Writing Tips: So you want to publish your book . . .
June 5, 2016
Okay, so you have a book that you edited and worked hard on, what do you do with it? That is a very good question. When I first entered into this category myself, everyone praised the traditional route. They wanted the agent and the big publishing house that could whisk them away to fame and movie deals and the coveted slot on the Barns and Noble shelf. Spoiler alert, things have changed. Amazon changed them. Less people go to physical book stores and it’s a lot easier for an individual to get a digital book to the masses. And this change has come in faster than I think most in the publishing biz were prepared for (I mean, I’m not even old and I can talk about “the good old days” a little here). So now there are three tracks and subtracks and lots of things in between if you want to publish your book.
Traditional-If you want a bigger publisher, you still have to do it the older way. You have to get an agent. How do you get one? Well, I might not be the best one to ask because I don’t have one, but from what I have seen and what I have been told, you have to write a good query and/or find some other acceptable way to snag their attention such as a blog or twitter contest. Sometimes agents will go to conferences and you can pitch in person. Research the agents on sites such as Query Tracker to find out who would be a good fit. Try to follow their guidelines in writing a query letter. Be polite. Be prepared for rejection.
Stone Bearers, then called Demon Prince, was the first of my books I actually looked into publishing and it was queried to agents. It was also featured in blog contests. Some agents showed interest, some did not, but ultimately I think it failed at this route because I was learning by trial and error and by the time I figured at least part of that out, I had exhausted a lot of options I saw in this area available to me. So I moved on and found my personal break-in with a small press.
So yeah, that is how far my experience with the traditional route goes. You get an agent and they pitch to larger presses and work out the contract for you (in exchange for sharing some of the profits).
Some advantages of this route-Bigger exposure. More experienced feedback to get your book to really shine. They will front the bill for a lot of the editors and cover art and promotion and everything else along the way (assuming they are doing their job right).
Some disadvantages-It’s REALLY hard for a new writer to break in this way and it gets harder all the time as publishing changes. Also, if you go this route, you will lose some of your control. Some of this comes in the form of good and helpful feedback, other comes in the form of those who would encourage you to write to certain topics or formulas that they prefer or seem to sell well. Which, again, they could be right about, but some of the more free-spirited among us might have a harder time settling there. You will also share a lot of your profits with the agent and the publisher. They helped give you the platform you’re standing on, so it is only fair.
Semi-traditional-There are publishers who do not require an agent. These are the smaller presses. You pitch to them as you would pitch to an agent (but please don’t try to pitch to both and leverage the two against each other—they both hate it). Research them and find out what would be a good fit for your book.
Some advantages of this route-Really varied here, but you’ll get some of the same pros as complete traditional. Smaller presses are smaller, so sometimes you can talk more directly to all the people on your publishing team and get more of your opinions heard.
Some disadvantages-Again, smaller presses are by definition, smaller, so a lot of times they are still learning with you what works, trying to build up their own base and visibility. They will also have their own opinions they will add to your book for good or ill.
Self-publishing/Indie-Okay, this route it getting traction and getting bigger all the time. These are those free spirits that wish to do everything themselves. Or people who struck out on the first two routes and are GOING to get their books out no matter what. Or a combination there of. And I think that’s great. I have lots of friends that have gone this route—even considering it myself for some of my future projects. Just realize this is NOT a short cut and NOT for the faint of heart. To do this route well, you will need to assemble your own editors, artists, marketing specialists, and everything else to make things work. The market is so cluttered in this area now that making your stuff stand out can be really difficult, but if you really just want a book out there, it really can be as easy as uploading a pdf to Amazon.
Some advantages of this route-You will have full control of your story. No one can tell you nothing. You call all the shots. You own the world. You own everything.
Some disadvantages-You have to do EVERYTHING and figure out how to reach your audience. You also have no gatepost person to help you gage when your work is “ready.” You have to know yourself.
ALL. BY. YOURSELF.
Okay, so you figured out your personal path to publishing. What comes after that? Honestly, I am still working on that part. For example, I never did much with marketing before, but I'm researching and once I formed enough of my own ideas on that enough not just to be parroting my sources, I will share. For now, maybe people smarter than me can start filling in the gaps and we will all learn together. :)
This is the current end of my “So you want to write a book series” (part 1 and 2 here). If there are specific questions or I learn something awesome, I will try to add to it. Feel free to drop me a line and let me know what would be helpful!