How to Publish a Book: Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing
Writing a book is a tremendous accomplishment. There are many obstacles in the writing process and you were able to overcome them. Now, the next hurdle is to how to publish a book. Your book deserves to be read and being a published writer is incredibly rewarding.
You have two options for publishing your book: going through with a traditional publishing company or opting to self-publish. Both options have pros and cons. It’s up to you to decide the publishing path you want to pursue. To help you make your decision, we’re covering everything you need to consider when deciding on a publication plan and all the steps you need to take to make it happen.
Benefits of traditional publishing
Most writers dream of having their book selected by a publisher. When you go through the traditional route, you have the advent of the publisher’s money. They’ll pay for everything it takes to take your book from a manuscript to a real live book, including editing, printing, and designing the cover art. Then, there’s also the logistical aspects like warehousing your books, shipping, and billing. And of course, they handle the best part: paying you your author royalties. Having a publisher take care of these things saves you money. It also saves you time and effort it takes to ship out orders of your book, keeping an inventory, etc., all of which are a lot of work.
Your publisher will also handle marketing your book, helping it gain exposure and sell more copies. Publishers know how to promote a book, meaning they know the best tactics and marketing strategies. Again, this saves you the time and money it would take to advertise your book.
And of course, the most attractive benefit of all is the book advance. Many publishers pay writers advance royalties when they accept the book. The amount depends on many factors, such as the publisher’s budget, whether or not your book looks like a traditional commercial bestseller, and if you have an existing audience. Getting paid an advance is a fantastic benefit because it’s guaranteed money, which certainly comes in handy if writing is your primary source of income or if you’ve needed to cut back on your day job to write your book.
Disadvantages of traditional publishing
While there are many benefits of traditional publishing, there are also many drawbacks. For one, it’s incredibly difficult to secure a book deal. Many writers dream of having their book published by a big publishing house, which means there’s a lot of competition. Your manuscript is one of thousands that a literary agent and publisher will come across. Because of this, it may take months – or years – for a publisher to read your manuscript. If they accept it for publication, it could be another few months – again, or years – for your book to come out.
With a publisher comes a team of professionals, including editors, marketers, and book designers. While it’s great to have these people offer their expertise and take on some of the work that goes into publishing a book, it also means that you’re required to relinquish a lot of creative control. They’ll get the final say on your book’s cover art, how it’s promoted, and even the title, just to name a few things.
Lastly, we have to burst your bubble a little about the advance. You’ve likely read about authors receiving six- or seven-figure advances. As glamorous as that sounds, it’s important to keep in mind that those lucrative book deals are very few and far between. If a book isn’t a commercial success, the author might not even get royalties if sales don’t make up for what was paid in the book advance.
Getting published by a traditional publisher
Maybe you’ve read the pros and cons of traditional publishing and have decided that you want to publish your book despite the challenges. You have a tough road ahead of you and it will take a lot of work. However, it’s possible to make your dream a reality. Follow these steps for your best chances of getting a book deal.
Edit (and edit some more): Editors and agents will make a snap decision about whether or not they’re going to accept your manuscript based on the draft’s first few pages. This means that your book needs to have a great opening that draws a reader in, captivating them to want to read more.
Beyond having a compelling opening for your book, the rest of the manuscript must be rock-solid too. Again, your draft will be up against steep competition. Read your draft with a critical eye. Take your time to write and revise your best possible manuscript. Edit every line, making sure that each word and sentence has a purpose and flows.
Find a literary agent: After you finish editing your manuscript, it’s time to find an agent. Finding an agent to agree to represent can be as challenging as landing a book deal, because having an agent increases your chances of making contact with a publisher. They have all of the insider industry knowledge and can help steer you in the right direction, giving you your highest probability of finding a publisher who will publish your book.
You’ll have to do some online research to identify potential agents. Look for people who have worked with writers with books similar to yours. In your research, you’ll be able to find their submission guidelines on how to submit your manuscript for their consideration.
When you submit your manuscript, you’ll also send in a query letter, which is similar to a sales pitch. In the letter, write an elevator pitch for your book and a brief synopsis. You should also include your target audience and why your book would appeal to them.
Write a proposal: Like the query, the proposal is meant to inform the agent on what your book is about and why it’s worth publishing. In addition to the synopsis, elevator pitch, and target audience information, you’ll also include details such as chapter synopsis, marketing ideas, and sample chapters. Additionally, you’ll also position your book in the market, explaining how it fits in with similar books in the same market share.
Self-publishing your book
Benefits of self-publishing
Traditional publishing requires you to place a lot of trust and control in other people’s hands. Self-publishing is the opposite, and that’s why many writers choose to publish their book this way. You don’t have to pitch your book to agents or publishers. You don’t have to cede creative control about your book’s cover design, title, selling price, marketing plan, and the final draft. Additionally, the profit of the book is all yours. You don’t have to give up a commission to an agent or negotiate an advance and royalties. By self-publishing, you keep every cent your book earns.
If you have your heart set on publishing a book or struck out with finding an agent and landing a book deal, self-publishing can empower you and help you make your dreams come true. The best part of self-publishing is that there aren’t any hoops to jump through to get your manuscript published. If you want to publish a book, you can and will. No agent or publisher has any say on whether or not it happens.
Disadvantages of self-publishing
The advent of having complete control is a double-edged sword. When you self-publish, you’re responsible for everything – editing, printing, shipping, warehousing, marketing, cover design, and more. All of these things require a significant investment of time, and printing, shipping, and marketing require a monetary investment too. As a writer, you may not be interested in developing and executing a promotional campaign for your book, designing a cover, or handling the logistics of order fulfillment. Before you decide to self-publish, you need to think realistically about the time and money you’ll spend handling these aspects of the publishing process.
The other big drawback is that you don’t have the same connections and recognition as a publisher. This means that it’s harder to get your book on bookstore shelves, and you’ll have a harder time selling copies.
The process of self-publishing your book
The very first step is editing aggressively. As a self-publisher, you don’t have a literary agent and a team to help you shape your book to be a success. It’s all on you. For this reason, you might consider hiring a book editor. While it’s an out of pocket expense for you, it’s a worthy investment. Editing a book is an art and skill. A professional book editor can help take your book to the next level, preparing it for success and making it a hit. If it’s not feasible for you to hire an editor, you’ll have to make sure that you read your manuscript many times over and view it critically.
Since you won’t have a marketing team to help promote your book, you need to handle marketing. Don’t overlook this step. You could’ve written the next great American novel, but it doesn’t matter if nobody knows about it. Set up a website where people can learn about you, read your writing, and order your book. Get on social media if you’re not using it already to start spreading the word. It’s up to you to make sure your book gets attention.
You can also consider using Kindle Direct Publishing and iBooks to publish and distribute your book. Both of these sites make your book easier to find online, increasing your chances of getting sales.
As we already said, writing a book is an accomplishment that you should be proud of. How you publish it is up to you. As you’ve learned from this post, both publishing methods have their pros and cons. Because of this, it’s hard to say that one is better than the other. Because really, picking the best method is relative to the writer and their goals. Now that you have the scoop on what it takes to self-publish and get published, all that’s left is to make your choice and then pursue it relentlessly.