Great Courses: How To Publish Your Book, by Jane Friedman
Being a fan of the Great Courses in general , and being a fan of book publishing given my avocational interests as a writer , this class was obviously a solid fit and squarely within my passionate interests. The person who listens to this book should have a passionate interest in writing and at least some interest in the processes of publishing and the logistics of publishing with a publisher or self-publishing , and should be willing to handle the particularly unsentimental approach that the instructor takes with the material. Of course, it should also be noted that the instructor for this course had spent years working as an editor and she read at least as many mediocre and boring books seeking publishers as I have, and that process admittedly makes someone unsympathetic towards books that lack skill and inspiration. This course is designed for writers with some sort of careerist ambitions, and for those writers who take their craft seriously and want to make themselves better writers and stretch themselves beyond their comfort zones, this is a book of great worth.
As far as the Great Courses go, this is one of the longer and more thorough ones that I have listened to, containing 24 lectures on 12 cds, each lecture half an hour in length. The lectures cover a wide variety of aspects that are useful for the professionally-inclined writer, including a discussion of the contemporary book publishing landscape, the need to define fiction or nonfiction genre, how to research writers’ markets, what to expect from a literary agent, and tips on how to write a good query letter. After that the instructor gives lessons on writing a novel or memoir synopsis and the importance of how to develop a good writer’s platform, as well as how to research and plan one’s book proposal and how to write an effective one. Following this the instructor discusses submissions and publishing etiquette, how to properly network with others in the publishing field, how to pitch one’s book and avoid common manuscript pitfalls. Then there is advice on hiring a professional editor and how writers handle rejection (hint: it’s not well usually), as well as overcoming obstacles to writing and examining the book publishing contract. After this the instructor’s advice is given with the assumption that some sort of publishing is likely, discussing how to work effectively with a publisher, how to become a bestselling author, career marketing strategies for writers, the path of self-publishing, principles of self-publishing success, and finally sharing ideas beyond books in the digital age. Throughout the instructor walks a fine line in tone between optimistic and even flattering to the audience of the class for having taken the time to research and take a class on how to succeed in publishing as well as unsparing and unsentimental when it comes to the state of the business itself.
The real test of a course like this is its practical content. In listening to this course, I was reasonably pleased to hear that I was not that far from a high level of maturity when it came to my own writing, with nearly 20,000 blog viewers a month and years of practice in reading and writing. That said, there were a few obvious takeaways I found that would be of great help in my own writing. For one, starting a monthly e-mail newsletter would be good, and this book had some resources to provide for establishing that. For another, it would be good to find a writing mentor who was able to give encouragement and provide wisdom in improving my writing further. Other useful tips included working on multi-media presentations, like discussions of the sort of materials I would like to convey in written form via podcasts, as well as establishing a stronger web presence. These are all things that are not too far out of reach, and it was encouraging for me to listen to this particular audiobook and get some genuine tips and assistance in my own strategies for future writing projects. Hopefully, if you take your writing as seriously as I do, this course will be of use to you as well.
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