The Ultimate Publishing Guide - How to Publish Your Book Without Breaking a Sweat

Most writers claim that 'writing' is the painless part of being a writer- the real challenge begins when you attempt to publish your masterpiece. The book industry can be a really hard one to crack, especially if you're a newbie. No need to panic though - if you're reading this, all your publishing problems are nearly over!

This article has been designed as a one-stop publishing guide for all types of writers. It is crammed full of useful and current information, which taps into the world of literature by exploring a variety of different channels of publication. This guide explores; Publishing thorough an Agency, Mainstream Publication, Self Publishing, Local Publishing Companies and eBook Publication. It furthers to explore life after your book has been published.

So whether your interests lie in large international exposure for you book, or self publishing, simply read on for a detailed tour of the publishing industry.

Option 1) Publishing through an Agency

The Process

The first step to saving time whilst publishing is making sure that you avoid writing something that will never be read! My advice to anyone who aspires to publish something is to find a literary agent. This is a great time saver as, when you have an agent, you will never again waste time writing something that may be defined as 'unmarketable'. To further explain - the literary network is very closely knit i.e. in order to have your book published; you would need to go through specific channels. A strict system has been designed to maintain a sense of order in the realm of literature. Now, an agent can help you weave your way through the system - especially if you are a first timer.

An agent is an individual who is able to help you through much of the information filtering process. A recommendation from an agent almost guarantees that your manuscript will be read by a publishing house.

Essentially, the role of an agent is to read and approve your manuscript or any ideas that you may have i.e. queries and proposals. The agent will then decide whether your venture could be successful. If so, the agent will further to draw up a contract with you. Contracts of this nature usually express the agent's promise to use his/her best efforts to get your manuscript into a publishing house - the exchange is usually about 15% of the entire deal. Your new agent will then work extremely hard to sell your idea.

Agent Hunting

There are usually 2 types of agents - those who work with fiction and those who work with non-fiction. The easiest way to find your match is by paging through a publishing guide/directory, which lists the functions of a variety of agents in great detail i.e. 'Guide to Literary Agents'. It is important to take note of any previous books that have been published by the agent/s that you are interested in - usually an agent will take interest in a particular theme, and stick to working with ideas along its lines.

Contacting an Agent

Once you have compiled a list of potential agents, feel free to start contacting them. The best way to do this is via a query letter. In essence, a query letter a short introduction of yourself and your idea - it should feed the agent enough information to arouse interest, but not too much to bore him/her. This is a suggested letter structure:

The Teaser

Your introduction is usually the aspect of the letter sells you - so make it an attention grabber. Ideally, you would want to describe the compelling fit between the person that you are and your idea for a book.

Develop Your Idea

Use your next few sentences to explore your idea, explaining what it is that you want to write about. Feel free to add in a snip-bit of your writing that best exemplifies your idea.

Self Description

Your third paragraph should be based on you. Try to reiterate the connection between you as a person and your idea. You should also feel free to show-off your academic or intellectual achievements.

Wrapping Up

Be sure to personalize your concluding sentence- making the agent feel unique and valuable to you in your selection process. Conclude by sharing your contact details and preferred method of communication.

Remember, this letter is merely an 'appetizer' so keep it short and simple.

Proposal Preparation

After sending your initial query letter to an agent, he/she would normally follow up by requesting a proposal. Essentially, your proposal is a document that accurately outlines an idea for a book. Here's idea of what your proposal should contain:

The Overview

The first 2 pages of your proposal should contain a broad summary of the book. Non-fiction: Explain your intentions in terms of contents and topics. Fiction: Provide a general outline of your plot.

Target Market

Your next 3 pages should contain a description of your prospective target market. You should define this in terms of; age, socio-economic, and educational characteristics of you potential audience.

Market Threat and Competition

This section allows you to define what type of threats your book may face in terms of competitors and other books that cover a similar topic. Be careful to do all your homework here, because this section is really important to an agent as it dictates your books marketability.

Authorship

Use this section to write up a brief description about yourself and your co-authors, if any. Take this opportunity to brag as much as possible, as this section will help your agent convince a publishing house to pay you for your idea.

Summary of Chapters

This should be the largest part of your proposal - it contains an outline of what you intend to cover in each chapter of your book. Non-fiction: Provide a minimum amount of information i.e. outlines. Fiction: Provide definite samples of your writing.

Delivery

This section is relatively small - it simply contains the number of words you think your finished book will contain and the approximate time you will take to write it.

Contracts

Happy Day! So your proposal finally earns you a thumbs up...now what? It's time to get into some paper work. The best part about this section is that you are not bearing the work load anymore. Your new agent will now send you a contract.

These contracts are usually short documents that you can probably work though on your own, so no need for an attorney. You just need be careful about two things - firstly, that your agent is not looking to exclusively represent you for over 12 months, and secondly that you are not going to billed for the cost of office overhead if your book does not do well on the market.

Once the contract has been signed, your agent will send you a copy of your original proposal with a few editorial suggestions. As soon as you finalize your proposal's contents, your agent will start pitching your idea to the 'big boys' i.e. publishing companies. Once you get the go-ahead as well as the funding, feel free to start writing...Microsoft Word will be your new home!

