Four Lessons in Book Publishing

by Jenn (eating bender) on March 26, 2012

Today I’m excited to share a Guest Bender post from Kyle Rutkin. Kyle is the author of This Is Your Heart in Love. You can read more of his work at Interested in submitting a guest post related to food, fitness, writing or publishing? Send me an email at


Four Lessons in Book Publishing

We all saw it happen to the music industry. The fall of Tower Records and Sam Goody, the rise of the iPod, the birth of digital downloads. Today the publishing world is undergoing a very similar reconstruction as digital books become more and more popular.

Traditional publishing is tightening its spending while digital platforms are opening theirs. To me, there has never been a better time to be a writer. Here are four things you need to know if you’re deciding whether to go traditional or self-publish.

1. Getting An Agent Can Feel Like Writing to The North Pole

When I first started querying agents for my manuscript, I thought it would be a breeze. I would send two or three and all of them would be blowing up my phone for a one on one with me – so naive. Instead, I sent batches and batches of query letters, only to get one or two responses requesting a five-page partial draft. Then after a few weeks, a form letter saying it was not in their ballpark or not what they normally represent, etc. etc.

The truth is that getting a literary agent can take time. Sometimes it takes the perfect storm: an agent who is looking for something very specific at the exact moment your awesomely written book lands on their desk. Therefore, you will need to be a very big advocate of persistence. You not only have to search for the right agent, but you also have to send an amazing query, wait for them to read it, swallow rejection and try again.

Even if they do take on your work, they have to sell it. Sometimes they will, and sometimes they won’t. The publishing industry is getting pickier and pickier. Your work has to not only speak to them, but also be commercial enough to sell. If you make it through, you will always have a name brand as an author from a major publisher. But as I said before, the landscape is changing and this is NOT your only option.

Before you start querying literary agents, you have to decide how bad you want a publishing deal. If you want it bad enough, I have no doubt that it will come. For those who would rather spend their time writing than dedicating their energy to representation, there are other options.

2. Kindle Is Key

The popularity of Kindle is a great way for authors get their work out there and not only test the market, but also make money. Right? Who would have thought, a writer actually making money? The greatest feature about Kindle is that it’s an inexpensive way to get your work to the masses. First off, there is no layout, binding or distribution concerns. If you have a cover and a Word document, you can put your work on Kindle and start driving traffic. Kindle also has promotional tools such as lending or even giving the eBook away for free over five-day periods. During these five days, you will see people who wouldn’t normally buy your book, “give it a try.” If your book is good, this is a great way to start generating word of mouth.

3. Should You Self-Publish a Hard Copy?

I self-published my first novel with Lightning Source in 2011. I will never regret it (it was nice to hold and feel a hardbound copy of my book) but with the rise of digital today, it would be a tough decision as to whether I would ever go the same route. In 2010, after spending so much time just querying agents and not doing what I love, I decided to release my book to the world. Easy, right? Well… here are the advantages and disadvantages.


  • Lightning Source set me up with Ingram distribution, which means my book was carried at, and on Ingram’s massive catalog. Not only that, but the service is “On Demand,” so I never had to take inventory and fill up my living room with books.
  • Holding a hardbound copy helps with marketing as well, since people will be able to see your book in homes and offices across the country.
  • I was able to send copies out to bloggers and authors for review and/or endorsements. Plus, it really did feel and look like any book you would find at Barnes and Noble.

So what are the disadvantages? Well, self-publishing can be costly and time consuming. If you need cover designs, ISBNs, layouts and editing done, those will all add up. Plus, if you have a few typos or any issues at all, get ready to have to resubmit your file and pay even more fees on top of your set up. And even if you do put in all the work to get your book to the world, the battle has just begun. You have to market yourself and convince someone who has never heard of you to buy a physical copy of your book, which is not easy in a world of $2.99 Kindle books.

So what’s the solution? If I could do it over again, I would first submit my book to Kindle. Since there is no layout required, I would have gotten a friend to make an awesome cover and then had an editor clean it up. Then boom, I’d be on Kindle in no time. This would allow me to test the market. If there was a huge demand for the title, then I would make it available in hardbound. If readers aren’t consumed by the book, as Jay-Z once said, “On to the next one.”

