In the Trenches of Indie Publishing: One Author's Story

 Production editor Nicole with author Mark Lipton at the NYC launch of  Mean Men , September 5, 2017

Production editor Nicole with author Mark Lipton at the NYC launch of Mean Men, September 5, 2017

Mark Lipton is an independently published author whose book Mean Men released on September 5, 2017, to rave reviews. Mark is graduate professor of management at the New School in New York City and for over forty years has been a trusted adviser to Fortune 500 corporations, think tanks, nonprofits, international NGOs, and start-ups. His work has inspired his writing for the Harvard Business Review, MIT Sloan Management Review, and Journal of Management Consulting, as well as his first book, Guiding Growth: How Vision Keeps Companies on Course, which was traditionally published.

After the flurry of launch events for Mean Men, we took a moment to catch up with Mark about key takeaways from his first journey into self-publishing.

Meghan Harvey: You've published a book before through a traditional publisher. What made you choose to publish Mean Men independently?

Mark Lipton: A clear vision for Mean Men came into view after my research was complete. As I shopped the rough manuscript to large publishing houses, all I heard was how they wanted to refocus it in a direction they wanted. If I would only change some key elements of the narrative, they would give me a contract. I didn’t want to publish their book; I wanted to publish my book. I experienced more than a touch of arrogance from some of the big publishers, whose attitude was “We know how to create and sell books, you don’t.” And I realized from my prior experience with a large, prestigious publisher that they do not possess magical insight to the market or necessarily try to fully understand the author’s intent. I didn’t have all the answers, but I could see there was a viable alternative to the traditional route.

MH: The landscape of services to help authors self-publish is quite diverse. Why did you choose to work with Girl Friday on this book?

ML: One word: Relationship. I started working with Girl Friday in “book doctor” mode for structural editing. Partnering with Leslie Miller at GFP was a luxurious experience because she understands the importance of a trusting relationship in this work, and in the most natural ways, we bonded and had fun tightening the manuscript. We also continued to shop the manuscript to large, established publishers, and it was then that I realized, “I can go in a different direction for this book; I could do it myself with the team at GFP.” My trust in her led me to assume, by virtue of her role at GFP, that I would be able to develop the same type of trusting relationships with others there. That proved to be the case. The second reason was their seamless set of offerings. They’re a one-stop shop.

MH: How did your expectations at the outset of the project differ from the outcome of your experience?

ML: Due to the content of the book, and the events unfolding after the presidential elections, I realized I needed to launch the book very quickly. GFP easily accommodated this need. While it felt like we were moving at warp speed with many of the specialized pros at GFP working on their respective elements to bring the book to life, I never for a moment questioned that I was in the best, most-qualified hands possible. My expectations were high and they were met.

MH: Was there anything that surprised (or delighted) you about the bookmaking process with GFP?

ML: Well, I was certainly delighted that every single person I worked with at GFP was at the top of their professional game, incredibly pleasant to work with, and delivered on each and every promise. I could not ask for more than that. They set a bar pretty high on these factors and I wonder now if I could actually go back to an established large publishing house.

MH: Can you explain to other authors reading this why having a production editor was so important?

ML: I was in awe of my production editor’s ability to keep a dozen plates spinning in the air simultaneously, and to give me confidence none would slip. It’s high-pressure work, with the production editor essential to bringing all the pieces together. Designing the cover and interior, copyediting, fact-checking, indexing, and creating schedules to assure that those plates not only keep spinning but also that every detail comes together in time for launch day. Whew! A production editor puts so many decisions in front of the author that it can feel overwhelming at times. But a great production editor can do that and give the author the confidence that everything will be fine. A feeling of true partnership between the author and production editor is essential . . . and I don’t think many of them have that human touch required to make it a fine experience for the author while simultaneously being a hard-core project manager.

MH: What advice would you give to authors at the beginning of this journey?

ML: Ask yourself, are the people I choose to work with truly engaged with my vision, the book I want to produce? Search your gut for first impressions. Do your initial interactions suggest the professionals you choose to work with want not only to help create a great book but also to realize that it takes a strong, trusting relationship to bring it all to reality while minimizing any misunderstanding and conflict? Trust your gut.

Find out more about Mark at