Why Do You Want to Publish a Book?
I was asked some questions recently that made me really think. Not think as in “what’s the right answer”, but think as in “what’s the right answer for what you are doing”. Especially when it comes to publishing a book.
There are many people out there who claim to want to write a book. The number who actually accomplish that goal is significantly smaller. The number who publish the book they wrote is even smaller still.
For those of us who do want to see our books published, the question that first needs to be asked is “Why?”
Possible Reasons for Publishing Your Book
I Want a Copy on my Bookshelf (or limited copies needed)
If you only want it for your own gratification or to share with friends and/or family, you don’t need to put in the effort to find an agent and a publisher and get hundreds of copies printed. You may or may not want to spend money on edits and a fancy cover.
For you, finding someone willing to do the work for free or as a trade of service is doable. Search the Internet and you will almost certainly be successful. When it comes time to print the book, a service like CreateSpace, Lulu or IngramSpark can likely help you out.
You shouldn’t need an ISBN (or if the printer demands it, you can use one of theirs). Promotion isn’t important as you are probably giving the books away.
Fame and Fortune
The opposite of self-gratification could probably be summed up with three words: “Fame and Fortune”. You are looking to hit the big time so your name can be spoken in the same breath as JK Rowling, Stephen King, Tom Clancy and many others.
For you, the best advice is to polish your manuscript, then polish it some more before you ever send it out to query agents. Find Alpha, Beta and even Gamma readers. Get yourself a developmental editor to help you make the book all it can be. And while you are at it, create a plan to query those agents:
- Craft a query letter;
- Research agents and agencies;
- Prioritize the agents;
- Polish your query.
Once you have a polished manuscript, a polished query and a list of promising agents:
- Query agents in whatever order you think best;
- Fix query letter based on their comments (and the manuscript too, if you get feedback);
- Go to next agent on your list and query again;
- Keep doing bullets two and three until successful.
Your newly acquired agent with do everything in his/her power to sell your manuscript to the publisher of your dreams.
The simplicity of this particular goal is, once you have the agent and the publisher, your job is simple. Write the next book and participate in promotion. You don’t have to worry about any of the mechanics of the book going from manuscript to finished product.
Hopefully fame and fortune will follow shortly afterwards.
Somewhere in the Middle
Maybe you want to control your own destiny to a certain degree, whether that is via self-publishing or going the small press route. You may also have the goal to write good books that people will enjoy; the fame and fortune are a less compelling argument for you.
Whatever you want, this category is vast. There are so many options for you. You may still follow the same path as the fame and fortune writer or you might want to self-publish your work and control it completely.
Follow the same steps as Fame and Fortune.
This is the most extreme example of controlling your fortune. The thing to remember is, self-published books can and should have the same level of professional polish as a big press book.
There are a number of pieces you have to be aware of and take care of:
- Developmental edits
- Copy edits
- Book Layout
- Printer/distributor – some printers only print and some also do distribution (e.g. CreateSpace, IngramSpark, Lulu) – one decision you will need for distribution is, will your book be returnable or not. That decision will determine whether bookstores will carry your book in store (if returnable) or only online (not returnable). Do your research on what this could mean financially.
Each of the steps above can be broken down further if you so desire. You will need to know what they mean so do your research. In many cases, you can find people to do it for free. Remember, you often get what you pay for so consider spending the money to get the product you want.
The other thing to remember? If you don’t do the work, no one else will either. 🙂
Submit Directly to Publisher
This particular course of action eliminates the agent from the mix. It also eliminates most/all of the bigger presses that require agented submissions. In other words, you are choosing smaller presses that may or may not have the same promotional and distribution reach as the bigger players.
There’s nothing wrong with that. The smaller presses often include writers more closely in the process, whether that’s in the cover creation, promotion or how the book ultimately turns out.
This is a great way to go if you want to learn something about the industry too. There is the opportunity to learn (more) when working with a smaller press.
Publishing through a smaller press often means your books will not grace the shelves of brick and mortar bookstores unless you put them there via consignment. This is because the financial burden of making books returnable is simply too high for most small presses.
That means consignment is your friend. The gotcha here is, you need to find a small press that will sell you author copies at a price that will allow you to use consignment. Since most bookstores require 40 – 45% on your consignment books that means you need at least 50% off the cover to break even.
There is Lots to Think About
Whatever your reason for publishing a book, make sure you do your research. Whether that is learning the ins and outs of publishing a book or learning how to write the best query letter ever, your preparation will not be in vain. Just be certain that you know what you are trying to accomplish first.
Good luck to you and to your future published novels.