Most writers claim that ‘writing’ is the painless part of being a writer- the real challenge begins when you attempt to publish your masterpiece. The book industry can be a really hard one to crack, especially if you’re a newbie. No need to panic though – if you’re reading this, all your publishing problems are nearly over!
This article has been designed as a one-stop publishing guide for all types of writers. It is crammed full of useful and current information, which taps into the world of literature by exploring a variety of different channels of publication. This guide explores; Publishing thorough an Agency, Mainstream Publication, Self Publishing, Local Publishing Companies and eBook Publication. It furthers to explore life after your book has been published.
So whether your interests lie in large international exposure for you book, or self publishing, simply read on for a detailed tour of the publishing industry.
Option 1) Publishing through an Agency
The first step to saving time whilst publishing is making sure that you avoid writing something that will never your trusted directory be read! My advice to anyone who aspires to publish something is to find a literary agent. This is a great time saver as, when you have an agent, you will never again waste time writing something that may be defined as ‘unmarketable’. To further explain – the literary network is very closely knit i.e. in order to have your book published; you would need to go through specific channels. A strict system has been designed to maintain a sense of order in the realm of literature. Now, an agent can help you weave your way through the system – especially if you are a first timer.
An agent is an individual who is able to help you through much of the information filtering process. A recommendation from an agent almost guarantees that your manuscript will be read by a publishing house.
Essentially, the role of an agent is to read and approve your manuscript or any ideas that you may have i.e. queries and proposals. The agent will then decide whether your venture could be successful. If so, the agent will further to draw up a contract with you. Contracts of this nature usually express the agent’s promise to use his/her best efforts to get your manuscript into a publishing house – the exchange is usually about 15% of the entire deal. Your new agent will then work extremely hard to sell your idea.
There are usually 2 types of agents – those who work with fiction and those who work with non-fiction. The easiest way to find your match is by paging through a publishing guide/directory, which lists the functions of a variety of agents in great detail i.e. ‘Guide to Literary Agents’. It is important to take note of any previous books that have been published by the agent/s that you are interested in – usually an agent will take interest in a particular theme, and stick to working with ideas along its lines.
Contacting an Agent
Once you have compiled a list of potential agents, feel free to start contacting them. The best way to do this is via a query letter. In essence, a query letter a short introduction of yourself and your idea – it should feed the agent enough information to arouse interest, but not too much to bore him/her. This is a suggested letter structure:
Your introduction is usually the aspect of the letter sells you – so make it an attention grabber. Ideally, you would want to describe the compelling fit between the person that you are and your idea for a book.
Develop Your Idea
Use your next few sentences to explore your idea, explaining what it is that you want to write about. Feel free to add in a snip-bit of your writing that best exemplifies your idea.
Your third paragraph should be based on you. Try to reiterate the connection between you as a person and your idea. You should also feel free to show-off your academic or intellectual achievements.
Be sure to personalize your concluding sentence- making the agent feel unique and valuable to you in your selection process. Conclude by sharing your contact details and preferred method of communication.
Remember, this letter is merely an ‘appetizer’ so keep it short and simple.
After sending your initial query letter to an agent, he/she would normally follow up by requesting a proposal. Essentially, your proposal is a document that accurately outlines an idea for a book. Here’s idea of what your proposal should contain:
The first 2 pages of your proposal should contain a broad summary of the book. Non-fiction: Explain your intentions in terms of contents and topics. Fiction: Provide a general outline of your plot.
Your next 3 pages should contain a description of your prospective target market. You should define this in terms of; age, socio-economic, and educational characteristics of you potential audience.
Market Threat and Competition
This section allows you to define what type of threats your book may face in terms of competitors and other books that cover a similar topic. Be careful to do all your homework here, because this section is really important to an agent as it dictates your books marketability.
Use this section to write up a brief description about yourself and your co-authors, if any. Take this opportunity to brag as much as possible, as this section will help your agent convince a publishing house to pay you for your idea.
Summary of Chapters
This should be the largest part of your proposal – it contains an outline of what you intend to cover in each chapter of your book. Non-fiction: Provide a minimum amount of information i.e. outlines. Fiction: Provide definite samples of your writing.
