For many, writing and publishing a book is a dream, but they don’t know how to go about starting a book, let alone publishing one. Authors who have been through the experience write books to give other aspiring writers advice. But how hard is it to get a book published?
It can be hard to get a book published in the traditional way. In 2014, Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest Author Surveys found that only 23% of aspiring authors could find a publisher. That is 13.4% of the overall respondents, which included published writers.
This article will break down the publishing process and look at traditional and non-traditional ways to get your book onto the market.
Is Traditional Publishing or Self-Publishing Better?
Neither traditional publishing nor self-publishing is better than one another, as they each have their pros and cons. Traditional publishing gives you a higher profit and readership margin typically. But self-publishing gives you far more control over your work.
Let’s look at them both more closely.
When seeking a publisher, you are facing an uphill battle. Thousands of hopefuls send their novels to publishers per week, and the majority get rejected. Most publishers don’t allow unsolicited manuscripts, so it doesn’t matter how good or talented you are.
These publishers won’t even see your work.
If you can find a publisher, you will have the benefits of their resources, and your work is more likely to be seen because they will promote it and help you do the same. Publishers often send writers on book tours, interviews and provide guidance on running a social media campaign.
The average salary for a published author is $49,046, according to Indeed. This amount can vary widely depending on your book’s success and subsequent books, which can build your fanbase.
The most significant benefit of publishing your own work is the ability to have total control over that intellectual property.
When a publisher takes you on, they will inevitably demand changes. These may be good changes, as given by an experienced editor who has a better grasp on elements of story structure.
Unfortunately, many authors have stories about editors who demand changes for marketing reasons, which can be a source of serious frustration and is unlikely to change. Avoiding that altogether will give you the ultimate say over your work. Some writers start with traditional publishing and move to self-publishing to maintain the integrity of their story.
Income varies even more than with traditional publishing. Forbes reports that the Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest found the average to be under $5000 per book, though 20% of writers never see a dime.
On the other hand, self-published authors keep most of their profits, sometimes as much as 70% of all royalties.
How Do I Get a Traditional Publisher?
The most crucial part of getting a publisher is having representation. Without a literary agent, most publishers won’t even look at your manuscript. Once you have an agent, they can guide you through the process and send your work to the appropriate companies.
Let’s talk about how to find an agent.
Finding an Agent
Arguably the most challenging part, finding an agent takes a great deal of research. You want to look closely at which authors they work with and in what genres. Many will stick to a niche, such as science fiction and fantasy, mystery, or romance.
The best way to find an agent is to reach out to them with a query letter and try to introduce yourself. Always be as positive and professional as possible, because even if they reject you at first, they may work with you in a year or two. Having short stories published in journals and submitting your novel to unpublished manuscript awards can really help!
Masterclass recommends you try publishing your own work first. If it gains an audience, you will have an easier time finding an agent to work take you on as a client. They may even contact you first. However, anything you self publish is unlikely to be published again by a traditional publisher.
A literary agent will help you in other ways. They can find you a good editor, suggest any changes they think would increase your chances of hooking a publisher, and start building your reputation.
How Do I Self Publish?
To self-publish, you’ll need to find platforms that can host your book, as well as transform your manuscript into ebooks. The plethora of platforms that allow you to host your book is impressive. Amazon is especially popular, and they often promote small writers.
The trick is to make sure your book is of professional quality. Be ready to invest some money into getting your writing into top shape, and hire an editor. Sites like Upwork and even Fiverr can help you find someone within your budget.
Just make sure they have the experience and skills required for the job.
Amazon has various tools to help you format your book into an ebook and convert it to a supported format. You can also choose to attach yourself to their promotional services, which could include offering your work for free or cheap during their monthly emails or being a part of Kindle Unlimited.
Of course, you can also publish and offer your work on your own website.
But that requires a lot of extra work to draw people to your site. If you have an audience already, it will be easier. Even then, most authors choose Amazon as their hosting platform and promote it through their website.
Success Takes Time
If you have a true passion and you push yourself to be the best writer you can be, you have a shot. Taking feedback, making changes, revising, and promoting are all critical elements to an author’s success.
There is a lot of competition out there.
That doesn’t mean you don’t have something valuable to contribute by sharing your story. Stay hungry and keep going, and you will get where you want to be. It may not be in the way you expected, but success is success.
If you find yourself doubting your abilities, think of the worst book series you have ever come across. One that is so bad it makes you cringe to imagine reading it all the way through. Then remember: someone published it.
You have a chance.
Sylvia Plath once said: “Nothing stinks like a pile of unpublished writing.” Any writer who has been struggling to publish their work will understand this concept intimately. Don’t get disheartened.
As long as you keep that passion, you will find a way…even if you feel like pulling your hair out sometimes.
- Publishers Weekly: DBW 2014: Survey Finds Most Authors Want to Earn More
- Kirkus Reviews: Kirkus WC’s Publishing Trends for 2021
- Good Housekeeping: How To Publish a Book
- Masterclass: How to Get Your Novel Published
- Forbes: How To Self-Publish Your Book Through Amazon
- Jane Friedman: How To Self-Publish Your Book
- Forbes: How Much Money Do Self-Published Authors Make?
- Self-Publishing School: Self-Publishing vs Traditional Publishing: How to Choose
- Indeed: How Much Do Novelists Earn?
- NPR: Self-Published Authors Make A Living — And Sometimes A Fortune
- Wikipedia: Sylvia Plath