To Self-publish or Not, How to Bring Your Book to the World
Image courtesy of Rebekah Jonesy
Writing The End isn’t the end. It’s the end of the first chapter of getting published. So what’s the second chapter? Figure out how to get published. There are three basic methods to get published, and hybrid methods that can involve all three of those. And there are several schools of thought on this. None of them are wrong. And none of them are always right. Doesn’t that sound encouraging? Let’s break it down.
First let’s talk about You, the Author
What do you want? To get published and be read? To make money? To continue to do this in your spare time? To get your story out there not for the masses, the acclaim, or the money but just to be seen and read by people that know you? Do you have money you can invest into your book? Do you have time to invest into your book? Figuring out how you personally want to continue is the most important question to ask first. Because once you understand your motivation we can move on to the next priority. Your book.
What Kind of Book did You Write?
Is it a picture book? A memoir? A novel? Does it neatly fit into one genre of books? Does it have an obvious sub genre? Are you okay with other people changing your story? Would you be willing to let strangers pick the cover art, the designs, the distribution schedule, and maybe even the names of your characters? Keep all of your answers in mind — it is time to look at your publishing options.
Big Name Publishers
Everyone wants to get signed on with the big names. It’s not easy, of course. Thousands of submissions, with professionally written query letters (Here are some great tips from J.K. Allen on how to write a query letter), are sent in to these companies. Those are sorted by genre. Because they are so mainstream they like to keep things simple and basic. Books that fall outside of a simple genre or subgenre are not likely to be picked up. If the company has too many of the type of genre you are submitting, your book might be tossed aside without even a first glance. The first judgement, if you fill everything out perfectly for that submission call, isn’t based on merit but on metrics. If you pass that hurdle then you will find out what they want to do. What to change. How much they will pay you. And on and on. It’s best to have a lawyer go over it all with you before signing anything. The major upshot is that they will cover most of the up-front expenses. Pay for the editors, the artists, the publicity. While you have to wait for the letters to come back you don’t have to do a ton of work while you wait. You just have to keep calm and be prepared for rejections.
Small Press Publishing Houses
These companies are more likely to accept books that aren’t so mainstream. Smaller publishing houses don’t have the bankroll of the larger houses. While they offer services for artists, editors, and formatters, the author may have to pay for some of that themselves. (Here are some handy tools Stephanie Ayers offers to help you do some of this yourself.) You will get your book published but you will have to pay out of pocket in order to get it ready to publish. And you will usually have to do your own marketing and publicity. But once again you should get a lawyer to read any contract before you sign and thoroughly investigate any company before you do business with them. This takes a bit of time and a bit of money, but not a ton of either. This all assumes you are lucky enough to find a good small publishing house, and not a scam. There are a lot of dishonest people out there looking to make money off of other people’s hopes, dreams, and hard work.
That requires you to find your own editors, artists, formatters, and possibly even a publicist, or learn to do most of it yourself. While this gives you the most control it also takes a lot of time. A ton of time. It’s like having five extra jobs on top of being an author. This makes it the best option if you have a lot of time and not a lot of money and are willing to do all the hard leg work to get your book ready and marketed. Of course you can still hire editors, publicists, and anyone else to help you, but you will have to research each and every person or company you hire to make sure they are a good fit for you.
If you have more than one book you can publish each book using a different method. A self published first book that has a following means that the second book is more likely to be picked up by a publisher. A first book that has a series to follow after it is more likely to be picked up as well. However big name publishers aren’t likely to accept a book that has already been self published but each one is a little different so you’ll want to check them out for yourself.
Each option has its own complicated pros and cons. Before you decide on any of them it’s best to do your research. The proper approach for you is the one you are most comfortable with and best fits your genre. Remember though, that this can change with time. And that is okay too. The market changes and we need to change with the market.
When I got started writing romance I checked out Harlequin and a few of the smaller publishing houses. They all either wanted to own me, including my name, or to take credit without doing a lot of work. (Except one publisher that very politely turned me down because my manuscript needed too much work.) I started out self publishing and got better at it but now I publish through a publishing house.