Saturday, April 5, 2014


A Continuing Series - Check back often for new content.

As of 2014 there are at least two ways to publish your book.  

Today, authors seeking to publish their work have many options. In this article, we focus on the two most prevalent forms. Traditionally Published and Self-published.

Traditional publishing
In traditional publishing, the author completes their manuscript, writes a query letter, and begins sending out the query to literary agents.  Sounds easy doesn't it?  It's not. While there are many websites available that provide guidance about how to write a good query, the process can be nerve-racking.  Two good sites to look at for list of agents by genre and advice on your query letter are:  Agent Query and Query Tracker.

The most difficult part of this scenario is attracting the interest of an agent.  The website mental_floss put together an interesting list of rejection letters from famous authors who later went to write highly read works. The list includes Stephen King, George Orwell, Gertrude Stein, and many more.

If you succeed in attracting the attention of these gatekeepers, the agents, who often comment that they are more likely to reject a query than accept one, you will be asked to send a sample of your work.  You'll send your precious words to them and enter into a state of mental anxiety while you wait for their response. It may or may not come.  To be fair to the agents this is no fault of theirs.  They are busy people trying to make a living and to do this they need to work with the author's that, in their opinion, show the most promise of selling large quantities of books.  

If you're lucky enough to receive a response back you will most likely be asked to edit your work.  The agent at this point is investing his or her time into you.  It is in there best interest to make your work marketable and as good as it can be.  They are after all going to earn a minimum of 15% of every dollar your work earns once they sign you on.  The editing phase can take a year or more and once you've completed everything they've asked for there is no guarantee that they'll be able to find a publishing house willing to buy and publish your work.

Some publishing houses accept queries without an agent.  These include Kensington Publishing Corp.The Permanent Press, and Academy Chicago Publishers.  Most publishing experts agree that representation by an agent is more than worth the 15% commission due to their expertise in editing, contracts, etc.  

Once the publishing house decides to publish the book they buy the rights from the author and pay him or her an advance against future royalties.  For a debut author this usually runs in the neighborhood of 8-12%, unless you're famous or are writing about something highly controversial, then it will be higher.

The best part of this type of deal is that the publishing house will get behind your book and market it.  You'll be assigned a publicist, you'll go on book tours, and you'll have the resources of the publisher working to sell your books.  Some authors get a deal like this and their book bombs.  The industry is very subjective.  The downside is that you'll loose rights to the book, and will no longer be in the drivers seat with regard to how your book is presented for sale.  Additionally publishers have in the past five years or so offered less and less help marketing authors works.  That said this is still the dream of most authors.  Having a traditionally published book gives you the best shot of making the NYT Bestsellers list.

An author who makes the decision to self-publish becomes his or her own publisher. They format their work on their own using Amazon, or other site templates, or hire a service such as BookbabyLulu, or Amazon Createspace to do it for them for a fee.  Most of the bigger formatting companies also offer additional services such as book cover design, proofreading, and editing.  I suggest you do some shopping and choose the service that best suits your budget.  If you're going try to save money don't choose to do it on your book cover design.  A quick look at the paperback and Kindle covers on Amazon or Smashwords will let you know what you're up against as far as competition.

The best part of self-publishing is that in a relatively short span of time you can be holding a real paperback copy of your book in your hands.  You are an entrepreneur when you self-publish.  The easiest part of the process is writing the book.  The toughest is putting on your business hat and learning how to market your work. 

If you've written a great book it will, if properly marketed, eventually sell copies.  The more marketing you do the greater your sales should eventually be, but one thing to remember is that readers, like agents are subjective.  Just because you think your novel is fabulous doesn't mean they will.  The best way to sell your books is to write more. 

Like my dad always told me when I was in College - "The cream rises to the top".

If you write a fabulous book, and get it in front of the reading public they will do the rest.  

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