You’ve sweated over your manuscript, you’re finished with your re-writes, and it’s time to leave the dark of the writer’s solitude for the bright wide open world of readers just waiting for your acim videos. But how will you get your book into print? How will you publish?
Not so long ago, “getting published” meant one thing and one thing only. You would somehow find a way to get a contract from a publishing house-probably located in New York City-and then wait for them to create a book from your manuscript.
This was never an easy task and, with the consolidation in the book publishing industry, continues to become more difficult with each passing year.
But now there are more options than ever. Before you take the first step down the road to publication, perhaps you should look at the map, and see exactly where that road divides, and where the path you’ve decided to follow will lead you. To help you choose your path, here are the four basic (very simplified, to be sure) options you have to get “published.”
1. Traditional Publishing
Most books produced by traditional publishing houses are brought to them by literary agents, and many acquisition editors prefer to deal with agents on all acquisition matters. For the prospective author, then, the chief task becomes acquiring an agent who understands the book, has had experience with the market for which the book is intended, maintains contacts with the relevant editors who publish for that market, who has integrity when dealing with authors, and who will arrange a sale to a publisher that benefits the author.
Unfortunately, there are far fewer agents than there are publishing houses, or acquisitions editors. This means that it can be an arduous task to find an agent to represent you and your book. By far the best way to meet an agent who might be a good fit for you is to be referred by one of their successful authors. This is not as rare as you might think, and if you have good contacts within your field, it pays to pursue this avenue.
Traditional publishers will offer a contract and perhaps an advance against the eventual royalties your book will earn. Depending on how the contract is worded-and many are different in these regards-you will receive somewhere between 8% and 12% of either the retail price or the wholesale price.
You will have to give up the reproduction rights to the book, and you may be required to release the electronic, first subsidiary, foreign translation, and other rights to the publisher. You may or may not have any control over the development of the manuscript and the final look of the finished book. The publisher will decide how to market the book, and will rely on you, your contacts, and your own marketing efforts as an intrinsic part of the marketing plan for your book.
They will attempt to distribute the book as widely as feasible, and may be able to place your book-if appropriate-into thousands of bookstores around the country, and create public relations opportunities with major media. The publisher will decide when your book no longer warrants any efforts to market it, and may put it out of print within one to two years of initial publication, depending on the sales your book has achieved.
2. Cooperative Publishing
Although not as well known as other avenues to getting into print, the cooperative publishing model has a lot to recommend it for the right book. Although many publishers who produce books cooperatively don’t advertise that fact, it is advantageous for the right book and the right publisher.
In this model, a publisher who is already issuing books in your market, and who knows how to sell to that market, may offer you a contract different from the normal publishing contract. They will be interested in books that complement their existing line, and will have pretty high standards in both content and writing style for the kinds of books they will consider.
You will be asked to pay a publication fee, to cover some of the publisher’s upfront expenses and, when the books are printed, you will be asked to pay the printer’s invoice. In exchange for this investment-and these fees and printing costs can typically run to $5,000 or more-the publisher will take over all the functions that a traditional publisher provides.
In addition, rather than receive a royalty, you become the equity partner with the publisher in the profits generated by your book. So instead of 8% or 10% of the retail price, you will earn, for example, 50% of the profit. This arrangement removes the financial risk for the publisher, since all costs are substantially covered by the author, and it gives you the cachet and the editorial, production, and marketing capacities of the publishing house.