Monday, April 23, 2012

Should I Write My Health Care Textbook Before Sending It to a Publisher?

NO!!!

Do NOT write the whole book before you talk to a publisher!

NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

(Loud panting.)

Sorry, I got a little carried away, there.

Every now and then an aspiring author tells me that the book they're working on is nearly finished, and would I consider publishing it. I try to control my emotions and explain slowly and clearly why that's not a good idea.

No publisher, no guidance

Authors generally write their entire first novel before finding a publisher, and that's fine. It works in trade publishing. But in educational publishing, it won't fly.

Successfully authoring a textbook or clinical reference without a publisher is rather like trying to drive cross-country alone, without a map, and expecting never to get lost. It could happen, but the odds are amassed against it.

In textbook publishing the publisher is the author's best friend. The publisher and her team (or, in my case, his team) help the author by:
  • fine-tuning the author's vision for the book
  • delineating the specific market
  • analyzing and enhancing the features of the book, including such tasks as:
    • identifying and formatting themed sidebars
    • reviewing the table of contents with an eye to the book's marketability, not just its clinical and pedagogical organization
    • providing expert feedback about specific chapter content, paying particular attention to pedagogy, clarity, organization, tone, and consistency in presentation
  • serving as champion for the author's clinical and creative vision when dealing with the publishing company's decision-making body
  • providing essential feedback early in the process to avoid problems later

Let experience be your guide

Experienced authors know well the benefits that a trusted publisher can bring to a project. I don't think any of my experienced authors would ever attempt to author a new textbook without getting a publisher first.

They've learned firsthand the value of having fresh insight into their vision. They know just how incredibly important a developmental editor's work is. They understand unequivocally how  important it is to marry the vision for the book with the markets best suited for it.

So take a lesson, you first-timers. Talk to a publisher before writing your entire manuscript. You'll be glad you did.

[Large, contented sigh of relief.]