Writing a book is one of life’s most exciting achievements for new authors, since it fulfills what has generally been a long-treasured dream! Indeed, many of us have, inside our psyches, the certainty that part of our purpose on this planet is to share what we’ve lived, good and bad. It feels right that we should inspire, comfort or encourage others in their own journeys.
Yet the process of writing and then publishing a book is daunting!
Just getting the book out of our heads and hearts and onto the page, in exactly the way we intuitively believe it should be told, is a massive challenge. We have to overcome our myriad insecurities, already-hectic schedules and perceived writing-skill limitations.
That’s enough to shut down most wannabe authors!
For those who choose to persevere and take whatever steps are necessary to reach their goal of completing a manuscript, it is sometimes as if Wylie Coyote has finally caught the Roadrunner and asked the viewer:
“You wanted this to happen and it has. NOW WHAT?”
The next choice, indeed, is a big one.
How do you take what you’ve written, alone or with the help of a writing specialist, and get it into the hands of the ultimate audience: the READER?
You’ve composed it with someone in mind, after all. Your goal in writing a book was likely to entertain, impress, inspire, educate, comfort or encourage. But if no one knows your book exists, can your dream truly be satisfied?
And so it must be published.
There are essentially two ways and they each have advantages and disadvantages.
You can (a) pitch your story to an agent and, once one accepts, enter the process of attracting a publisher or (b) you can self publish.
There is no magic formula for which is certifiably best, but there are several factors that may eliminate one or the other as an option for you.
First, let’s look at self publishing.
There are a couple of reasons that some people choose this route – and essentially one that positively rules it out for others.
If you had hoped to have your book published by an acclaimed publishing house, but your proposals to prospective agents have yielded no interest from them, you have few options other than publishing the book on your own.
Yes, you can send your manuscript directly to prospective publishers and hope for the best. Sometimes brutal honesty is best, so let me go ahead and burst your bubble: save your stamp.
It just doesn’t happen that way, anymore. Yes, I know you can serve up an example or two to prove me wrong, so go ahead and get that out of your system. Then I’ll lob hundreds back in your direction that never even got a canned reply.
And there are so many reasons to enlist the experience and protective wisdom of a qualified agent that I won’t even begin. You want them doing business for you, trust me.
But why did the dozens of agents you approached ignore or refuse you?
First, let me comfort you. What you achieved in completing your manuscript was monumental. It could be a load of poorly written fluff and I’m still proud of you! Writing is a labor of love and, like raising children, is often a long, laborious one. There are a lot of sleepless nights. You should pat yourself on the back and throw an “I did it!” party.
But let’s face it – not all of our kids will grow up to become president.
Perhaps the writing was inferior – but agents can see the kernel of potential success when a story is strong and concept is timely. So, most likely, they (a) didn’t like the manuscript’s content, (b) don’t represent your genre/topic category or (c) doubt you have the necessary platform/guaranteed audience numbers to propel a new book to success.
If all signs steer you away from launching your book through an agent and publishing house, all is not lost!
There are some stories that I genuinely believe need to be told. You felt that inner urging to share yours for a reason and someone is poised to read it. That story that only you can tell may very well be exactly what a particular stranger needs to read to alter their course!
Hey, call me naive, but that is my heartfelt belief!
So how DO you self publish?
It’s not as tough as you would believe. Again, you need to decide your budget before you begin. Don’t wreck your life savings in hopes of replacing it with proceeds from your book. Those profits should be, if they materialize, a nice surprise and NEVER a planned life raft!
Then, just as you might function as a contractor to build your house, begin to assemble your book-development team. I’ve made a partial living from helping authors connect these dots to save them the research and legwork, but it’s entirely possible for an individual to accomplish the steps on his or her own.
There are graphic designers to create book covers, print houses to complete layout and printing, and distributors to get your book into bookstores, online and grocery markets. There are even book-marketing specialists who will help you to garner media coverage, schedule book signings and book-show appearances.
Costs for these services vary and can be managed according to your budget. Indeed, this is typically the sole reason why someone may exclude self publishing as an option – they simply decide they can’t afford it. The knowledge that they can retail full control of their content and profits must be balanced against upfront cost.
The good/bad news is that some authors pursue the publishing-house route with the belief that, once it is published, their book will enjoy a full-scale marketing campaign that will ensure greater success. But the reality is that most authors are largely responsible for their own marketing now. Many are even expected to schedule their own book signings.
The publishing house does, however, lend credibility and that can go a long way in selling books. It also pays for a certain number of your books to be published and provides minimum promotion. Any profits are distributed on a contractual percentage basis. The financial consequence of sales shortfalls/returns is also addressed in that contract.
Load your priorities onto the publishing decision scale and see which way it tips.
Then get started!