“What’s the best way to publish a book?”
This is a question I get fairly often from authors who are close to finishing a book manuscript and eager to get it out to their readers. Indeed, what is the best way to go about getting your book published? Here’s my pat answer:
“It depends on your book and it depends on you.”
Not exactly satisfying, as answers go, is it? In my book, Publish Your Book, Proven Strategies and Resources for the Enterprising Author, I give you all of your publishing options, the possible negative (and positive) consequences of your choices and I firmly remind you of your responsibilities as a published author.
Before choosing a publisher or even a type of publisher or publishing—traditional (major, fairly well known, small, niche), pay-to-publish or self publishing—I help you to determine the pros and cons of each with regard to your project.
For example, if you are in a hurry to get 2,000 copies of your business book in your hands for an upcoming conference, you may want to go with a pay-to-publish company.
If you, your professional book editor, other credible writers and your friend’s agent believe that you have something really special to offer a large segment of readers, you may want to solicit an agent and have him/her approach the major publishers. You can always send your proposal to some of the many viable medium-size publishing houses if you don’t snag one of the big guys.
If you have written a niche book, a how-to, reference or informational book for a specific audience, and you want to go the traditional route, the reasonable tactic is to seek out niche publishers in your genre/topic. I mean, be reasonable, Harper Collins would not entertain the thought of publishing an ordinary yard sale manual or how to get your baby to burp book, now would they?
If you have received rejection letters from dozens and dozens of publishers, you might want to consider rethinking your project. Have you done the research necessary to determine its viability in the marketplace? Is there something you could change to make it more viable—add a how-to aspect to it, strengthen your characters and work on your dialog, etc.? You might start by working with a book editor.
The pay-to-publish scenario might be right for you and your book IF you will do your homework. Read Mark Levine’s book, The Fine Print of Self-Publishing, and learn which ones have the best contract and are most aboveboard in their dealings with authors. Take the time to compare several of them. Compare prices and promises. And if you decide to go with one, make sure all promises are in writing. I can’t tell you how many authors I meet who have lost practically everything because they did not understand that the publisher would not take responsibility for promoting and selling their books and who could not or would not take on this responsibility themselves.
The reason I have reservations about new authors choosing a pay-to-publish company is because so many of them go into publishing without looking out for themselves. They blindly follow the company wherever it wants to take them without even considering their alternatives—without doing their homework—without doing enough research. Then they are disappointed when their unrealistic expectations aren’t realized.
If you want to go with a pay-to-publish company (they call themselves self-publishing companies)—and some of them masquerade as traditional publishers—you’ll need to do tons and tons of research about the company, other such companies and the entire publishing industry. You’ll particularly want to have a complete understanding as to your responsibility as a published author.
In the case of a pay-to-publish company, you put up the money and they produce your book. Generally, you will receive a few books free and then you can purchase copies of your book at an agreed upon rate. The fee often prohibits authors from putting their books in bookstores paying for space at book festivals, etc.
The author is responsible for promoting his/her book no matter which publishing option he/she chooses.
Self-publishing means that you establish your own publishing company. You get a fictitious business name, you arrange for the ISBN, you have the cover designed, you hire the printer, etc. You are the publisher of record. You put up all of the money, and you get all of the profits.
I have self-published many of my books. I like having the control. I worked with a co-publishing company on one book project for a client. I went with a pay-to-publish company for one of my ebooks. And I have books published through traditional publishing companies. I choose the publishing option based on my expectations for the individual book. And this is what you should do, as long as your expectations are realistic.
To learn more about how to choose a publisher, what each publisher can bring to the table, etc. read my book, Publish Your Book, Proven Strategies and Resources for the Enterprising Author. It’s at Amazon.com and other online bookstores, downtown bookstores and at my website: http://www.matilijapress.com