How to Publish a Book: A Guide

How to Publish a Book

There are few careers like that of an author. The process of writing a book is often arduous and time-consuming. After the book is completed, the struggle doesn’t end there.

How do I get this thing published?

In the past, publishing a book was an involved process that required industry gatekeepers and barriers to entry that prohibited all but the most perseverant authors to reach a wider audience. Luckily, we live in a modern age. Information is freely available to authors and opportunities have exploded. With the advent of self-publishing, which supplements traditional publishing houses, publishing has never been made easier for authors.

Let’s take a look at how to publish a book.

How to Publish a Book Step: The Choice

There are two different types of publishing available to authors: traditional book publishing and self-publishing. The question of how to publish a book begins with making your choice from these two options.

Traditional book publishing is when a publisher enters into a contractual agreement with an author to print, market, distribute and sell the author’s book(s) through retailers. The publisher provides the means to sell the author’s work, buying the rights; the author, in turn, receives the royalties from the sale of their work.

The process works like this: Writers must first query an agent to find a literary agent interested in their work. For non-fiction writers, authors must submit a book proposal to entice an agent; fiction writers must have a completed manuscript. Authors typically use a literary agent to approach publishers, who serve on behalf of the writer to handle the terms of negotiation, marketing, etc.

On the other hand, self-publishing is a method where an author publishes their own work. This may include printing, distributing, marketing, and other activities related to their work. While the concept is simple, there are a number of ways that authors can self-publish to distribute their work.

How to Publish a Book: Understanding Self-Publishing

Self-publishing: This method requires an upfront investment from the author to produce, market, distribute, and warehouse the book. It is the most time-consuming and cost-intensive method. But the author ultimately retains complete control of their work.
Vanity: As a way to assist authors, vanity publishers take care of the printing and binding work to create physical copies for authors. Typically, they charge an upfront fee for a number of books to produce, with larger runs being discounted than smaller ones. Vanity publishers can bridge the gap between authors who want to handle everything but the printing aspects.
Subsidy: Subsidy publishers are similar to vanity publishers, with authors fronting the cost of their books. But they also contribute towards editing, warehousing, and marketing. Generally speaking, a subsidy publisher owns the books until they are sold while the author makes profits from the royalties.
Print-on-demand:Also known as POD, this type of self-publishing allows authors to print their books via companies based on the demand for the book. The advantage is that authors can save money by only purchasing only enough to satisfy their readers and keeping their overheads low. POD companies also offer services for layout, copyediting, and marketing to assist authors. In exchange, some PODs buy rights to the work and offer royalties for a set amount of time.

NOTE: Ebooks do play a significant role in self-publishing, as well. Each aforementioned type of self-publishing has some involvement in how ebooks are distributed, formatted for media devices (i.e. Kindle), and marketed. For instance, a person who chooses self-publishing as their method would create their own website to market and sell their ebook. For those that seek wider distribution of their ebooks through established channels, Amazon would most resemble a POD model.

How to Publish a Book: Differences Between Publishing Methods

As you may have guessed, traditional book publishing handles the grunt work. The advantage for traditional publishing is that there’s no significant upfront cost to produce your work and reach an audience; the infrastructure is already established. However, the royalties for authors come directly from the sales margins and are related directly to how well the book was marketed and distributed.

Self-publishing, on the other hand, offers motivated authors the ability to handle the majority of the work without the typical avenues that most books have. In exchange, the author gets to keep 100% of their profit and can dictate how their book is distributed. For niche topics, self-publishing allows authors to circumvent the obstacles and rejections from agents and publishers based on cost. For instance, poets who wish to have their work in print may not be able to secure a literary agent. Self-publishing offers them an opportunity that otherwise would only be available to famous poets.

Bear in mind that authors these days aren’t limited by print or ebook solely. With the variety of digital materials and distribution networks, there’s a wealth of opportunities in the publishing process.

For instance, an author that wishes to read their own work for an audiobook may have more resistance from traditional publishers; for self-publishers, they ultimately make the choice. Conversely, an author may be obligated to participate in promoting their work on television, radio, and other forms of broadcasting as part of a traditional book publishing contract. Self-publishers can opt out if they choose to.

How to Publish a Book: Hybrid Publishing

The question of “how to publish a book” can also be answered by a third option, as well as the two outlined above, and that’s hybrid publishing. Essentially, hybrid publishing allows authors to produce their own work and publish as they see fit while adhering to the contractual obligations of their traditional book publisher.

This method is common for authors that may have begun their careers as self-publishing entities, gained traction among a large audience, and enlisted the help of traditional publishers to maximize the reach of their work. Having completed, self-published examples of your work can make the process of seeking traditional publishing much easier for this reason.

Hybrid publishing, however, does offer some challenges for those seeking the freedom of self-publishing. Traditional publishers typically prepare book launches months—sometimes up to 18 months—in advance. Having a book’s impact fizzle out by re-selling to the same audience, or by overexposing an author may be factors in whether a book is considered worthy of traditional publication. Similarly, self-publishers may miss out on the immediacy and freedom of providing whatever content to their audience whenever they see fit.

Whatever option you choose, just make sure you take the plunge. Stop worrying, stop asking how to publish a book and start looking towards the process itself. This is an exciting world and there is no better feeling than being read and appreciated as an author.

Your audience awaits.

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