Whether you self-publish or get published by a traditional publisher, you will need to do your own marketing and promotion. A traditional publisher won’t even consider your book until you can show that you will be able to make lots of sales. If you can make lots of sales, you can make more money self-publishing than publishing through a corporation. On the other hand, it’s good to know all your options.
You will feel more like a success if your writing makes it into print through a traditional publisher. A warning. Vanity publishers are traditional publisher that publish your books for a fee. Vanity publishing is not the way to go because then you become promoter, advertiser, and distributor. It’s a lot of work and few writers have reported it as a good experience. For real success, you’ll need to deal with agents or publishers.
The publishing industry has been around for a long time and has its own way of doing things. You might expect that in the digital age they’d be accepting computer files through email, making all the formatting and editing changes on computers and using digital printers designed for printing books. Some do, but it’s slow catching on. Most still keep everything real world. Snail mail, hard copies, and traditional printing machines. These may seem like unnecessary remnants of the past, but it keeps out start-ups that can only accomplish the digital steps of the process.
There are a few more steps to publishing real world versus virtual. These steps will take more time, including a lot of waiting time. You can use that time to work on your next book.
Finding an Agent
You can get published without an agent, but it reduces your chances. When a publisher receives a manuscript from an agent, they know it has already passed through a screening process. When they receive a manuscript or query directly from an author, the odds that it will be something of interest to them are much smaller. The manuscript will go onto a much larger pile that gets less attention. You really need that agent.
Find a reputable agent who promotes writing similar to yours. One good place to start is Agent Query.
If you don’t find an agent, you’ll still need to go through all of the following steps.
Finding a Publisher
When you write a book, you only need to know that a genre or subject area is reasonably popular and you can be assured there will be publishers. For short fiction and articles, you need to find a publisher first. Many publishers of short pieces are very specific about what they will publish, so you must write to order.
If you have an agent, they will find the publisher for you. If you don’t have an agent, you can find publishers in Writer’s Market (not an affiliate link). There’s a new version every year with updated listings.
Query letters are used to see whether an agent or publisher would be interested in reading your manuscript before you send it. Unsolicited manuscripts generally go into a big pile where they receive little or no attention. They may be returned unopened or never come back at all. They may also be opened by a reader in a hurry to get through the slush pile and rejected after only two or three pages. The returned manuscript with a standard rejection form tells you nothing about what happened.
A standard query letter is one page that briefly introduces you and your book, and asks whether the agent or publisher would like to see more. The format must be three paragraphs. The first paragraph is a one sentence hook to catch their interest. The second is a short synopsis of the book. The third is your writing biography.
Close by thanking the agent (or publisher) for considering your offer. For a novel, let them know the full manuscript is available. Yes, you need to have it finished before sending a query. For nonfiction, mention if you have included the outline, table of contents and sample chapters with the query.
Outlines and Synopses
Outlines are usually about one tenth the length of your finished work. They are an author tool used to guide the writing. Most publishers aren’t interested in seeing an outline for a novel. Some non-fiction publishers will be interested in a bullet outline, which is basically an expanded table of contents.
Publishers are interested in synopses. The synopsis you may have used to start your book will rarely match your end product. You need to write a new publication synopsis by reading through your book and summarizing it.
How long each of these documents need to be will be specified by your agent or publisher. If it takes several submissions before acceptance, normal for a first book, you would be wise to start by writing a long synopsis before creating the first one cut to order.
A successful query may lead to a request for a synopsis, sample chapters or almost anything else an agent or publisher would want to see. Prepare whatever documents they ask for. If all goes well, they will want to see your manuscript.
Don’t put your writing on hold during the submission process. It may take months before you get a final answer. This is a great time to start your next book.
If you eventually get a “No” to your book, move it along to the next agent or publisher. Many famous books have been sent out dozens of times before being accepted.
After all the time you put into your book, the last request you want to hear is for a rewrite. You aren’t even guaranteed a sale for your effort. You need to do it if you want to get published. Think of it as a chance to improve your writing.
Those are the basics. You can run with this bit of info or dig deeper. I tend to over-research everything myself. There will be exceptions to every rule and variations among publications depending on what kind of writing you do. Once you have your first book published, you only need to keep writing and publishing.
Article by Ivan Izo.