All You Need to Know About Publishing (for now)
You’ve decided you love writing enough to go forth. You’ve set some goals about writing. You’ve joined a writers’ board or two or three. It’s time to set some goals about publishing. First things first. Don’t rush into anything. Do your research. The publishing industry is ever changing. Just a few years ago, our options were much more limited. I’m constantly learning about resources that probably didn’t exist a short time ago. That said, let’s talk about your present options and touch on a few elements common to the process of publishing. There are at least six ways to publish or get published. Their differences range from submission requirements to whether and how much the author has to pay, to the availability and extent of editing and marketing services.
This is my take on the six types of publishing houses: large publishing houses (usually called New York publishing houses because many are located there – author doesn’t pay), small publishing houses (some of these are also located in New York, but they generally limit themselves to a particular genre or type of book – author doesn’t pay), vanity presses (you pay these companies to store, print, list, and distribute your work), POD presses (Print on demand. You pay these companies to store, list, and distribute your work, and readers pay for printing as they order), basic printing presses (these presses offer bare bones services to authors for a fee. Basically, they print what you send them and you pay to have your book printed and bound), and my favorite, E-publishers (online publishers – author doesn’t pay). We also have several publishers that are a combination of two or more of these six types of presses.
Publishing houses that do not require you, the author, to pay, nearly always require a query letter (a one-page letter introducing yourself as an author and telling the main plot of your story) and synopsis (a two to five page summary of your story including the conclusion) before you get their permission to send your entire manuscript. NEVER send a manuscript without an invitation. This is a major no, no. Publishers receive so much to read, let alone the editing, marketing, and simply dealing with multiple personalities, that they can not tolerate unsolicited manuscripts. Many of them also require you to have an agent (the person who negotiates your contract and usually takes 15% of your pay to do so). These publishers are also considered to offer the most assistance to authors with editing and marketing. Don’t get nervous. We’ll talk more about the query letter, synopsis, and editing later (note to self). Yep, they’re that important.
For now, let’s continue with the similarities and differences between publishers.
POD and vanity presses do not require agents. While some POD presses require a query and synopsis before they’ll agree to print your work, many of them do not. You’re paying, anyway, so they’re not taking much of a risk on your work. Most vanity presses don’t require the query and synopsis. Remember, though, that before either of these presses will print anything, they require payment. They usually offer a variety of “packages” to authors with a different number of services for different amounts of money. Generally, with these presses, the author has to pay for any editing and marketing services not included in the initial package chosen.
E-publishers were the best fit for me. Authors don’t have to pay, so e-publishers nearly always require the query and synopsis, but unlike the larger presses, turn-around time (the amount of time it takes for your published book to actually be available) is relatively quick (usually 6 – 12 months). Also, unlike the larger presses, you, the author, have a lot more say about the finished product – even the cover of your book, and you don’t have to have an agent. You have to be willing to work for yourself (editing, marketing, and selling your book, that is), but e-pubs offer editing and marketing services free of charge. Again, you have to be willing to work for yourself. Unlike the large publishing houses, e-publishers don’t have big bucks to shell out marketing your book, so you learn a lot about marketing yourself. There are lots of ways to do this. We’ll talk about marketing later, too (note to self). I’m still a newbie at marketing, but so far, it’s enjoyable.
Okay. Take a deep breath. It’s nearly over. Here are a few resources to get you started. Consider them a sample of what’s out there. Take some time and look at them. This is just an inkling compared to the number of resources and choices you have as a writer, so take time to do your research, decide which publisher fits you best, and go for it.
Six Ways to Self-Publish
How to Get a Book Published
Getting Your Book Published for Dummies by Sarah Parsons Zackheim