This section is relatively small – it simply contains the number of words you think your finished book will contain and the approximate time you will take to write it.
Happy Day! So your proposal finally earns you a thumbs up…now what? It’s time to get into some paper work. The best part about this section is that you are not bearing the work load anymore. Your new agent will now send you a contract.
These contracts are usually short documents that you can probably work though on your own, so no need for an attorney. You just need be careful about two things – firstly, that your agent is not looking to exclusively represent you for over 12 months, and secondly that you are not going to billed for the cost of office overhead if your book does not do well on the market.
Once the contract has been signed, your agent will send you a copy of your original proposal with a few editorial suggestions. As soon as you finalize your proposal’s contents, your agent will start pitching your idea to the ‘big boys’ i.e. publishing companies. Once you get the go-ahead as well as the funding, feel free to start writing…Microsoft Word will be your new home!
Option 2) Mainstream Publication
This option is slightly similar to the first; however the two do have a few minor differences. The primary difference is that the ‘middle man’ or agent is no longer involved i.e. the first step that you need to take in the field of mainstream publication, is directly locating a publisher. Once again, you can feel free to look through a publishing directory or make use of a search engine. This way, you can choose a publisher, that best suits you.
As soon as you have made contact with a publishing house and managed to spark a bit of interest, you might be requested to ‘pitch’ your book to the company in person.
The Pitch & Self Marketing
Now if consider yourself to be a great public speaker, this could be your moment to shine – if not, just remember that you will only be speaking to a few suits!
The pitch is almost a verbal explanation of everything you would express in a proposal – if you happen to be unfamiliar with the guidelines for a proposal, simply follow the outline mentioned in option 1.
If you choose to publish via mainstream publication, it is important to note that you must be able to market yourself. Even if you do get lucky and a publishing house chooses to publish your book, you will still have to do a major part of the marketing – keep that in mind when it comes to your budget as it will help to have some additional money to use for publicity.
The obvious benefit of publishing via a mainstream company is the possible exposure that you and your book could attain. On a large scale, the scope of various mainstream publication houses extends from local to international.
The greatest risk involved in using this method of publication, is the risk of rejection. You may even be rejected before publication as well as after. It is not often that a well-known publishing company would risk a dollar on an unknown author – so prepare yourself for possible rejection after your pitch. Even if your book does get accepted for publication, rejection is still a factor in terms of your book’s marketability and it is highly unlikely that your publisher will pick up the bill should your book not be successful.
Option 3) Self Publishing – (POD) Print/Publish on Demand
This option refers to printing a book at the time of purchase. It is an innovative method of publishing books that saves money, time and supplies. The printing industry is ecstatic about this method of publication as it means that books no longer need to be warehoused until purchased.
This method of publication allows you to handle the design work of your book or opt for a service/package that offers cover design, formatting and editing. Do a search for ‘self publishing’ publishing companies that will assist you in the areas that you may need help – from the time that your book has been ordered to the delivery. The POD will actually help you list your book on Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com and other major bookstores by hooking you up with an ISBN.
Here’s how the process works:
Submit the final draft of your book to a company that offers POD. Make sure your draft is formatted in the way that you want it to look in its final publication.
You will be requested to wait until your file has been added to the data system of that company.
The printing company receives an order for your book according to its ISBN.
An operator at the printing company accesses your file in their system. Ensuring all editing and formatting is correct; the book is released to the printer and binder system. Your book is printed in less than 5 minutes.
Your book is then packaged and addressed to the customer. It is then sent directly to the customer. This entire process takes approximately 10 working days – thus your book can hit the market as soon as possible.
While this type of publishing has become increasingly popular in the industry, it is important to note that it requires you fork out a bit of your own money – each book will cost you approximately $5.
This option has various benefits. Firstly, most of the companies involved will accept any type of work, no matter who you are – so rejection is not something that you will have to worry about. Secondly, if you are involved with the design and formatting personally, your book automatically will gain a unique edge. Finally, the POD handles distribution and order fulfilment. This means that when you book has been ordered; the POD will print a copy of your book, ship it and pay you a royalty of approximately 30% of the purchase price – leaving you with less grey hair!
