Just like doctors get asked by their relatives about aches, pains and boils, writers get asked about how to get stuff published. One son of a cousin of a parent recently asked my mom to ask me to send him some info on getting his just-finished novel published. I finally! wrote him a note, which I’ve turned into this blog post.
While I do have several published books on the market, I’m by no means an expert. But I can provide a bit of insight based on my own research and experience.
You basically have four main options for publishing your book, and you can mix and mingle the options as desired. I’ve been through the first three options but am inclined to skip the fourth.
4 Ways to Get Your Book Published
- Easiest, fastest
- Get to keep full control and all profits
- Have to do own layout, editing, marketing
- Amazon takes big chunk of sales (and other platforms not as popular)
Here you can either find a vanity press and pay to have your book published, or figure out where you want to sell your book and do all the layout yourself then upload in proper format seller requires. Amazon has a self-publishing arm called CreateSpace, which is probably the hottest online book market – although Amazon does take a hefty percentage of your sales.
You can sell books online only, made-to-order when someone orders one. Or you can get better prices with bulk printing to stock up and sell in-person or mail out yourself. If you choose the latter, you can store your hundreds of books in your home office-gym and dust them weekly with the treadmill while saying, “You know, I should really do some marketing with these books.”
Finding a Traditional Publisher
- May get advance
- Help with layout, editing, marketing (maybe)
- Don’t get royalties until advance is paid off
- Royalty payment terms may have all kinds of sneaky clauses that result in royalty checks for $2.47
This route involves researching books similar to yours to determine what companies may be interested in your book. Writers Market also publishes an annual master list of publishers, agents and other outlets and resources for getting your stuff published.
Search out publishers that look promising then review their submission guidelines. Some may want full manuscript (ms), some may want proposal and others may be OK if you happen to know the CEO or have a friend of a friend who babysits for her daughter.
Every time I go through the massive boxes of files I move from house to house, I always run across a giant, bright blue folder of rejection letters from publishers. Not sure why I keep them, and also not sure where they are at the moment, but seeking out traditional publisher requires a thick skin (and plenty of colorful file folders).
Oh yeah, and the biggest-name publishers usually only accept book ideas or proposals through an agent.
Finding an Agent
- Guidance and support throughout the entire process
- Editing help, tips and insider knowledge of industry
- They get a percentage of the cut, of course
- They may get pregnant and abandon you at the drop of a hat
Writers Market is again the go-to for finding agents in your book’s specific genre, although you can also go with online searches to see who pops up. Make sure the person has a solid history and reputation before you tell them anything.
I had an agent once, rather briefly. She had read some of work in newspapers and contacted me to put together a book. Yippeee!! All was going swell, with her walking me through the proposal process, giving me tips and deadlines – and then she pretty much disappeared.
Got an email from her several weeks later saying she was leaving the agency to go have a baby. “And I’m sure you’re happy for me.”
At least I got a bunch of knowledge out of the deal and now know what goes into the scope of a killer book proposal.
Sitting in Bar Hoping to Get Discovered
- Even easier than self-publishing
- Can make a lot of drunken friends who will promise to buy your book when published
- Results may not be optimum
- Probably get a beer belly
This one worked for Mickey Rourke in “Barfly” when he was portraying poet Charles Bukowski. If the movie was indeed true to Bukowski’s life, however, the guy was a mess, wasted any money he earned on booze and got beat up a lot. You may want to avoid this option unless you’re a good fighter.
Publishing First Step
Keep in mind that getting your book published is only the first step. After that comes marketing, marketing, marketing and more marketing. But you’ll get to that one soon enough! The best marketing tip I ever received was “Get your book on Oprah.” Not sure if she’s even still around, so maybe you want to go for Howard Stern?
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