It’s that time of year when many of us are figuring out our New Year’s Resolution. How best can we improve ourselves, get healthier, or earn more? For many amateur writers it can be an opportunity to dust off that old manuscript. This could be the year that you get published.
There are more routes to getting your book published than ever before. In some ways, that’s fantastic because there will be an option to suit everyone. In other ways, it can make for a bewildering labyrinth of unknown avenues. So how do you go about figuring out which path is right for you? Well, perhaps the most important question to ask yourself is what is your purpose in publishing?
What is your purpose in publishing?
If it’s about money, then I’m sorry to say there isn’t a single route guaranteed to lead to prosperity. For every big name millionaire author, there are thousands of talented writers who just didn’t make it. But there are also quite a few making a reasonable living. Regardless of their publishing route, these authors consistently put in hours of work marketing their books and making sales.
If you want to see your book on the shelves of your local bookshop, then again I have bad news. Traditionally published books usually only live there for a few weeks before they disappear into obscurity. Self-published books often don’t get there at all. However, with so much business moving online, a lot of bookshops now have websites. They list many more books than they can possibly fit on their physical shelves. Print-on-demand services like Ingram Spark are available to both traditional publishers and self-published authors. The benefit is that instead of keeping copies in stock, shops can just order in when a customer asks.
Sometimes people just want to see their name on the front of a book to share with friends and family. There is certainly something quite special about holding a properly printed and bound edition in your hands. Beware what are known as vanity presses. Some companies prey on the author’s dream of being picked up by a traditional publisher. They charge through the nose for poor service and take a slice of any royalties. Self publishing means you definitely get to see your book in print, and it can be done very cheaply.
If you have a clear vision of the finished book you want to produce, self publishing is the only viable route. It means that all rights are yours entirely and you get the final say on everything. Traditional publishers often make decisions according to their perceptions of what the book needs. This may not match an author’s vision. Some authors find letting someone else think about it comforting, but others find it creatively smothering. And of course, self publishing means you also keep hold of all future royalties, as well as your rights.
If you want to get into the ever-growing ebook market, platforms like Amazon KDP and Draft2Digital make it possible. Anyone can upload their work and start to sell. You do need it in a good format to upload, but there are software tools and experts for hire to help you with that.
If you decide to go for a traditional publishing contract, the first hurdle is getting noticed. Often it depends on the whims of the publishers. Many great authors are passed over multiple times before being offered a contract. Next, you need to negotiate a contract, which can be fraught with problematic clauses. You can get an agent to help with this for a cut of the royalties. Be aware that ultimately they need the publisher more than they need you, which may affect the service they provide. Once you’re signed up, the publisher takes over the process.
If you decide to self publish, you can learn how to do formatting, cover design, etc. But you don’t have to. There are lots of companies, like ours, who can do the leg work of self publishing for you. Often the charges are much lower than a vanity press and you keep all your royalties. Many are small companies run by people passionate about what they do. It’s worth taking a look at the Self Publishing Advice Centre’s list of services and ratings. The information will help you decide who you want to work with (we’re rated Excellent!).
Whichever route you take, make it yours.