With regards to the risks involved, it is important to note that the owner of the ISBN also owns the book’s copyright, so be careful with that and make sure that you purchase your book’s ISBN under your name, not the vanity publisher.
Option 4) Local Publishing Companies
Local commercial printing companies use the same technology as PODs. Feel free to browse through a publishing directory or just your local directory for a list of companies that offer publishing services. Your next step is to contact the publishing house that you have chosen.
While prices may vary, expect to pay 3 cents per black and white page i.e. a 200-page book could cost you approximately $6.50.
Print Style Options
Your first choice in terms of printing style is between color printing and black & white printing. This will dictate the cost that you will need to budget for. Most companies offer digital printing, so you can choose the amount of copies that you want printed at the time of publication. In terms of cover design, you are only limited by your own creativity – once again you are free to take charge of your own design. Binding on the other hand, will be handled by the company and is included in the original price per page.
When you publish through a local company, you must take note that the printer will print precisely what you send – this is without any revision or editing. It is crucial that your book is proofread before submission. Also with this option, you will still have to promote your book, fill and ship all orders.
Option 5) eBook Publication
What is an eBook?
An eBook is an electronic copy of your book that may be purchased, downloaded and read immediately online. It can serve a variety of purposes i.e. advertising, the gathering of potential customer’s information and the generation of interest. Not only does this option provide the media for a sample publication of you incomplete book, but it also allows for full publication of your book once it is complete – thus you can sell the electronic version of your book, as if it were a hard copy.
This option may be deemed the most convenient and economical way to publish a book. Here is a basic outline of the process:
The Final Draft
To prepare you book for eBook publication, you have to format it exactly the way that you want your readers to see it. This will be easy if you are using a word processor such as Microsoft Word.
Unless you know exactly what you want in terms of formatting, I suggest that you stick to a standardised type of book formatting – the outline of a manuscript format is included later on in this article.
Sorry to say, editing will be your worst nightmare – just when you think that it’s over, go back and proofread again and again. Also try and get others to read your final draft too. Don’t skimp on the quality of your writing simply because you are publishing electronically.
Copyrighting your book is your next move. Don’t stress out too much about the ISBN, as you are actually the publisher now, so you will be in charge of the distribution and price setting.
Designing the Cover
If you happen to have an arty side, this is your chance to bring it out! Feel free to extend your creativity but remember to keep your design, appropriate with regards to your book’s contents. You can also make use of external services should you need help i.e. graphic designers do freelance their services for this type of thing.
Now it really gets interesting…There are various programs available that generate self-executable eBooks. It is however important to note that most people are cautious when it comes to downloading new programs. I therefore recommend that you publish your eBook in plain old .pdf format. Adobe Acrobat Reader is a well established brand which is both safe and also free for anyone to download. Visit Adobe Online and register for their online PDF Creator to publish an eBook or feel free to do a Google search for a few more eBook publishing programs.
Set up a business account with an ecommerce site like PayPal. You will then have to add your book’s ISBN to your ‘product list’. PayPal will then generate an html code that you can copy and paste where ever you would like to promote your eBook. You will in turn be notified via email, when someone purchases your book. Your last move is to reply to that email by attaching the .pdf of your book and sending the mail directly to your customer…and voila! Your first eBook is sold.
There are various benefits related to this new wave of publication. Firstly, it requires you to spend little to no money out of your own pocket. Thus, there is very little financial risk involved. Secondly, your book can be published from the comfort of your own home…a few clicks here and there is all that it takes. Finally, from a marketing perspective, an eBook opens up various avenues for advertising – it allows you to add links within your book, directing the reader anywhere that you would like i.e. this gives you a chance to expand your business network. Once again, you must remember that you are in charge of your book’s marketing.
Irrespective of the method of publication that you choose, you will need to master manuscript writing…Here’s a handy guide on how to correctly format your manuscript.
