I started writing for publication on a typewriter, just before personal desktop computers became commonplace. I’ve spent nearly 35 years trying to learn the rules, only to find that the rules changed faster than I could keep up with them.
Traditional publishers vs. Vanity publishers
When I wrote my first book, traditional publishers were the only really viable option for most people. Vanity publishers would publish your book for a high price, then charge you for the books and leave you to do your own editing and promotion. Traditional publishers were the gatekeepers. If you wanted to publish a book successfully, you had to go through them.
I thank the Lord for a traditional publisher who took a chance on me and published four of my books. Many writers see traditional publishers as the mean ogres who delight in rejecting their work. They see these publishers as paying them little and profiting big time.
Actually traditional publishers have faced difficult days with reduced sales in books overall. They have become less willing to take financial risks because they often lose money on a book. It has become increasingly difficult to sell your book to traditional publishers. When you do, you often have to go through an agent even to submit a manuscript for the editor to consider.
For some books the traditional publisher is definitely the way to go. You write the book. They pay you royalties and take care of other publishing details. They market the book, though more and more they expect you to help.
But perhaps you’ve tried submitting your book idea to traditional editors by studying the market and sending your best proposal to editors for whom your book is most suited. You’ve been rejected by everyone. That may not mean your book isn’t good enough to be published, but it could. Have your really studied your craft until you are ready to publish? Have you worked on your book until it is publishable quality? If you haven’t, maybe you need to start with articles or short stories, hone your craft, establish yourself as an author, and work up to writing books.
If you are convinced, however, that you have a well-written, quality book that has good potential to sell, you may want to consider other options.
Self-publishing used to be considered a very risky business for losers who couldn’t get their work accepted by traditional publishers. Times have changed dramatically, however, with some well-established authors preferring to self-publish their books.
Amazon has completely changed book publication. For one thing, anyone can publish a book on Amazon and it can stand beside other books published by traditional publishing houses. People can find your book on Amazon and purchase it there. You don’t have to go through physical bookstores to sell your books.
Also Amazon has made self-publication affordable and easy to do. Whether you choose to publish an ebook or a print book or both, you can do it through Amazon. They pay a higher royalty than a traditional publisher. However, you have to do more of the work and you take the financial risks.
You can choose to have Createspace design your book cover, format the interior, do copy-editing, distribute your book, even format it for Kindle. Or you can find someone to do these jobs yourself and still use Createspace as your publisher. Check out this link for more details and prices: https://www.createspace.com/Products/Book/ You can publish a very basic book or a Kindle book for less than $1000.
With CreateSpace (for print books) or Kindle (for ebooks), you pay up front, but you keep up to 70% of the royalties. They print on demand, so you don’t have to store boxes of books in your garage. You don’t have to pay for the actual printing. The consumer pays for this when they buy it.
Another option is to go with a small independent publisher who does all the work (other than writing) and takes the financial risks, but also pays you less royalties.
Whatever you do, make sure you don’t publish until you can be sure you have a well-written book with a professionally designed cover and good formatting. I recommend having it at least copy edited (for grammar, punctuation, etc.) though this will add considerably to the cost. Make sure you know who your target audience is and how to promote your book to that audience.
Many book publication options exist today. Many people who used to work with large traditional publishing houses now do free-lance work or own small independent publishing houses. It pays to shop around and compare the various options.
With self-publication you pay all of the costs up front, but you also get greater royalties. “Indie publishers” are small independent publishers. If you choose to go with an indie publisher, they will edit, format, and design the cover. You pay nothing, but you also get smaller royalties. You also have less control than you do in self-publishing. They may only allot a certain amount of money for your book. When it is gone they may refuse to spend more, even if more is needed. You will have to accept their scheduling, whereas with Amazon you can have your book up in a few days. The indie publisher may also make changes in the editing process that you don’t want to accept, but must accept or have the book rejected.
Indie Publishers can be good but it pays to compare and ask authors who have used them what their experience has been like.
Whichever kind of publisher you choose, make sure you put out a quality book that will make readers want to read more of your work. Know who your target audience is and how you can sell to that audience. When the writing is completed, your job is not done. Then you have to sell it or get it into publication. Then you need to promote it.
Sound like a lot of work? It is. Before you take the big step of publication, make sure you have a plan to see it to completion.