How to Publish a Book
Every aspiring author thinks about publishing his or her book. That's the payoff, right? But with so many options available in this day and age (self-publishing, ebooks, traditional publishing, print-on-demand, etc.), if you’re writing a book, then you have a lot to think about!
Many writers feel the most important decisions they can make is whether to seek a traditional publisher or self-publish. The biggest difference is who pays. When you get a traditional publishing contract, the publishing company is basically buying the manuscript from you and footing the bill to have it edited, designed, printed, and distributed. Self-publishing means the author makes the investment.
What’s the best choice? It depends. I always tell my clients that what’s best for one book isn’t best for all. All books are different and the best way to make it available to readers depends on the author’s situation and goals. Some can't afford to self-publish; some can't afford not to.
Benefits of Self-Publishing
Self-publishing is a great way to get your book in the hands of readers. In other words, it’s not just for people writing a family history that won’t have much commercial appeal. Finding an agent, getting a publishing contract, and having your book published by a traditional company take time—often months or even years before the book actually goes to print. One of the main benefits of self-publishing is speed and control of the publication timeline. So if your book needs to be published yesterday, self-publishing is definitely the way to go. When you self-publish, you also control the content and book design, and you make considerably more money per copy sold than a traditionally published author. These benefits make self-publishing ideal for those who want to use the book to grow their business, start a business, or establish expertise quickly. In this case, self-publishing is an investment.
Benefits of Traditional Publishing
Getting a publishing contract can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. It's all about doing your best work and finding people in the industry who love your book as much as you do. So if you want the New York publishing contract--and you're not depending on your book to grow your business--then go for it. Be prepared to work hard to get what you want. And be patient. It can take a long time to get your manuscript into the hands of the right person. If you don’t have the money to invest in self-publishing successfully (hiring editors, proofreaders, cover designers, etc. is not cheap), then traditional publishing is the best option for you. Your publishing company will set you up with an editor to help you write the best book possible, and a team of proofreaders will go through your book before it goes to press. And if you’re an experienced writer with a platform and readership, then you’re in a great position to get a publishing contract.
What's Your Best Option?
Publication simply means making your book available to readers. But how you do that, and whether you do it at all, is something you have to decide. And in recent years, “available” has expanded beyond the books you can find on the bookstore shelf. In other words, you have options.
I think every person has to develop their own version of realistic success. Oftentimes, people tell me they want to get a New York publishing contract because that's where they believe the big money is made. But the truth is, most books don't make very much money.
When I started in this business, which was a couple years before Kindle and other e-readers changed the landscape, self-publishing was much more cost prohibitive than it is today. The true ground-breaking thing about Kindle is that anyone--from the grandma writing her life story to the freelance writer looking to add passive income--can make their work available to readers for virtually nothing. And many authors have launched commercial publishing careers by self-publishing their work in the beginning.
How the book is published perhaps matters less than the fact that a high quality book is available and that you, the author, do everything you can to get that book in the hands of readers. Because that's another fact about the publishing world. Not only are you, the author, responsible for making your book as great as it can be, but whether you self-publish or publish through a big house, you are responsible for getting out there and selling books. Do you have something great to sell?
No matter how your book is ultimately published, keep in mind that great books add to the conversation and make a contribution to the world of ideas. So know what your publishing options are, make a decision based on the pros and cons, and get your best book out there.
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About the Author:
Melinda has ghostwritten fifteen books and has an MFA in creative writing. Her own work has been published in newspapers, magazines, and literary journals, online and in print. She helps her clients get their books done and into the world. For more information, visit her at www.writerssherpa.com.