Because sometimes they close genres for a time if they’ve got too many upcoming publications.

Consider how flexible you are with your idea. And if you don’t want to be flexible with it, or you don’t want that idea to change, then self-publishing might be the best path for you. And continue building a community and serving your audience while you’re doing all of this in the background. Because they are the people that will eventually hand over their hard-earned money for your work in book form. And they deserve to be valued deeply. They deserve to be served in the meantime, because they’re the people that helped spread the word about your message.

So for every single one of you listening who values my work, please know how much I value you. Our relationship is what helps me to exist in this space in the first place. I never ever take it for granted. If you’d like to check out the books that I have published, you can go to rebeccaray.com.au/books, and all of my books are sitting there ready for you to discover. I hope this episode has been helpful. And if you do want to get your work out into the world in book form, I wish you all the very best the world needs your work. I truly believe that. I’ll catch you very shortly for the next episode of Hello Rebecca Ray.

Lovely ones. Thank you so much for listening to Hello, Rebecca Ray. If you’ve got something meaningful from this episode, then the most meaningful thing you can do is jump on over to wherever you listen to your podcast episodes and leave a review. Because it’s those reviews that helped this podcast stay here. Make sure to subscribe. And if you’re generous enough to share this episode, thank you so much. I love seeing your shares on social media. So please tag me, catch you next time.