How to Publish or Self-Publish Your Book

Today’s Ask Dr. Diane:  I am thinking about publishing a book.  What do I need to know about finding a publisher or trying to self-publish?

It can be quite challenging to get your first book published through a large publishing house.  Many new authors find that they must end up self-publishing.  Some are choosing to self-publish now because of the way that the industry is changing as well.

Seth Godin, is a well-established author who used to use the big publishing houses, recently decided to self-publish.  Godin decided to do this because he had enough customer relationships and felt he no longer needed the publisher.  Publishers can offer a lot of advantages for a new author.  However, once an author is established and has identified their audience, they may not be as necessary.  According to the Wall Street Journal Godin is quoted as saying, “Publishers provide a huge resource to authors who don’t know who reads their books. What the Internet has done for me, and a lot of others, is enable me to know my readers.”

If you decide to go the publisher house route, here are some things you must keep in mind.  There is a very high probability that publishers will turn down you book unless you have an agent, a strong proposal, a very unique book idea, and most importantly a strong platform. 

The word platform gets tossed around quite a bit in the publishing world.  What they mean when they say they want you to have a strong platform is that they want you to have a “following” of people that will probably already want to buy your book once it comes out.  They would like to see you have a popular blog, a TV show, a radio show, are a celebrity or have written previous books, etc.  If you don’t have a platform, there is a good chance that they will turn you down. 

If you do have a platform and want to use a publishing house, you will need to start the process by finding an agent.  To do this, you must develop a query letter.  Once you develop a good query letter, you will send this to agents that handle the type of writing that interests you.  I suggest reading Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents.

Jeff Herman's Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents 2011: Who They Are! What They Want! How to Win Them Over! (Jeff Herman's Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, & Literary Agents) Cover

Once you send your query letters to agents, you may get some that respond.  If so, you must be prepared to have a strong book proposal to give them.  There are plenty of books about how to write a book proposal based on the type of book (fiction or nonfiction). There is a very specific format about how to write a proposal and it is important that you stick to that format.  The proposal will contain several things including some brief information about the proposed chapters. 

Many people think they need to have written the complete book prior to finding an agent. This is not true.  It is good to have one solid chapter to send to the agent, though, in case they do like your proposal.  Do not send this chapter until it is requested though.  It is important to start with the query letter. If there is interest, then you would send the proposal.  If there is interest, then you would send the sample chapter. 

If you cannot get a publishing house to publish your book, many people go the route of self-publishing.  There are some very simple ways to self-publish including using Amazon’s CreateSpace. Sites like this have made it easier and less expensive than ever before to get your book published.  The nice thing is that the days of having to print large amounts of books that require storage are gone.  With sites like Createspace, books are printed as they are ordered. 

Self-publishing has changed the publishing industry.  Because of sites like Amazon, many stores like Borders have had to close their doors.  People have enjoyed the ability to have a variety of book choices and the ease of ordering online. 

If you do decide to self-publish, be sure that you have a good editor and an indexer.  Createspace and others like them, offer help with a lot of things like cover design and more.  The more things that you need help with, the more it will cost.  However, these sites have made self-publishing a much easier and more realistic choice for authors than anything offered in the past.

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