So you’re writer and your dream is to see your manuscript transformed into a book …
Until a few years ago, your only option was try your luck with a traditional publishing house. Self-publishing, while theoretically possible, was still a ‘hit and miss’ method of book publication with lots of complicated work involved and poor print quality output. It was a long, difficult process that wasn’t especially effective. In contrast, traditional publishers paid all of the expenses incurred in the book publication process: editing, cover design, formatting, printing, distribution, marketing, and so on. Under this traditional publishing model, authors weren’t required to pay any publishing or marketing costs upfront. In exchange, they got their books published for ‘free’. However, publishing is just like anything else – there is no such thing as a free lunch. Any new author taken on by a traditional publishing house gives away the rights to their book for some period of time (usually five to seven years) and, in exchange, receives a meagre royalty (typically 5-8 % of the retail price of their book).
The ‘old guard’ of traditional book publishing
As has always been the case in the book publishing industry, the ‘old guard’ still reigns and traditional publishers make it very challenging for you (as an unknown writer) to get your manuscript in front of them. So, the first step in getting a traditional publisher to notice you and even think about publishing your book is to write a query letter introducing yourself and explaining what your book is about, who the target audience is, and how you intend to market your book.
As you may well already know, sending query letters to agents and publishers frequently amounts to tossing these letters into a black hole. Sometimes an agent or publisher will contact you and ask for more material, which is a good sign. More often, they never write back or send you a form rejection letter. Even if they do ask you for more material, it doesn’t mean that you’ve won a publishing contract. Usually it simply means that they are going to think about reading more of your written material whenever they feel like it – hence the black hole analogy.
Of course, some new authors do manage to break into this virtually locked-down universe. Presumably, authors lucky enough to get a contract from a traditional publisher choose that route because the publisher brings years of design, marketing, PR contacts, and other important relationships to the table. But how many of those relationships will be leveraged for the release of a book by a little-known author? Probably not many. The best way to avoid the question altogether is to consider self-publishing your book.
Self publishing: a viable and affordable book publication model
For someone who has never ventured into the world of self publishing, getting your own book out into the world can seem like a daunting task. Indeed, there are many things that go into and steps involved in writing and self publishing your own book. However, if you have the right tools and are motivated to succeed, there is no reason why you can’t do it yourself.
If your goal as a writer is to spread your ideas or tell your story, self publishing can be a financially-advantageous, faster, and possibly easier book publishing alternative. Plus it has the added advantage of allowing you to retain the publication rights to your work. As time passes and with ever increasing technological advances, the book publishing pendulum seems to be swinging farther from traditional publishing and closer to self-publishing.