A Publisher's Conversation with Authors: Do I Need a Book Shepherd?

(photo by Frank Perez)

It is Tuesday. Time to tall turkey. Monday's madness is over, and Wednesday will take us over the hump, so Tuesday it is--for some serious discussion with authors. Tuesday talks mean to address authors in waiting and self-published authors who would like to go a more traditional route or who would at least like to take their steps with a publisher by their side.

Today's topic is about book shepherds. Do you need one?  What can you expect from one? What should you not expect from one? How should you go about finding one? 

So, let's take each question separately.

Do you need a book shepherd?

  • Have you self-published successfully before (good sales, awards, recognition)? 
    • Yes. You probably do not need a book shepherd..
    • No. Consider hiring a book shepherd..
  • Is this your first book?
    • Yes. If you have a mentor or a strong editor to guide you, you may not need a book shepherd, at least for the writing part.
    • No. Consider hiring a book shepherd who can provide some guidance for long-term book acceptance and success to you as you write your manuscript.
  • Do you have the range of skills to prepare and typeset documents, to design covers, to evaluate artwork of others?
    • Yes. You can probably go it alone.
    • No. Sounds like you need help. Consider hiring a book shepherd.
  • Are you loner by nature, or are you more gregarious and work best with others?
    • Yes. You may not need a book shepherd.
    • No. A book shepherd can become your companion in the publishing process.
  • Do you have contacts in the publishing world?  
    • Yes. Check with them to see if they can provide all the help you need.
    • No. You need some help!
  • Do you understand the business aspects of publishing?
    • Yes, That's good; ultimately, every author should!
    • No. Then, don't do it alone. Get some help! Find a book shepherd!

    • Do you know the current state of the market for your book genre?
      • Yes? Perfect!
      • No. Find a book shepherd!

    What can you expect from a book shepherd?

    • Feedback on book title and contents.
    • Editorial and art assistance.
    • Guidance in decisions about book format.
    • Development of pre-publication strategies.
    • Guidance in building your business.
    • Help with a platform, marketing strategies, and promotion plan.
    • Assistance with distribution.
    • Moral support.

    What should you do not expect from a book shepherd?

    • A book shepherd is not a publicist; while some help can be provided in that respect, if you need a publicist, you should hire a publicist.
    • Guaranteed reviews; no one can promise a specific number of reviews.
    • Doing all the work -- you have to work, too; what you put into it predicts to a large extent what you will get out of it (i.e. your book's success),

    How do you go about finding a book shepherd?

    • For starters, take a look at Judith Briles' website.
    • Get a recommendation from an authors' association.
    • Be sure to interview possible candidates and make wise decisions -- some guidance is available at Writer's Fun Zone.

    Want to read more on this topic? Check out what The Book Designer has to say HERE.

    Lesson for today's Tuesday talk: Book shepherds are contractors who work for you and can often act as mentors, companions on a journey, and givers of moral support when needed.
    Book shepherds are not going to do all the promotional work for you, but they will guide you into working successfully. Find someone good, and then work your fingers off, following the book shepherd's advice. 

    Read more posts about publishing HERE.

    The Tuesday talks reflect real discussions between the management of MSI Press LLC and our own authors or those would-be authors who come through our doors but don't make the cut--yet. If you have a topic you would like addressed, leave the question in the comment section. Chances are, in our 17 years of publishing first-time and experiences authors, we have had a conversation with one of our authors that we can share with you.


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