4. Don’t Keep Buying “How To Get Published” and “How To Build A Platform Books”

It’s awesome to read books about your subject but honestly, most of the self-help publishing books are filled with a lot common sense. It’s made for people who like to read about their subject and not act. The truth is, it’s going to take hard work and persistence. It doesn’t matter if you’re J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter was denied by all the publishing houses at first go around) or the author of The Help (60 rejection letters from literary agents), you have to act and be persistent. You don’t have to read books about gaining a platform – you just have to build it. You have to put your work out there, you have to connect with other writers and readers and you have to market yourself.

Most of the information that these books do have – such as how to produce a good query, and what publishers are looking for – is ALL online anyway. The key is to start building your network way before you even think about releasing your work. Find peers and groups, join anything and everything and by all means, keep writing. Find blogs to write on, start creating valuable content and keep making progress toward your dream every day.

Whether you publish traditionally or self-publish, marketing your book falls solely on you. And in a world of unlimited shelf space, it’s tough to stand out.  Everyone talks about building a platform, but what does that REALLY mean? A platform means you invest time and resources in connecting with people. It means engaging the community and being consistent. It doesn’t happen overnight, and you can’t expect for everyone in the community to immediately embrace your work. Be persistent, produce content and market your work. Eventually the right eyes will land on your words.


Big thanks again to Kyle for the informative post! We’d both love to hear your opinions.

Do you prefer “real” or eBooks? Do you ever read free eBooks from new authors?


1 Cara (Twinthusiast) March 26, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Great post, Kyle! A word of advice for anyone querying a literary agency (from someone who used to weed through hundreds of queries) — DO NOT send blanket submissions to multiple agencies. Make sure to do your research in advance to tailor your letter to the particular agency and agent you are querying. Blanket submissions will be rejected with a quick glance. Take the time to match your genre and subject matter to agents who represent your type of book. Make sure your letter has absolutely no errors and quickly gets to the point. Finally, be persistent! Good luck to all the aspiring writers out there, and extra kudos to those who are carving out new niches for themselves with the rise of digital publishing.
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2 Jenn (eating bender) March 27, 2012 at 8:50 am

Fantastic advice from one smart sister-in-law (and former book editor, so listen up)!

3 Kyle March 27, 2012 at 11:02 am

@ Cara TOTALLY! They won’t even bother sending a rejection if you mass email, haha. Totally did that at first :)

4 Erin March 26, 2012 at 6:13 pm

Kyle, thanks for being born so attractive…and the content
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5 Kyle March 27, 2012 at 11:03 am

HAHAHHA THANKS! It’s the only professional photo I have that’s not a random facebook tag.
Kyle recently posted..Wiki Leaks @ FacebookMy Profile

6 Kim March 26, 2012 at 7:22 pm

Fantastic advice. It is really an exciting (and totally petrifying) time in the publishing world. Self-publishing can be so empowering, and in some cases, more lucrative, than traditional publishing deals. Especially if you have your own platform–like a well followed blog. I’m not sure if my advice is needed, but if I could also suggest the importance of networking in the publishing industry. Taking classes with working agents and editors was really instrumental in my development as a writer. I found my literary agent in a Media Bistro class, and have made really helpful relationships with editors through similar classes. It never hurts to study your craft, but sometimes it can REALLY help.
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7 Jenn (eating bender) March 27, 2012 at 8:53 am

Great advice, Kim! I didn’t even think about taking those types of classes (though now it seems like I should have). I’m going to have to look at Media Bistro. Thank you!

8 Kyle March 27, 2012 at 11:07 am

@ Kim

I agree with you 1000%. The only great thing about traditional publishing is it can help unknown writers build their platform. But if you already have a following, there are so many other options available now to get your work out there.
Kyle recently posted..Wiki Leaks @ FacebookMy Profile

9 Liz @ iheartvegetables March 26, 2012 at 9:00 pm

I love the novelty of “real” books, but I have a kindle, and if we’re being realistic… I usually only read what’s on my kindle!

10 Jenn (eating bender) March 27, 2012 at 8:53 am

I’m sure if I had one I’d feel the same way because it’s so easy. I just can’t bring myself to give up the books even though we have no room for them, haha!

11 Kyle March 27, 2012 at 11:09 am


I know I’m so torn. Unlike CD’s, I think books will always have a place. BUT, kindle is so freakin convenient and there’s so many good books on there that are so well priced. It’s almost like an iphone app store now! haha.
Kyle recently posted..Wiki Leaks @ FacebookMy Profile

12 Bill Rand March 27, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Hey Jenn,

How did you know that I was on the fence about this? Very timely, digestible post. Thanks!

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