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Book Review: A People’s Guide to Publishing

A PEOPLE'S GUIDE TO PUBLISHING by Joe Biel is an intensely readable guidebook to starting and sustaining a book business from the ground up. Check out what Joe Walters of Independent Book Review thinks of this nonfiction title from Microcosm Publishing.

“Book Review: A People’s Guide to Publishing”

Reviewed by Joe Walters

This is an original photograph by Independent Book Review of the paperback book of A People's Guide to Publishing on a multi-colored background

Reading A People’s Guide to Publishing feels like cheating. Like a chef revealing his secret recipes, Joe Biel gives us all the information we need to find success in book businesses.

But us book people stick together. Writers. Readers. Industry pros. When one person gets on the mic, we gather around to listen. There’s always something new to learn, and the audience has one primary interest in common: More. Good. Books.

So maybe it’s not cheating. Maybe author Joe Biel wants us to stick together even more after releasing A People’s Guide to Publishing: Build a successful, sustainable, meaningful, book business from the ground up. Maybe he wants to show us how to start a small press, how to publish books successfully even though his company (Microcosm Publishing) is still alive and well. There’s no competition in here. There’s only excitement, a few laughs, and all of the helpful information authors and would-be publishers are in search of.

A People’s Guide to Publishing is structured like the life-cycle of a small press or self-published book. It begins with an idea, research, and a goal. Before you publish, you’ll need to learn from chapters like “What a Publisher Does,” to put you in the mindset of a book business owner, and explore “Title Development: How to Make Books that People Will Find & Relate to.” This book doesn’t skimp out on the details to help you understand what successful publishers have done in order to succeed and which tactics you could adopt to become successful, too.

As the book progresses, it travels through the publishing process. It takes you all the way through printing and editorial to “Publicity & Launch.” With practical homework at the end of each chapter, this book really does act as the intensely readable guide to publishing that the title suggests.

“If a stranger can’t determine the emotional payoff of your books from looking at the covers, then someone must be present to verbally offer these details to each person who might be interested.”

Since I can’t reprint the whole book for you (sorry), I’d love to share a few highlights of what I learned while reading A People’s Guide to Publishing:

  • How to choose your book’s price, size, release date, and cover based on market needs and demands
  • Where to sell books
  • The process that consumers go through before buying
  • Reaching out to libraries and non-bookstore sales channels
  • How to pack boxes without damaging books
  • How to have a conversation about your book and why it’s okay to mess up
  • How to develop your book to be appealing for bookstores

Biel got started publishing the same way that anyone does: he decided to do it. He had to figure out new ways to make his business work and discover development, marketing, and sales tactics along the way. He even shared what he tried in the beginning (like joining bands on their tours) and what he continues to do to this day. It was helpful to follow his journey and to envision which paths I might take if I started my own book business.

For those of you who are not considering opening your own small press, this book is also applicable for self-publishing authors and traditional authors. After all, what is a self-publisher other than their own (very) small press, and what is an author other than the content writer for a product? This book helps authors understand what publishers are thinking so that authors can make their books either appealing to publishers in a pitch or to stand right beside them on the shelves.

“Marketing is responsible for researching, identifying, and selecting comp titles for each book as well as researching how these comp titles were successful and how to imitate translatable parts of the success.”

If you’re going to buy a book about how to make a good book, you’d better hope that it’s a good one. And lucky for us, A People’s Guide to Publishing is just that. I’d recommend it to traditional authors looking to gain insight into the industry, self-publishing authors, small presses, and people who are considering a future in the industry. I had a great time with it, and I really think you would too.

Publisher: Microcosm Publishing

ISBN: 978-1621062851


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