As a first-time author, it can be hard to understand how a document saved on your laptop can make it to the shelve of a local bookshop. All authors have to decide for themselves how to publish, taking into account the relative benefits and what they want from the experience — fame, fortune, literary reputation, or simply being able to say they've done it.
There are two primary paths to getting published: traditional publishing and self-publishing.
Here the author is being offered a contract by the publisher, who prints, publishes, and sells your book through booksellers and other retailers.
If you decide to publish a book traditionally, you need an agent. It is important to identify your writing genre to get one. Non-fiction writers will need to submit a book proposal, including three sample chapters and a synopsis of each chapter.
As a fiction writer, a complete manuscript is needed.
If these steps are accomplished, a query letter is next. A query letter is a tool for writers seeking publication. It's essentially a sales letter that attempts to persuade an editor or agent to request a full manuscript or proposal.
There are different publishing models, which includes
- print-on-demand (POD)
Print-on-demand (POD publishers accept all submissions from anyone willing to pay and publish. Books are printed as orders are being received.
Vanity publishers Here, the manufacturer prints and binds a book on the author's pay and does not offer additional services like editing, marketing, or promotional assistance. But the author owns the printed books and keeps all profit made from book sales.
Subsidy publisher this publisher contributes a portion of the cost to editing, distribution, warehousing, and marketing. Here, the publisher owns the books until they are sold, and the author earns money from royalties of books sold.
Self-publishing Here, the author invests their funds in producing, marketing, distributing, and warehousing the book. Though it can be a huge time commitment, the process can be more cost-effective than vanity or subsidy publishing.
Making the right decision
If seeing your work in print will help you fulfill a personal goal, use vanity publishing.
If your book is on family history, memoir, or poetry with a limited audience, using POD is probably your advantage.
Printing in bulk via self-publishing maybe your best option if you have a good platform to reach your audience, both online and offline, or have credibility with your reader in your genre/category. You are ready to give in your time to marketing and promoting your work.
Self-publishing is a good option when you have a time-sensitive manuscript since a commercial publishing company can take up to a year and some months to get your book to final production from the manuscript.
In case you don't know how to find or reach your audience, you don't have a presence online, don't have the time to spend online, or are a first-time writer. The best option may be the traditional publishing route.
The decision is ultimately yours to make.