The most common question people ask us is, “How do I get published?”
If Google is any indicator of trends, more and more people are searching for that same answer.
As technology has changed, so has the printing and publishing industry. About six years ago, the printing and publishing industry saw an increase in self-published authors. This was largely due to the digitalization of manuscripts and digital communication through blogs and social media that the worldwide connectivity of the Internet provided. Authors could digitally save and edit their books on their personal computers, send their drafts to short-run printers, and gained the ability to market their books with lower on-hand inventory. This allowed self-published authors more cost effective marketing strategies than before with traditional publishing companies because commercial publishing companies required large, costly first runs of books that didn’t always sell.
Printing technology had to fight to stay up to date with the Internet. Black and white and color printers made leaps and bounds, as well, over their predecessors due to better processors and new technology. Here at America’s Press, we saw a transition from printing manuals for big organizations like NASA, to working with smaller publishing companies and authors on books such as novels, self-help guides, inspirational books, family histories, and graphic novels.
As the Internet phenomenon grew, so did the book marketing industry. Brick and mortar print shops and publishers were making websites and starting to offer authors more places to market their books. Entrepreneurs were seizing their opportunities in Internet start-up companies offering the same type of services that brick and mortar shops could offer like editing and designing. Everyone wanted a piece of the Internet-pie.
So where does that leave authors, publishers and publishing houses today? How does the average Joe get published in this technologically saturated culture?
The first question you need to ask yourself is, how much time do you want to put into your book? Time is the biggest determining factor when thinking about even starting a book project. It will take time to research your topic of interest, write and revise your drafts, decide whether or not you want to publish through a traditional publishing house, vanity press or self-publish – and that’s the easy part!
Technology is another factor. Is your computer up to date enough to function properly, to convert a .doc to .pdf (we require that all of our documents come to us as pdf as do other companies), and able to use the programs that you will need to design a cover for your book?
A third factor is money. How much money are you willing to invest into your book and how much profit do you expect? It might surprise you to know that the more steps that you do yourself in designing and publishing your book, the more money you will ultimately save and the greater the potential return. Not to turn this into an economics lesson, the simple truth is that the fewer people who touch your book before it gets into the hands of the buyer, the more money you will make per book. Of course this strategy does not work for everyone. Some authors need publishers to invest in them in order to get their book off the ground. Whether you need this kind of help really depends on who you are as an author. If you are outgoing, well researched or an expert in your field, you are a prime candidate for self-publishing. If you are an introverted novelist, you may need more help.
- When looking at time, technology, and money alone, three main options become open to you to become published: commercial publishing, vanity presses/publishers, or self-publishing. Commercial publishing is often referred to as “traditional” publishing and is defined by the commercial issuance of literature and other types of media controlled by a large publisher. Vanity presses/publishers, or subsidy presses, are publishing houses that publish books at the author’s expense. Self-publishing is the publication of any book or other media by the author of the work, without the involvement of an established third-party publisher. It is generally entirely done at the expense of the author.
After your book is polished and ready to be released to the world, you need to decide if you will try the “traditional” commercial publisher route, the vanity press route or the self-published route. Here are the potential steps you may have to take to get published through a commercial publisher:
Find an agent
Write a query letter per agent’s guidelines (found mostly on their websites)
Send letters to different agents and publishers
Possibly get an agent who then will send your work to different publishers
Possibly get signed with a publisher
Do your own marketing
If your book sells, you get maybe 10% of the profit after waiting, on average, three or more months for your paycheck.
The upside to having a commercial publisher publish your book is simply their name and their publicity. If the book is good enough, commercial publishers can get your book into large bookstores. Depending on your contract, you pay a publisher to put their name on your book and they get a large chunk of the profits from your book. Publishers argue that they are the ones that are taking all of the risk signing you and that their name makes your book all the more enticing to the people who buy books for major retailers.
The commercial publishing route is not for the faint of heart, and you may not be the next Stephen King or John Grisham. If you are committed to see your project to the end, no matter the outcome, there are other options.
Another option for you is vanity or subsidy publishing. The fees are higher than on-demand printers like America’s Press for instance, but they can be more personal and more helpful than commercial printers. The author pays upfront for the vanity or subsidy publishing to publish their book. By paying up front, the author is investing in the company and not the company investing in the author. The subsidy publisher still profits on the book sales but takes no risk on the front end. All of the risk is taken by the author yet the author only gets part of the reward if things go well. The vanity or subsidy publishing will also retain the rights to your book and will control the future of your book.
Last, but certainly not least: self-publishing. Self-publishing is fast becoming the way to get your book out to the masses and make the most money. The price to print your book is dramatically less than commercial or vanity publishers. Some other advantages are: you retain the rights to your book, can control the prices, the content, the marketing and the profit. Most self-published authors have their own websites and sell their books through the Internet and local book shops. Some even get into libraries and online databases.
A growing number of self-published authors are also speakers. A self-published book is like having a fully credentialed resume with all of your references and research. Selling your self-published book can then help lead you to more speaking engagements which will then drive your book sales. Every speaker should have their own book being sold at every venue they speak at.
Those who want to get their words into the hands of the masses are no longer limited by the monopoly of big name publishing houses. Because of the rise in digital media via the Internet, communication between those unrepresented by New York, Chicago and London is increasingly possible. As you develop the idea of your own book, weigh your options to find the best fit for your project. Perhaps an on-demand printer like America’s Press can be the avenue through which you find a voice.