Do you want to know how to get a book published?
The publishing world has changed dramatically in recent years.
Self-publishing has disrupted the publishing industry and caused all sectors to reconsider how to work in this new book market.
For first time authors, it can be a little confusing. But if you take the time to understand the different types of publishing that are available, you will make better choices.
If you are writing your book, it would be a good idea to start doing your research into the pros and cons of each publishing route.
A good start might be to read the free ebook, How to Go from First Draft to Published Author, published by ProWritingAid.
There are five ways you can hope to write and publish a book.
1. A traditional publisher wants your book
Unless you are a very well-known celebrity, extremely newsworthy or a high-profile politician, this route is closed for you.
Big publishing companies like Simon & Schuster, Random House or HarperCollins are not going to be knocking on your door with a book contract.
However, if you do fit the bill of being a media highflyer, expect a huge advance in return for your signature.
The five big publishing houses are always fighting to find the BIG book of the year.
They have their wallets open for someone they think has enough name recognition, pulling power or even infamy to sell 50,000 copies in the first week.
Generally, this is for nonfiction books. Fiction books are rarely chased, with the most recent exception probably being Fifty Shades of Grey.
If you strike it lucky, expect that you won’t even have to write your book. The publisher will more than likely hire a ghostwriter to do all the grunt work.
But if publishers are not knocking at your door, read on for more realistic publishing options.
2. The traditional route
Most established published authors have chosen the traditional way of getting their books published.
The first step is to find a literary agent to represent you. Your agent will then look for suitable publishing deals for your book.
But it is not easy to find an agent willing to represent you. If you are a new author, you will need to write a book proposal and a query letter to many agents in the hope of finding one who likes your idea.
You need to prepare yourself for many rejection letters and even no answers during this process.
Agents and publishers work closely together and know their business. They have an instinct for what will appeal to readers in their niche part of the book market.
Because of this, you should check with each agent you plan on approaching and make sure that your book is a good fit for what they are looking for. Most agents state this clearly on their websites.
If you have written a science fiction book, there is no hope that an agent looking for period romance will even look at your proposal.
The big benefit of taking this option is that if you do succeed, you will have access to professionals such as book editors and book cover designers. Your main focus will be on writing, with your agent and publisher looking after everything in the publishing process.
However, it takes a long time to get a book to press, so expect around a year between signing your contract and seeing your book in print.
More reading: How to Write a Book Proposal
3. Small press publishers
This is now a very popular option, especially for fiction writers.
There are thousands of independent small press publishers around the world. There are sure to be many in your country or even some in your local area.
Similar to the second option, you may need to send a query letter and perhaps some sample chapters. It will depend on the process that each small press takes.
The best way is to check their website and look for the submission guidelines. They don’t usually ask for a full manuscript in the first instance.
There are so many variations as to what a small press publisher does, so check very carefully.
Because you are looking for a publishing contract between you and the publisher, you don’t have the security of an agent acting for you.
Because of this, it is always wise to seek legal advice before you sign a publishing contract.
One question you must always ask is what happens to the rights to your published work if the publisher goes out of business. Many authors have lost the rights to their books under these circumstances.
If you need help publishing your book, a reputable small press is a great option. But don’t rush in. Do your homework and be sure that the contract fulfils all your expectations.
Further reading: Is This Publisher Legit? How You Can Make Your Decision
Without a doubt, this is the most popular route for authors and writers today.
The biggest advantage is that you are guaranteed to get your book published because you will be doing all the work and publishing it yourself.
If you are new to publishing on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), Smashwords or Draft2Digital, it is a step-by-step learning curve.
It is not difficult, because thousands of authors like you have self-published.
However, as you will be responsible for everything, you will need to take the time to learn what you can do, and what services you will need to purchase.
In particular, most authors know that buying a professional book cover and hiring an editor or book designer are areas that can help in achieving some success.
Generally, though, the costs to self-publish are minimal.
Another big advantage of self-publishing is that your book royalties will be paid monthly, directly and in full to you by each publishing service for ebooks or print on demand paperback sales.
When you sign with a traditional or small press publisher, they will act as the middleman and pay your royalties, after deductions, and usually on a quarterly, semi-annual or annual basis.
Further reading if you are totally new to self-publishing: Self-Publishing: Expectations vs Reality For New Authors
5. Vanity publishing
The problem with vanity publishing is usually that new authors fall into the trap of thinking that a vanity publisher will do everything for them.
This is true of the production process, but it is not at all true for the most important part, which is marketing, promoting and selling your book.
With all the other options, the publisher pays the author. When you publish with a vanity press, it is you the author who pays the publisher.
Many new authors don’t understand this when they sign a contract, and especially if the publisher has been aggressive or high-pressure in getting your signature, and money.
Unless you have money to burn, paying thousands of dollars to a vanity publisher is not your best publishing option. You should really consider finding a small press publisher or use a self-publishing company like Blurb to produce your books.
Please read our blog post regarding vanity publishing: Vanity Publishing And Self-Publishing Are Not The Same
You surely realise that the first option is not going to happen in reality.
The other reality is that vanity publishing is the last resort and is very expensive.
This leaves you with three viable options. If you’ve written a book and want to get it published, choose one of these.
Or, take it one at a time and try to find an agent first. Then if you are not successful, try for a small press.
But you always have the option to self-publish if you prefer.