Writing a book in seven weeks, part 1

book_rainbowOver the next seven weeks, I will be writing the book I mentioned earlier. Obviously that’s going to cut into my blog writing time, so I figured, why not write about the book? Tune in every Monday to hear about how it’s going.

This week, I want to tell you about the differences between writing a book for a publisher and publishing a book yourself, like I did with Otaku Journalism.

Negotiating the contract

When I wrote Otaku Journalism, I didn’t have to answer to anybody. I could change the scope of the book, or deliver more or fewer words, and name it anything I liked. The result was that I had to create it, fund it, and publicize it entirely by myself.

A book contract takes off some of the pressures of self publishing while adding new ones. It (usually) guarantees that you will be paid for your work, no matter how the book does. It provides some ground rules for the book subject matter and how long it should be. It outlines your responsibilities and the publisher’s responsibilities so you can work well together.

I am extremely gunshy about contracts right now. I contributed a chapter for a book in May, for which I signed a contract. I cannot say anything else, but you may have noticed I haven’t blogged at all about having a chapter in an upcoming book soon.

Contracts have a lot of legal jargon in them, so it’s best not to be the only one reading it. This time, I had my sister, who is a lawyer, and my friend, who is a law student, read it over. I also found a book agent over Twitter to review it. I also contacted Washington Area Lawyers for the Arts, a local organization that provides legal assistance to artists and writers.

Ultimately, I’ve realized the best thing to do is get a literary agent. An agent can tell if a contract is typical or not, and you only pay them if you accept the deal—they take a cut of whatever the publisher is offering. I’m starting my search here.

Should you self-publish or not?

When I first started putting Otaku Journalism together, my first thought was to look for a publisher. If a publisher likes your book idea, they can pay you an advance, provide you with a good editor and illustrator, and help you publicize it or go on a book tour.

Well, that’s what I thought. Publishing isn’t the sunshine and rainbows industry it used to be. As print book sales go down, today’s publishers are more risk-averse. They would never accept a book with “otaku” in the title, much less something as niche as a journalism textbook (already fringe) aimed at a select set of geeks who are into writing. And if they did accept my book, they might suggest changes to make it less nerdy or obscure.

In the end, it came down to that question, posed to me by a traditionally published author: “Why do this as a traditional book? It’s for a very specific niche and it’s something you would know way better than any publisher would.” He had a point. And in the end, I had a great time self-publishing and it will continue to be my preferred method for any ideas I have myself.

I have never traditionally published a book, so I don’t know yet if there are hidden advantages I don’t know about. Certainly it’s helpful to have access to a printing press. I could only afford to publish Otaku Journalism digitally, but I’m pretty sure the book I’m writing now, full of glossy cosplay photoshoots, will only be in print form.

Is there anything you’d like to know about writing a book? I’ll do my best to answer as this series progresses over the next seven weeks.

Writing a book in seven weeks, part 6

Writing a book in seven weeks, part 5

Writing a book in seven weeks, part 4

Writing a book in seven weeks, part 3

Writing a book in seven weeks, part 2

Photo by Dawn Endico