In What Category Is Your Book?
By Barry Beckham

Placing Your Book: Which of the Nine Categories?

One of the challenges any writer faces in placing a book with an agent or publisher (or preferably both) is knowing exactly what it is she has written and how it should be identified. Even if you publish your book yourself, you should be able to categorize it.

It's important therefore that you know which of the nine categories your book fits into before you start writing. And certainly your should know before you start approaching agents and publishers. If you are not sure, they won't have a clue either. By now you have come to the conclusion that the entire publishing process is like any other process;it has its conventions and rules and guidelines.

Some books "cross over" from one category to another, but as much as possible it's best to avoid crossover problems because it's harder to market a book that doesn't fit clearly into one category.

Here are the nine categories and their characteristics:

1. The Trade Book: This is a book, either in nonfiction or in fiction, that is geared toward the general reader and the trade. It can be hardcover or paperback. The term trade refers to retail sales in stores that get a basic trade discount of 40 percent rather than mail order or book clubs or even premium sales. In fiction, this would include literary novels, romance novels, and thrillers. For nonfiction, a trade book would be a how-to, self-help book, biography, or the like; again, anything that is sold with a typical trade discount to stores. They usually have a larger trims size than mass market paperbacks but usually smaller print runs.

2. The Mass Market Paperback is usually a novel packaged as a small paperback, sold not only at bookstores but also at discount and grocery stores. When people say, "I'll wait for it to come out in paperback," they're referring to mass market trade paperbacks with large print runs. Generally mass market paperbacks are produced after a book does well in hardcover.

3. The Juvenile Book includes everything from picture books for toddlers up to young adult novels. Anything that fits into a "children's" or "teen's" area of reading is a juvenile book, although some young adult (YA) novels are fairly sophisticated. It's really the audience that matters in this case.

4. The Professional Book is aimed at members of a specific profession, often published in hardcover with no jacket. Law books, books of regulations, and professional training books fall into this category.

5. The Scholarly and University Press Book differs from professional books in that they are not necessarily aimed at members of one profession, but are based on scholarly research and are a little more specialized in their topics than general trade books. They are usually produced by faculty who teach at educational institutions.

6. The Subscription Reference Book like Literary Marketplace or Bacon's Media Guide, contains specialized, time-sensitive reference information, and must be updated or replaced each year. Physician's Desk Reference is another good example of this type of book.

7. The Elementary or High School Textbook is for younger children or teens and uses a fairly elementary language. These titles include many illustrations, examples, and graphics. They should be geared primarily toward students who are learning about this subject area for the first time.

8. The College Textbook uses more sophisticated language and are more advanced; but they should still concentrate on teaching the subject rather than just reviewing information. College textbooks are often considered "dry" reading, but it shouldn't need to be.

9. The Religious Book covers just about any book on a religious subject, from Bible studies and spiritual books by Billy Graham to books on the history of Islam or the beliefs of Judaism.

By understanding where you book fits in and placing it solidly in one category, you greatly increase your chances of being accepted by an agent and publisher. For more information, visit

Barry Beckham is a novelist and CEO of the Beckham Publications Group, Inc.

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How to Prepare Your Manuscript
By Barry Beckham

Remember that you want to make a good impression and that the preparation of your manuscript is the first step. When you're preparing a manuscript, whether it's an article, a short story, or a novel, there are certain styles that make your piece stand out. You want it to look professional-not like the large percentage of manuscripts that appear as if the writer took no care at all in the presentation.

Writers disagree on whether editors really care about the typeface and the line spacing and whether the manuscript follows a certain style or format. Some editors don't care about these things, but all are impressed with presentation by writers who took time to prepare them in the conventional manner. There are at least two reasons to follow the general conventions.

First, while some editors don't care, most do, and it's always better to please the ones who care.

Second, manuscripts prepared in the conventional style are easy to estimate for word count. Newer fonts are spaced differently, and word processors do not count words in the same way as a typesetter counts them. Especially for books and for articles that have to fit a certain space, this count and spacing issue matters. In some cases, it matters a lot.

So how do you prepare that manuscript?

In your word processing program, set your font to Times Roman, 12 point or a similar serif font. Serif fonts have feet while arial fonts are smooth. The emphasis should be on making your manuscript easy to read. You don't have to put two spaces after each period; that's an old fashioned approach that interferes with the new electronic typesetting methods. Use one and a quarter-inch margins at the top, bottom and left-hand side. On the right, use a one-and-a-half unjustified margin so that the editor can make comments. Set the line spacing to exactly 25.

