Self Publish

Written by Christopher Ransom
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With all this information on how to self publish your book through a book printer, it's only fair to look at the other side of publishing, traditional publishing. Where as the journey to self publish your book begins and ends with you, the author or publisher, in the driver's seat, the path of traditionally publishing is more about finding other people to champion your book and nurture it to life. Both are challenging; but the rewards of each are different. What follows are the major steps you will have to take to land your book with a traditional or large publishing house. And remember, even though one publishing course might sound better than the other, there's no reason you can't pursue both.

Traditional publishers, small and large, receive hundreds or even thousands of manuscripts per year from aspiring authors. In the non-fiction world, book proposals are just as common. All of these un-solicited manuscripts go into what is called the "slush pile." The slush pile is divided among the house staff and manuscripts are read or partially read, and most are quickly discarded (there are a lot of bad books out there). Approximately 1 in 1,000 manuscripts that start in the slush pile are ever chosen for publication, and that's probably being generous. Publishing houses can publish only a finite amount of books each year, and only the best-written books with a proven market are chosen. If your book is chosen for publication, a deal is made, you may receive an advance, and then your baby is out of your hands. It's up to the publisher to edit, proof, manufacture, market and distribute your book. If you're fortunate, you will make some money and the publisher will ask you for your next book, which you've already started writing of course. If you're not so lucky, the book will fall through the cracks (the term used when a book fails to find its audience) and you must start from scratch.

When You Self Publish, You Are Your Own Champion

But when you choose to seek publication with one of the majors, you need someone else to work as your champion. This would be your agent. For non-fiction and fiction authors who want to be taken seriously, the reality is you will need to land an agent first. Agents know which publishers are looking for what, they know the industry and the market, and they make their living selling books to the publishers. The way to land an agent is similar to landing a publisher-you query them. A query letter is a short 1 pages letter briefly explaining who you are, your credentials if you have any, and a very brief synopsis of your book. If your query letter interests an agent or a publisher, they will request a copy of the manuscript, a proposal, an outline or a few sample chapters. If your writing is good, your subject illuminated in a fresh and entertaining way, and they believe there is a market for your book, the agent will offer to represent you. If so, said agent assumes the majority of the work you would have otherwise done on your own-contacting publishers, shopping the book around, and generally acting like a salesperson, which is what an agent is. Agents sell literary property.

Buy This Book Before You Self Publish!

So how do you find an agent or a publisher? How do you craft an eye-catching query letter? There is a wonderful wealth of information on these subjects, and practically everything else you need to know about getting published, in a book called The 2004 Writer's Market. Published every year, The Writer's Market is the absolute must have volume for anyone seeking an agent or publisher for short stories, articles, fiction and non-fiction books. There are also the 2004 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market and the 2004 Writer's Market Online if you wish to publish in these markets. These books are so chock full of advice and details about the publishing world, I recommend them for anyone looking to self publish their book too.

If you choose to self publish your book, no one is stopping you from getting started today, and you may have your book in hand in as little as 4 or 5 days. Traditional publishing, from query letter to sale to editing to publication, usually takes years, not months. There's a lot to say for the prestige of being published at someone else's expense, but then again you may want to hold your book in your hands before another year has passed.


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