Book Publishing: Self-publishing vs. The Book Industry


You’ve done it, you’ve written that #1 bestseller, the new Harry Potter (or so you hope). But now what? How do you get the novel transferred from your desktop into a fully published novel?

As with most things that are worth doing, trying to get published is something that you have to work at and try again and again. The writing of the manuscript as hard as it might seem to be is not as hard or difficult then trying to get it published.

In order for a writer to get published, they have to first get chosen by either a publisher or a literary agent. The getting in contact with them is the easiest part of the process. Their numbers are accessible as well as the emails and mail addresses. But, the hard part is in the getting someone literary agent or publisher to give your book a chance. When publishers and literary agents take a project, they do it because they believe it has the potential to be big. They don’t take anything that they don’t believe in or would not read themselves. So how do you make your novel stand out, in the masses? This is simple; it all comes down to the Query letter and how good you are at marketing yourself.




Getting it chosen

            There are always many steps and processes to get something finished, while doing a manuscript, you probably had to write first, second and maybe even third drafts before you got to the final complete manuscript.  Getting it published is no different.  There are many processes that you as a writer can go through in the publishing process.  The first and most crucial step is getting noticed and chosen by someone who matters; mainly a literary agent who can work with you to get your book both published and then sold, and the publisher. How do you do this?  First you must craft a perfect query letter that markets your book, and makes the reader want to read more.

A query letter is what a literary agent and a publisher look at before they even consider looking at your manuscript. The first thing you want in the query letter is a hook that entices the reader to continue reading. After the hook comes what editors like to call the ‘pitch’, this is where you market your book; the pitch needs to be clear and concise telling the reader exactly what the book is about. Most importantly you have to include always a brief (and I do mean brief) synopsis of the story. Then you end the letter stating why your book should be published and why you should be considered being published. After you have crafted the letter, and have also included either in the letter or in the body of the e-mail you have sent it, a excerpt(3 chapters or 3 pages depending on the query guidelines set out by the publisher) of the novel itself.

Once you have written the query and edited to make sure there’s no grammar or spelling mistakes, because if there is even one the editor, publisher, or literary agent won’t even bother continue reading it, send it out.  Don’t be optimistic about it either! Send it out to as many literary agents, as many publishers as you possibly can. Part of the publishing process (a big part) is getting rejected. No book is ever chosen the first time it is sent out, in an article in the Times; it stated that J.K. Rowling got rejected everywhere in Britain, but she took a chance on New York and she was immediately contracted to be published in Random house.  She was rejected for a total of 56 times before she was actually chosen.  Don’t feel down hearted if your book isn’t chosen, because it only takes one person to make something happen.


Why Literary Agent?

You might be wondering what exactly a literary agent does. Or why you would need one. It all depends on you, if you want to be published in a certain place, or you want to be represented so you don’t end up losing a bunch of money that wasn’t necessary to use in the first place, a literary agent is a good way to go. Literary agent’s main job in the publishing process is to get a writers’ book published. They do this by going to different publishers and getting them to read the book, once a publisher has decided to then publish the book, the literary agent and the writer will together along with the editor make up a set of guidelines to get the book published and marketed in the best possible way. Literary agents get fifteen percent of what the writer makes, therefore it is in the best interest of the Literary agent to get the best for the writer.



Getting Contracted

Once you have been chosen to be published, the next step is to get a contract written up. “A contract is a negotiation between the editor and the writer, basically it is a written document stating what date a writer needs to have a certain amount of words done by, and also how the book is going to be sold,” said Birgit Davis-Todd the executive editor for Harlequin publishing. Being contracted is important because it gives the writer a set of guidelines to finish things by, and it also makes sure that the next final editing steps is organized and it makes finalizing the manuscript towards being the final edit that much sooner.



Publishers like Harlequin spend their year looking for new talent. “We are always looking for new authors; generally the authors we get are the ones who have read the different books. They will have a sense of the series and what we are looking for,” said Davis-Todd “The query letter should come with a synopsis about what’s in the book. If we like what we see then we ask for the full manuscript. Harlequin only buys one in a thousand.”

In order to get chosen writers need to know what publishers are looking for. “They need to start on the basics. The Harlequin line has been out for 30 years. They need to read recent books, see how other writers have written stories,” said Davis-Todd. “They need to understand how stories work. In some stories there are high levels of fantasy, sensuality and alpha characters. They need to target the line and to create the plot and characters.”  Harlequin is one of the many publishers out there that are always looking for new talent to write for them.




After all the rejection letters, and all the searching for publishers you are about ready to cave in and give up on the search. Then maybe you hear that magical word. Self-publishing. It should be easy right? People do it all the time. Wrong. The biggest issue with self-publishing is that it is easy to get stuck on myths about it.  Many people may look on the Internet and find a company offering to publish the novel for a certain amount of dollars, but this is of course is always a risk.

“Companies can be tricky, you have to take out money to pay them to publish the novel. Not all books that are published are necessarily good,” said Suzanne Anderson a member of Half-Acre Publishing and also an author, and publisher herself, as well as a book coach.  Anderson gives workshops on self-publishing and has herself self-published her own book.  “There are so many ways of getting self-published. When I started to look into getting self-published, I researched it, I didn’t want to waste my money,” Anderson said. “Once you write the manuscript you have to deal with all the legal stuff, the editing, cover design, having the book formatted, and the design of the book, then finally getting it printed.”

One of the things that you have to be careful about is investing money for something that may not be worth it in the end. “The cost of making a book is high; therefore retail price is high. The retail price should be affordable, if its small then it will be easier to sell,” Anderson said.

Before you edit, of course, you might as a writer wonder if your work is supposed to be copyrighted.  This is no worry, according to Anderson; your novel is copyrighted as soon as you hit save on your computer. “The legal page is satisfactory as the copyright. You will always have the copyright no matter what. After you die you can leave the copyright to family members to do with, as they will, “ Anderson said.


Blogging, social networking and marketing

In this day in age, being published isn’t the only step in making a book become a number one. You also have to work at both making a fan base and keeping the readers enticed about the novel and the road that the story will take. A lot of writers are doing this through social networking, and blogging. “A lot of publishers are now looking at blogs for new authors,” said Anderson. The great thing about having your book and, more importantly, the characters in your book in the social networking scene it gives both the readers and you as the author the opportunity to both share and develop characters and plots in the story to include the reader’s choice in how they do things.

Uniquely, the idea of blogging started out as something as an online diary of sorts and has emerged at something that is looked at by all who is interested by the topics discussed. “Blogs are now more commercial, people blog about things that they want to sell, events they have been to,” said Anderson.

The easiest way for an author to market themselves and their books now is to blog, or social network. Readers don’t only want to read books now; they want to know more about the authors themselves and the reasons why some things took place in the novel.


Of course in this day in age, a lot of books are going online, the beauty of books being online or made into e-books is that, for authors who are now starting up and beginning to enter the industry has the opportunity to publish the books themselves.

In self-publishing, and having your book out in the world it gives the book a chance to be discovered by a publisher or a literary agent in that way.  “I’ve found that the older generation are the ones more likely to collect books and still continue to buy the books you can hold, while the younger generation (20+) are more for the Kindle option where you can have and hold 1,000 books wherever you are,” said Anderson.

Even after you have been published you can still continue to write for the same publisher.  “Once you have a foot in the door all you need to do when you want to write a new book is to send three chapters and include a synopsis and make sure it targets one of the categories. Once we see it we might ask to get it revised or if we like it we will contract it immediately.”

Publishing a book is never an easy thing, but if you have the strive to work to make it happen, then you should go and do it. Don’t wait, just get out there and get published.



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