Set your indent at half an inch, and put no spaces between paragraphs. With this setup, you will have about 250 words per page. Double space of course. New chapters should begin a third or halfway down the page. Watch out for "orphans"-the last word of a paragraph that appears as a single word on the following page.

If you're submitting an article or short story, type your name and address in the upper right-hand corner. You do not need to put a copyright notice or your Social Security number, as some guides recommend. Here's a little-known fact: you are already protected by the copyright laws of the United States as soon as you create a manuscript or document. Leave two blank lines and type the title centered on the page. On all following pages, include your last name, an identifying part of the title, and the page number.

Put your last name, title (or portion of title) and page number on all subsequent pages.

Always use white paper. Twenty pound copier paper is fine, although a twenty-four pound inkjet or laser printer feels a little nicer. You don't have to buy special resume or 100% cotton papers. Editors are accustomed to the same kind of paper you use in your printer every day, and they don't want anything unusual.

If you're sending your manuscript in an envelope, send it flat rather than folded. If you're mailing a book manuscript, use a manuscript box. They are available at most office supply stores. By following these suggestions, you can produce a manuscript that any editor will be happy to review.

Barry Beckham is a novelist and CEO of the Beckham Publications Group, Inc.

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How to Find an Editor or Ghostwriter
By Barry Beckham

You have a great idea but you need help. You aren't the world's greatest writer, but you know what makes a good story. Or you have an idea for a non-fiction book in an area where you're an expert. But you're not a writer and don't feel you want to become a writer. Not to fret; you can produce that story or book with the help of a ghostwriter--someone who writes the words that you publish in your own name.

On the other hand, if you have already written the work or are writing it now but feel that it can be improved, you may want to hire an editor to add the professional polish that readers expect of a published. While the two types of writing assistance are very different in some ways, they are similar enough that we can apply parallel methods when seeking the right fit.

First consider what kind of background and qualifications are important. Is it a work of humor? Scientific? Technical? Literary narrative or detective fiction? Has the editor any experience in this specific area? You definitely want to be sure that the editor or ghostwriter has had experience if your topic fits into a specialized niche--like a diet guide or Internet marketing.

You may also want someone with a proven track record as a ghostwriter or editor. Ask for references. Some ghostwriters may explain that they can't reveal what they've written. Still, they should be able to give you the names of two or three people who will vouch for they professional capability. Some very good writers and editors are new to ghostwriting and editing, but have long experience working with clients or for a particular company. Again, you should be able to check references and verify this experience.

Once you have your topic in mind, and know what kind of experience and assistance you want from your ghostwriter or editor, it's time to look for that right person. Keep in mind that you can consider yourself a producer with little writing talent but one who knows what the finished product should look like. Taking this approach, many Internet marketers have produced ebooks by simply finding a hot topic, coming up with an outline, and assigning the completion of the book to a ghostwriter.

Many editors and ghostwriters have web sites. And you can do a search for freelance editor or ghostwriter and peruse individual web sites to find someone you're interested in working with. Don't overlook the local writer organizations. You can then ask that person for a quote and initiate a relationship if you choose to move forward. Many editors and ghostwriters also advertise in writing magazines like Writers Digest and The Writer. Contact the ones you're interested in, just as you would with Web sites.

A faster and increasingly popular way to find a good editor or ghostwriter is through one of the many freelance online marketplaces like elance, guru, and rentacoder. You can post project requirements and explain exactly what you need, giving a price range for what you're willing to pay. Responses usually appear within hours. This is a favorite method for many because they can view profiles and get bids from several editors and ghostwriters.

Freelance editors and ghostwriters will then bid on your project. You choose the person who most closely matches what you're looking for. Be sure to look at the portfolios and feedback of the writers and editors. And don't feel shy about asking questions in the private message areas and even giving sample assignments. Keep in mind the possible headaches and time lost if you choose the wrong person.

Regardless of how you select your editor or ghostwriter, be sure from the start that you both know what you expect and how the editor or writer is going to help you. Have clear guidelines and keep communication open throughout the process. Hiring an editor or ghostwriter is a great way to get your words on paper. The arrangement can lead to a long and successful career as an author.

And finally, consider the new self publishing assistance programs like joint venture publishing where you get a full service approach including an editor who will polish your work to a professional level.

Barry Beckham is a novelist and CEO of the Beckham Publications Group, Inc.

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