Option 2) Mainstream Publication

The Process

This option is slightly similar to the first; however the two do have a few minor differences. The primary difference is that the 'middle man' or agent is no longer involved i.e. the first step that you need to take in the field of mainstream publication, is directly locating a publisher. Once again, you can feel free to look through a publishing directory or make use of a search engine. This way, you can choose a publisher, that best suits you.

As soon as you have made contact with a publishing house and managed to spark a bit of interest, you might be requested to 'pitch' your book to the company in person.

The Pitch & Self Marketing

Now if consider yourself to be a great public speaker, this could be your moment to shine - if not, just remember that you will only be speaking to a few suits!

The pitch is almost a verbal explanation of everything you would express in a proposal - if you happen to be unfamiliar with the guidelines for a proposal, simply follow the outline mentioned in option 1.

If you choose to publish via mainstream publication, it is important to note that you must be able to market yourself. Even if you do get lucky and a publishing house chooses to publish your book, you will still have to do a major part of the marketing - keep that in mind when it comes to your budget as it will help to have some additional money to use for publicity.

Risks/Benefits

The obvious benefit of publishing via a mainstream company is the possible exposure that you and your book could attain. On a large scale, the scope of various mainstream publication houses extends from local to international.

The greatest risk involved in using this method of publication, is the risk of rejection. You may even be rejected before publication as well as after. It is not often that a well-known publishing company would risk a dollar on an unknown author - so prepare yourself for possible rejection after your pitch. Even if your book does get accepted for publication, rejection is still a factor in terms of your book's marketability and it is highly unlikely that your publisher will pick up the bill should your book not be successful.

Option 3) Self Publishing - (POD) Print/Publish on Demand

The Process

This option refers to printing a book at the time of purchase. It is an innovative method of publishing books that saves money, time and supplies. The printing industry is ecstatic about this method of publication as it means that books no longer need to be warehoused until purchased.

This method of publication allows you to handle the design work of your book or opt for a service/package that offers cover design, formatting and editing. Do a search for 'self publishing' publishing companies that will assist you in the areas that you may need help - from the time that your book has been ordered to the delivery. The POD will actually help you list your book on Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com and other major bookstores by hooking you up with an ISBN.

Here's how the process works:

Submit the final draft of your book to a company that offers POD. Make sure your draft is formatted in the way that you want it to look in its final publication.

You will be requested to wait until your file has been added to the data system of that company.

The printing company receives an order for your book according to its ISBN.

An operator at the printing company accesses your file in their system. Ensuring all editing and formatting is correct; the book is released to the printer and binder system. Your book is printed in less than 5 minutes.

Your book is then packaged and addressed to the customer. It is then sent directly to the customer. This entire process takes approximately 10 working days - thus your book can hit the market as soon as possible.

Budget

While this type of publishing has become increasingly popular in the industry, it is important to note that it requires you fork out a bit of your own money - each book will cost you approximately $5.

Risks/Benefits

This option has various benefits. Firstly, most of the companies involved will accept any type of work, no matter who you are - so rejection is not something that you will have to worry about. Secondly, if you are involved with the design and formatting personally, your book automatically will gain a unique edge. Finally, the POD handles distribution and order fulfilment. This means that when you book has been ordered; the POD will print a copy of your book, ship it and pay you a royalty of approximately 30% of the purchase price - leaving you with less grey hair!

With regards to the risks involved, it is important to note that the owner of the ISBN also owns the book's copyright, so be careful with that and make sure that you purchase your book's ISBN under your name, not the vanity publisher.

Option 4) Local Publishing Companies

The Process

Local commercial printing companies use the same technology as PODs. Feel free to browse through a publishing directory or just your local directory for a list of companies that offer publishing services. Your next step is to contact the publishing house that you have chosen.

Budget

While prices may vary, expect to pay 3 cents per black and white page i.e. a 200-page book could cost you approximately $6.50.

Print Style Options

Your first choice in terms of printing style is between color printing and black & white printing. This will dictate the cost that you will need to budget for. Most companies offer digital printing, so you can choose the amount of copies that you want printed at the time of publication. In terms of cover design, you are only limited by your own creativity - once again you are free to take charge of your own design. Binding on the other hand, will be handled by the company and is included in the original price per page.

Risks/Benefits

When you publish through a local company, you must take note that the printer will print precisely what you send - this is without any revision or editing. It is crucial that your book is proofread before submission. Also with this option, you will still have to promote your book, fill and ship all orders.

Option 5) eBook Publication

What is an eBook?

An eBook is an electronic copy of your book that may be purchased, downloaded and read immediately online. It can serve a variety of purposes i.e. advertising, the gathering of potential customer's information and the generation of interest. Not only does this option provide the media for a sample publication of you incomplete book, but it also allows for full publication of your book once it is complete - thus you can sell the electronic version of your book, as if it were a hard copy.

The Process

This option may be deemed the most convenient and economical way to publish a book. Here is a basic outline of the process:

The Final Draft

To prepare you book for eBook publication, you have to format it exactly the way that you want your readers to see it. This will be easy if you are using a word processor such as Microsoft Word.

The Format

Unless you know exactly what you want in terms of formatting, I suggest that you stick to a standardised type of book formatting - the outline of a manuscript format is included later on in this article.

Proofreading

Sorry to say, editing will be your worst nightmare - just when you think that it's over, go back and proofread again and again. Also try and get others to read your final draft too. Don't skimp on the quality of your writing simply because you are publishing electronically.

Copyrighting