In this wide-ranging conversation with multi-published author, Kimberly Ann Johnson, we discuss the ever-changing landscape of book publishing. My friendship with Kimberly dates back to 2011, and we worked on her first book proposal from 2012 – 2014 (going to every single cafe in Rio de Janeiro, where she lived then). Kimberly’s potential was obvious to me, and in the years since, it has come to fruition fully. Our time in Brazil laid the foundation for a fruitful collaboration that has spanned several years, different continents, and multiple book projects. In this episode of her podcast, Sex.Birth.Trauma., we focus on the changing publishing industry. We talk about my experience with both traditional and self-publishing, and working with many authors, from the seasoned to the first-time.

Specific highlights include:

  • What’s happening in publishing right now, including traditional publishing, self-publishing, and hybrid publishing
  • Why book proposals are so important in guiding the book writing process and securing deals
  • How understanding the differences between self-publishing and traditional publishing is essential for starting your proposal process
  • Why strong audience engagement is key when proposing a book
  • How my Book Proposal Academy uses a structured approach to developing non-fiction book proposals (and books!)

Key Moments: 

  • 06:59  From Self-Publishing to Working with Different Houses
  • 16:59  Exploring the Evolution of Proposal Processes Over the Years
  • 17:04  From Writing Proposals to Reaping Rewards: A Journey in Publishing
  • 30:35  Trends and Challenges in the Book Publishing Industry
  • 39:00  Navigating the Challenges and Rewards of the Book Market Industry
  • 42:58  Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing and Building an Engaged Audience
  • 46:30  The Importance of Book Proposals in Writing and Publishing
  • 56:24  The Key to Pursuing a Book Proposal

The Evolving Landscape of Book Publishing

In this episode, Kimberly and I discuss the shifting landscape of publishing. It has undergone significant changes since our initial collaboration in 2012-2014. Recently, the COVID-19 pandemic altered many more things, from printing presses to reader bandwidth. With all the turmoil in the world, readers are much more sensitive to “dark” content these days. They need more uplifting and hopeful narratives, even if the content is “heavy.”

Interestingly, BookTok has emerged as a powerful force in shaping bestseller lists (mostly in genre fiction and romance) and reader’s tastes. This has shown us the power of grass-roots enthusiasm, and how a strong online push can mobilize readers to buy and share books they love.  


Navigating the Proposal Process: From Novice to Seasoned Author

Kimberly’s journey from a first-time author to seasoned writer highlights the evolving nature of authorship. As a newcomer, Kimberly faced the challenge of establishing her platform and demonstrating her credibility to publishers. (We worked closely together to shape her first proposal– that became her break-out book, The Fourth Trimester.)

In contrast, Kimberly’s recent proposal for Colorado publisher, Sounds True, showcased her established track record, relationships with readers, and understanding of the industry. This allowed for a more efficient proposal writing process and faster, more focused pitching (not that it didn’t also require a lot of thought!).


The Importance of the Book Proposal

Book proposals play a crucial role in the book writing process, regardless of an author’s experience. You may be just starting out – or, you might be a seasoned author, or somewhere in between. In all cases, the proposal serves as your roadmap, guiding you through your own writing (key!) so that you don’t get lost or discouraged along the way. Of course, the proposal also ensures that your book aligns with the publisher’s aims, too, and with readers’ needs.

Book Proposal Academy is my comprehensive program to help authors navigate this essential step. By breaking down the book proposal into manageable phases, the academy equips people with the tools and strategies to craft a compelling proposal that can lead to a great book deal. We also deal a lot with writerly habits and mindset issues, as these are important parts of being an author.


The Evolving Roles of Authors and Publishers

The publishing landscape is evolving, with authors – like all artists and creative people – taking on more entrepreneurial responsibilities. Hybrid publishing models are proliferating, and recently a celebrity hybrid publisher was created to collaborate with established, high-profile authors to help them leverage their resources and expertise.

Along these lines, self-publishing has become a much more viable option for authors with significant online followings. I just caution people that self-publishing requires a substantial entrepreneurial mindset and marketing effort–often something that impatient writers overlook! Simply uploading a book to Amazon with no outreach guarantees that the book will fall to the bottom of Amazon, never to be seen again.


Embracing the Journey: Perseverance and Adaptability

Our conversation highlights the importance of perseverance and adaptability in the publishing world. As the industry continues to evolve, authors must be willing to embrace change, explore new opportunities, and continuously refine their craft.

I think that the most important thing for aspiring authors to remember is to trust your inner voice and passion, as this can guide you through the challenges and uncertainties of the publishing journey. By staying true to your vision and leveraging the support of experienced professionals, you can navigate the ever-changing landscape and achieve your goals.

Our discussion offers a comprehensive understanding of the current state of book publishing. From the impact of COVID-19 to the rise of social media influencers, the industry is undergoing a transformative period. By adapting to these changes and leveraging their expertise, authors can position themselves for success in this dynamic and rewarding field. I hope you’ll take a listen!

Book Proposal Academy