Selfie to Shelfie

Self-publishing websites offer non-fiction authors an easy way to turn their manuscript into a book. But the result is almost always Print on Demand, while marketing is limited to a few websites and usually the only people who buy the book are the author and a some of their friends. If you have a marketable subject and a solid manuscript, it can be worth the extra effort to get your book into a mainstream publishing house. Agency author Jeff Maynard explains how he helps non-fiction authors navigate the final stages of the journey.

Many people write a non-fiction book and then meet a wall of frustration and delay as they attempt to attract interest from an agent or a publisher. This often drives an author into the arms of a burgeoning self-publishing industry. To the person who has spent years acquiring their knowledge, then more years writing their book, the self-publishing industry can be attractive. They can finally hold their book in their hands, show it to friends and say, “Look what I did. I’m published.”

But there are drawbacks and one of the biggest is distribution. Having your book ‘published’ and listed on a few websites, (usually as eBooks or Print On Demand) means you buy a few copies yourself, just to keep, then you are working hard (and paying fees) to sell other copies.

What I do is work with non-fiction authors, if they have a solid idea, to take them through the steps of giving their manuscript the best chance of attracting a reputable agent or publisher and, with that, get their book into more mainstream distribution channels, including onto the shelves of bookshops and libraries.

One of the first things to be recognised in this process is that non-fiction books are not marketed the same as fiction. Fiction authors usually build a following for their books, so the author’s name on the cover is a large part of the marketing.

Non-fiction is different. You are marketing a subject. Your market is interested in books about certain topics—it may be historical, pets, cooking, self-help, investing, insider knowledge on war/politics/sport or a host of other subjects.

Mentoring a non-fiction author to take their book to another level, involves making sure their manuscript has been written to a professional standard. Be prepared for rewrites. Whatever the topic, the author is still telling a story, so structure is important. And the author’s personality or point-of-view still needs to emerge. Once the manuscript is in the best shape possible, then title, sub-title and blurb are critical. Support documentation is also critical.

The fees for my mentoring service are structured, depending on the number of services required and the time involved. Importantly, I don’t want to waste an author’s money and my time, so I usually ask for a one-page summary of the topic and the author’s background. I will read that without fee or obligation. If I believe there is potential in the project I will then propose a fee structure based on time and let the author decide.

My mentoring service is not for everyone. But if you have a marketable topic, a unique knowledge of that topic and you are willing to work through potential rewrites, then I might be the person to help you get your book out of the self-published world and onto bookshelves.

About article author

Jeff Maynard

Jeff Maynard

Jeff Maynard is an Australian author and documentary maker. His books include Niagara's Gold, Divers in Time and The Letterbox War of Kamarooka Street. Jeff has written widely for television and contributed articles to magazines around the world. He is a former editor of Australian Motorcycle Ne...More about Jeff Maynard