Knowing the different ways to publish a book is essential to any writer who hopes to become an author. Due to the advances in technology, there are now more opportunities than ever to write and publish a story. Everything is within your grasp, whether you’re looking for a more traditional experience or to self-publish. In order to decide which publishing route is best for you, it is important to be aware of all of your options.
Brief Overview of the Different Publishing Methods
There are five methods one can choose when deciding to publish. The most common ones are traditional and self-publishing (also known as DIY publishing). There are two types of self-publishing mentioned in this article, known as distributor and direct. Without further ado, let’s talk about the different ways to publish.
In traditional publishing, the publisher offers the author a contract and assumes all costs to print and publish his/her book through booksellers and other retailers. The publisher buys the right to publish said book and pays the author an advance and royalties from the book sales. Traditional publishers take on the financial risk to publish your work. It is a very competitive route, but one that offers mainstream exposure if successful. Some examples of traditional publishers include Penguin Random House, Harper Collins and Simon & Schuster. How do I get published through a traditional publisher?
With this option, the author shares the risk and revenue by partnering with a literary agent, publisher, or an author collective. The author doesn’t pay a publishing fee and usually doesn’t get an advance. A partner doesn’t accept all authors—there is a selection process. If selected, the partner provides the author with marketing and industry expertise. This route is less risky than self-publishing and has better royalties than traditional. If considering a partnership, make sure to shop around—not all partners offer the same services. Some examples of partnership publishers include Diversion Books and Rogue Reader.
When using a service provider, the author pays upfront for a package of services and the provider only does what the author paid for. All work is accepted through a service provider; the only limitation is how much the author can afford for a service. Royalties are better than traditional, but lower than self-publishing. You get what you pay for: meaning your published work may not have much commercial value. Although your book may be available for order through bookstores, it will rarely be stocked on the shelves. Books published in this way are usually seen as lower quality than those published in a different manner. Some examples of service providers include Author Solutions and Author House.
Publishing through a distributor means that you will do most of the work on your own. This includes cover design, editing, and whatever other outsides assistance you may need. Once completed, you provide the distributor with the final files for publication. Distributors may be due an upfront fee and/or cut from the book sales. Either way, the distributor is responsible for paying you. With this method, you are not bound by a contract, therefore not giving up any of your rights. Some examples of distributors include Smashwords and CreateSpace.
Self-Publishing (DIY Direct)
Similar to the distributor route, with direct publishing, authors are doing everything on their own (from creation to publication to marketing and promotion). Hire outside services as needed (for editing, cover design, formatting etc.), then provide the retailers with completed files or books. The author is not exclusive to any one retailer and can deal with others on a case-by-case basis. Retailers take a percentage of the sales based on the platform being used and the price that was set. The author has the freedom to edit and make changes as often as needed. Deciding on the direct method requires lots of work if you’re looking to get the best quality and maximum profit. Some examples of direct publishing platforms include Amazon KDP and Nook Press (Barnes & Noble). How do I self-published?
How do I decide which option is right for me?
Take a moment to self-reflect and determine what your goals are.
If you consider writing just a hobby and have a goal of seeing your book in print, with no concern for royalties, then a service provider may be what you’re looking for.
Printing your books in bulk through the direct method is a viable option if you’re prepared to dedicate time to marketing and promotion. This is made easier if you have a platform to reach your audience (on and offline). Self-publishing also makes sense if you have a time-sensitive manuscript, as it could take a year or more to get your manuscript to final production if using a commercial publishing company.
On the other hand, if you want to be in brick-and-mortar stores, but don’t have much of an online presence or stink at marketing, then traditional publishing is probably the best option for you.
At the end of the day, it’s for you to decide what the best route is and do everything you can to achieve your goals.
Why Attend Writing Conferences?
What better way to gain more insight into the publishing industry than attending a conference designed for publishing professionals! You will meet different agents and editors and can reduce your publishing time if you’re able to secure a meeting with one. If your work isn’t receiving positive responses, you’ll immediately be able to get the reasons why. In order to get the most out of a writing conference, try the following:
• Choose a conference where you can meet a specific editor, agent, or author who is ideal for your work. The goal is to get a critique session or appointment, only if you feel that there’s no more you can do on your own regarding your project.
• Before any meeting, have a list of questions that if you had the answers to, you would know your next move regarding your project or career. Prepare to only speak for about 15% of the time and don’t go to any meeting expecting to be offered a deal; these formal appointments or sessions are to be viewed as a learning experience only.
• Review the list of speakers, editors, and agents who will be attending and learn their backgrounds. This will prepare you for any chance conversations you may find yourself in. Having this knowledge can also trigger questions that you can ask during panel. Pay attention to the program and what’s being said—don’t ask obvious questions. Go deeper. Stand out.
Why have I not gotten published yet?
There are several possible reasons why your work hasn’t gotten published yet, if seeking to go the traditional route. Let’s take a look at the most common.
Lack of writing skills or storytelling problems
The agent isn’t willing to go further with your manuscript because it may lack creativity, energy, and clarity. This is when editing and critiques come into play. Without them, you may not know that these issues exist within your story. Or it could be that you have difficulty removing a scene that really has no context in the narrative, which disrupts the flow. With regards to storytelling, perhaps your manuscript is uninteresting, confusing, and goes nowhere. What is the inciting incident or major plot point? Pay attention to your characters who have no real place in the story or haven’t taken any action.
Failure to understand the market
Read other books in your genre. Know and examine the first novels published in your genre for the last two years. Pay attention to the different story types, settings, characters, etc. This will give you an idea of what the market is looking for based on what debut novels have been published. Try not to make the mistake of emulating a successful author.
Rushing to submit your work before it’s ready
You’ve spent months (or even years) working on this project and you’re just itching to get it published. I understand the excitement, especially for those who’ve just completed their first full-length manuscript. I was like that with Awakening: Bloodline Book One, and I published it without having the final, final edits done. The first hundred or so copies had several errors that were critiqued on, which could have been avoided had I just been patient. The fact is that you want to present your work in the best possible light. That means taking the time to make sure your characters and plot are fully developed, and getting professional editing done. After you’ve spent however long to create this manuscript, you can afford the extra time needed to make your project presentable in the best way.
Not enough credentials to provide an edge
As I mentioned before, the market is very competitive in the traditional publishing world. Having a publishing record, no matter how small, can convince agents and publishers that you have a shot. Contest wins, submissions in magazines or newspapers, or participation in writing programs can all give you an advantage depending on your genre and the publishing house.
Remember to reflect on your reasons for wanting to publish. What is boils down to is patience. Don’t get frustrated and never give up!
What publishing route worked best for you and why? Please share in the comments below!