The Publishing Process: Choosing a Publisher
Thus far, I’ve spent several weeks talking about my inspirations for The Lightrider Journals. While I hope that readers have taken some cues from these sources, last week’s piece on how film and comics companies look at stories and characters made me think about the process I undertook in getting my book out into the world. While writing the story is a major part of that process, in some ways, it is the easiest part of the process. Many writers, including myself, enter the world of publishing without a clear guide, and often find themselves unsure of what to do and how to even get started. Therefore, I plan to start a biweekly series, chronicling my journey through publishing, from choosing a publisher to making the final edits and marketing. As such, I begin with the most important part of the journey- finding a publisher.
Your Publishing Options
However long you take writing your book, and then editing it, you then face the journey of getting it into print. Years ago, this would have meant the traditional publishing method- sending the book to various publishers and wait for one of them to accept it. While I don’t promote ignoring this option, it is not the fastest method. Many authors can wait years, going through several rejections at different publishers (one author told me he went through forty different publishers before finding success). And unfortunately, the process has become more difficult in the wake of e-books, which have left traditional publishers struggling to adapt and more choosey about the books they print, which diminishes your chances even further.
However, there is a new option that many authors are currently- independent publishing. This option has two folds- publishing through a self-publication house like iUniverse or Lulu, or using online publishers like Amazon.com. There are pros and cons to both options- self-publishing costs more, but gives you physical and electronic copies, while online costs less and can have more royalties, but only gives you one medium to sell your work through. Regardless, both are viable options to get your book out quickly, and generally give you more control over your work. Even so, there are several things to be aware of in all three fields of publishing.
Pros and Cons
To decide where to publish you need to do research on all three methods and what they offer. Traditional publishing will usually mean higher royalties, a contract, entry into a variety of booksellers, and a marketing department to plan out and fulfill your book’s publicity campaign. However, you also have to sign your book over to your publishers, which often means they will have a great deal of control over it (see Alan Moore and his book to film adaptions). And of course, all this is subject to whether or not they will even take your book. Self-publishing houses will take your book regardless, and usually allow you to have full control over it. However, this control comes with a fee, and requires a great deal of research on your part to avoid the danger of vanity presses.
A vanity press, is basically a publishing house that sells you on the idea of holding your book in your hand and often promise higher royalties. However, when that is over, you are on your own- they will not offer you assistance in marketing the book (and sometimes, not even edit it), a step almost every first time author struggles with. Without proper marketing, a book will not sell, and whatever the royalty rate is, it will be a percent of nothing. So if you choose to use a self-publishing house, do your research. Make sure that you see how they are rated by others, check their history and publishing packages, and above all, talk to someone in the company about it. What made me choose iUniverse was that they are highly rated in the industry, are staffed by professionals with experience in publishing, offer several packages at different costs, work at your speed, have connections with major booksellers, and will offer you marketing aid. Even if iUniverse isn’t right for you, these are qualities you should look for in a self-publisher, because there are downsides to this method. There is a lot of money involved in self-publishing, and it can be a long process. Professional editors will make your book look professional and marketing people will help you, but it all comes at a cost, so be prepared and know what you’re getting into (especially with matters like royalties). And even then, you are ultimately responsible for getting your book sold- I’ve organized my own signings, and a friend helped set up my recent blog tour.
As for online publishing, I’ve had little experience with the direct application, but the same issues apply. With so many people publishing this way, it’s by no means a fool-proof road to fame and fortune. While it is inexpensive and has higher royalties, it will still require a tremendous amount of work on your part to market and sell. There is no professional editing process, and you will not have a physical product to push. And above all, remember that 75% of nothing is still nothing- the royalties are only good if you make the book sell.
There are many different avenues for publishing and while my road worked for me, you shouldn’t feel obliged to take it. The best advice I can give to writers looking for publishing is to take the time to look at every option fully, and decide what’s best. If you truly want the traditional route, then be prepared to be patient and make room for rejections. If you want self-publishing, make sure you have the funds and that you sign up with the right people. If you want the internet, then learn how to make the best product and learn how to market it. In short, learn about these options and any new ones that crop up, because the first step requires a lot of thought and deliberation to make it work. And the next few steps require just as much thought.