Years ago, publishing a piece meant sending it off to be printed in a bound book format with shiny covers and real pages that could be rudely dog-eared. With the advent of the household printer, it became easier to print off entire pieces without them ever passing the threshold, though it’s difficult to say that using a household printer was ever “easy.” Paper jams, impossible toner levels, and the cost of printer paper and ink made it a less than enjoyable process, but nonetheless, one anyone with the right equipment could complete.
Today, there are many paths to publication on a variety of scales. The difficulty, stress, and reward for each method are very different, and should be thoroughly considered before throwing all of your proverbial eggs into one proverbial basket.
Each of the methods for getting published that I’ll mention is worthy of its own book, but I’m going to skim over each for now. There are several reasons for this.
First, I don’t want anyone to feel that publishing is mandatory. Writing for pleasure alone is still very much a real thing, and I want anyone attempting to write a book to feel like this can be our little secret.
Next, the publishing world is so volatile that I couldn’t possibly do it justice without writing a lengthy volume.
Furthermore, the methods are constantly changing, and may be different from location to location, person to person, or website to website. It’s a very nuanced business, so rather than provide you with any details that might be inaccurate,
I’ll instead give you the basics and point you in the direction of more authoritative information.
Ghost writing is a term used to describe a situation where one party hires another party to write about a particular topic on their behalf. Many people are looking for ghostwriters, especially those looking for someone to capture in written word their own advice or life story. As a new writer, this can be beneficial because someone else is giving you guidance, and that dangling paycheck just beyond the deadline can be a great incentive… as long as you’re confident that you can follow through with the commitment.
- All you have to do is write and edit
- No politics, no agents
- You’ll likely get paid
- If the book tanks, no one knows it was you who wrote it
- You usually do not get to choose the topic
- The person requesting the writing may have very specific requirements, including a deadline
- No commission
- If the book performs extremely well, no one knows it was you wrote it
There are many venues out there for self-publishing your book, so take the time to explore your options to find the best fit for you and your goals. In this method of publication, you hire editors and designers to format your book, then submit it for publication through a business that strictly prints your book to order. Many publication venues have a minimum number of physical books they’ll print at a time, but self published eBooks are extremely popular.
- You can print anything, any time
- You don’t have to print millions of copies
- You can earn commission, depending on the distribution method or site you use
- You can make changes to your book at any time, since they are printed to order. Just make sure you’re using the latest file for future publications
- You’ll need to have design skills, or hire someone to ensure it’s formatted correctly for publishing or ebook distribution
- You will not see your face smiling back at you from a book jacket in the window of a bookstore
- You don’t commission unless it sells. All marketing and promotion is up to you
- You will need to pay for each copy that is produced, which means you may lose money at first
Finding an Agent/Publisher
This option is not for the faint of heart or those with low to moderate self- esteem. This is the most political version of getting your work published, but if you’re very much interested in becoming a famous author, you’ll want to consider finding an agent.
In this model, you send your book to agents who are looking for new material. Agents work on commission; therefore, it is in the best interest of each agent to only take on clients they believe they can sell. If an agent does not believe they can sell your book, they will reject it. Rejection hurts, but it’s not personal.
Once you find an agent, the agent will pitch your book to a variety of publishing houses. Again, they will only accept your work if they think they can profit from it. If they don’t think there’s money in your book, they will reject it.
Eventually, your book will be published. You will be paid royalties which are a percentage of the profit on your book. Your book will need to sell a certain number of copies in order to pay for its own publishing, so you will only get paid after your book has “earned out,” or paid for itself.
- You don’t have to pay to publish your own work You may be asked to produce multiple books
- Being signed by a publisher is a big deal with significant prestige and honor
- You won’t have to do any of the hustling like marketing, printing, ordering, and design
- You may have to relinquish creative control. Always review your contract in detail
- You may be rejected many times before you finally find an agent and publisher
- Your contract may limit your rights to your original work
- You may be forced to do press and signings (which might be a pro if you’re into that sort of thing!)
Publishing your work is often a strange juxtaposition of guts and glory. I’ve included some resources to help you dig further into any and all options that might sound ideal for you and your goals for your freshly-written book.