You’ve done it. You’ve finally finished your book. Congratulations! But wait, you’re not finished. Now you have some important decisions to make.
The first question to ask yourself: • Do I want to self-publish or opt for traditional publishing?
Perhaps you made that decision at the beginning of your writing project and so already know the answer, but if you need help, we are here to advise you, because it can be a grueling decision. We’ve worked with writers pursuing both options, so let’s take a closer look.
Traditional versus Self-publishing There are many things to consider when deciding between these two options, and please note that a third option has appeared on the scene, called partnership publishing, which is a kind of hybrid between the two, but we’ll discuss this briefly under the heading Self-Publishing. So, here are a few factors to think about:
Time – how quickly do you want to publish your book?
Realize that the process of finding an agent, who will then need to find a publisher, can easily take two years. Or more. In some instances the process can move more quickly, but unless you’re famous, don’t count on it. Self-publishing can be done very quickly.
Control – do you want control over the content of the book? The cover? I’ll let you guess which option gives the author greater control. However, self-publishing also means that you must hire an editor, a designer, etc.
Advances and royalties – what are your financial aspirations and goals? These days, publisher’s advances are shrinking, and yet royalty rates are often the same. Again, you have more control over royalty percentages with a self-published book, but the trade-off is that you are also paying to have your book published and you won’t be receiving an advance.
Marketing and promotion – no matter which publishing option you choose, know that you are expected to assist in the marketing of your book. Without your vigorous work, sales will be slim.
Bookstore placement – do you have your heart set on seeing your book on bookstore shelves? Know that is much more difficult to find your book in a bookstore if it is self-published. There’s more to each of these factors, and there are even more factors to consider, but these will get you started, especially if you have a conversation with us.
Traditional Publishing Moving along the path toward traditional publishing requires patience, diligence and the recognition that competition is stiff. Even within the category of traditional publishing, you should ask yourself:
Do I want to approach one of the big five publishers (Hachette, Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Macmillan, and Simon & Schuster) or a smaller independent press?
(BTW: Many smaller presses do not require having an agent, so that might be a consideration.) But let’s say you’re going for one of the big five. In that case, you’ll want to find an agent. The first step is the query letter. See our Services page for Query Letters and Book Proposals for more information. Sending a query out to agents should be easy, right? Well, it’s also a process that requires strong and concise writing. You’ll need:
a query letter for fiction submissions (plus a complete manuscript), and
a query letter and a book proposal (with a partial manuscript) for non-fiction and memoir.*
[*Note: sometimes agents or publishers do not require a book proposal for memoir, but if that’s the case, they usually require a full manuscript.]
Querying agents may not seem as mentally draining as writing the actual book, but it’s no easy task. From a variety of sources, you’ll need to cull a list of agents who might be interested in the kind of book you’ve written. (Perhaps you’ve met some or pitched a few at writers’ conferences?) Then you’ll need to find the correct email or street addresses of those agents, make sure each letter is addressed appropriately, etc.To put it bluntly, unless you’re extremely lucky, it’s an exercise that can keep even the most dedicated writers from moving their manuscript off their desktop and into print. At the very least, it’s certainly less fun and can take weeks – valuable time you could spend (dare we say it?)…writing your next book! (see Resources for Writers page for a shortcut.)
Self-publishing In many ways, you’re lucky to be a writer today. Self-publishing is not what it used to be, and now more than ever, self-published books have just as good a chance of “making it big” as traditionally published books do. But it’s not an easy process either, and you should learn all you can about self-publishing to give your book the best chance at success.
Which self-publishing option should I use? There are hundreds of options, but there are some books out there that can help with your decision. See the Resources for Writers page for a couple we recommend.),
What do I need to do to prepare the manuscript for publication? For a professional manuscript you ought to hire an editor to proofread and edit the final draft. Earlier in the process you might want to work with an editor to receive a manuscript critique and/or some coaching. Then you need a graphic designer for the cover and possibly to format the book.)
What else do I need to do? We highly recommend that you develop a marketing strategy and a budget for your book at least three months in advance of the publication date. You might also want to assemble a team of experts – a publicist and/or book marketer, etc.
Should I use crowdfunding to finance my project? We know several authors who have used Kickstarter to great success. It is time-consuming, but will give you a feeling of support for your project and ease the pressure on your bank account.
Chrysalis Editorial offers a full complement of services to get your book published, from copy editing to formatting the book and helping you devise a marketing strategy.
Finally, a brief note on Partnership Publishing:
One of the newest forms of publishing to emerge is called Partnership Publishing. In short, it’s a hybrid of traditional and self-publishing.
Such publishers usually have a process for deciding whether they would like to help you publish your manuscript or not, and if they accept, both you and the publisher share not just the costs of getting your book into print and on the market, but also other aspects of the publishing process, including marketing and distribution. Some, like Inkshares, use crowdfunding to finance their books.
A warning is in order. Recently, when we did an Internet search of “partnership publishing,” we had to do quite a bit of work to find such companies. And they are not to be confused with established publishers, such as Simon & Schuster, which have “partnered” with a self-publishing press (in their case, Author House) to create their own “brand,” in this case Archway Press, about which we found quite a few negative reports.
We are not making a judgment here, but encourage you to be very careful when assessing the value of such an investment. Packages can be hugely expensive (in the case of Archway, the costs are up to $14,999 for fiction and non-fiction; and up to $24,999 for business books).
In most of these cases, the traditional publisher has absolutely no bearing or connection to your work, though they might like you to think so. One of the spiritual book publishers, Hay House, also has its self-publishing arm, called Balboa Press. Again, we encourage you to look closely at whether such affiliations afford your book any greater credibility than any other self-publisher.