Try to make use of this type of formatting prior to submitting it to an agent or publisher. At first glance you may think that these standards may not be aesthetically pleasing, but don’t stress, your publisher should send your original manuscript to a ‘formatter’ that standardizes the format during publication.
Basic Formatting Rules
Use 1 inch margins around all your text – repeat this on each page.
Double spacing should be used throughout your manuscript. This type of spacing enhances your manuscripts readability and makes it easier to edit.
If you want to italicize something, don’t do it now. Only highlight this before the final version is published – anything that you want in italics should be underlined in your manuscript.
All numbers should be spelt out i.e. type out four instead of 4.
Most symbols should also be spelt out i.e. don’t use the ‘%’ sign, instead type out ‘percent’.
Life After Publication
So now you are well on your way to publishing success you may wonder what life is like after you publish a book? Well whether you’ve completed your first or your twentieth title- the mental stamina required to squeeze out the finishing touches of your book as well as the proofreading and designing of your cover, should have earned you a well deserved break…I suggest that you now time to enjoy a little back patting and focus on YOU for a while – take a well deserved break and simply RELAX!
Most hard-workers actually find the state of relaxation rather difficult to achieve after writing a book. The buzz of the outside world is always a contributing factor to the build up of anxiety, even when one is not stressed out about anything at all. If you’re having trouble relaxing after your creative outpouring, here are a few quick tips that may help you out…
This is a 2-Step method of breathing – Start by filling the bottom of your lungs first and then adding air to the top as you breathe only through your nose. Exhale gradually and feel the tension flowing out.
Decide which muscle you want to relax and then tighten that muscle. Feel the tension on the tightened muscle. Now let the muscle become loose and limp. Feel the relaxation flow into the muscle. You can do a series of these, on different muscles.
LIMP RAG DOLL
Do the 2-Step method of breathing two times. With your mind imagine that all the bones in your body have melted. Feel your mind and body become limp and relaxed.
To begin you need to focus on your breathing. When you inhale, slowly say ‘I am’ and when you exhale say, ‘calm’. When your mind feels calm you may focus only on your breathing, with no thoughts at all.
So now that you have learnt a few relaxation exercises you should be well on your way to a few days of mental and physical bliss…Even though your book is now on its way to mass production, you need not let your relaxation period be short lived – don’t become overridden with anxiety about publicity, marketing and even worse, sales!
For a stress free way to boost sales and keep abreast of your new book’s performance you should consider subscribing to a promotions and sales tracking company.
With modern publishing methods, like self-publishing and eBook publication in mind, it is easy to understand why sales tracking has become a common pastime for most writers. Because most publishing options force you to take charge of your book’s marketing, it may be a good idea for you to make use of an online service to help you track the sales of your book and handle do a bit of book promotion on your behalf.
Taking this into consideration, let’s take look at the sales ranking and promotions company, RankTracer This company will do some online promotion and track your book at the same time – giving you on-the-hour sales rank information, graphs, reports and actual sales estimates.
If you are not quiet ‘sold’ on the importance of tracking sales, let’s take a look at what its benefits are with regards to your books marketing. You may want to pay careful attention here…
If used correctly, the sales rank information received from RankTracer may benefit you book in many ways. The following information is specifically related to tracking the sales of books sold on Amazon:
The Sales Rank is released for every product on Amazon, which means you aren’t limited to tracking your own book. Track the sales of a variety of products within a niche to compare and contrast their performance.
Advertising feedback & research
What happens if you want to work out how best to spend your advertising dollars? Again, use the Amazon Sales Rank as an indicator. For example, if you take out a newspaper ad and your sales rank hasn’t changed, you know that particular channel is not effective. Alternatively, you might spend money on online advertising on one site with yet again no effect, but from another your sales go haywire. Within the hour you know which option is better and which you should use in future.
With an external company tracking your sales and offering you a bit of extra help with book promotion, you are left with more time on your hands to use as you please – feel free to explore book-signings, tours, public talks and even blog about your new book!
So now you know! I trust that you found my walk through the publishing industry informative. Hopefully it has answered a few of your publishing queries and has helped you find the perfect publishing fit for you. Good luck and happy publishing!