There was once a time when the only way to get your book published and in front of readers, was to get an agent followed by a publishing contract. This option still exists, of course, and is now usually referred to as ‘traditional publishing’. It’s traditional in the sense that the same rules have applied for a long, long time. These days the traditional model is not the only option for aspiring authors and in this blog post we will briefly examine the other options available.
But first – a very brief history of the rise of self-publishing!
- 1993 the worldwide web becomes accessible to all, opening the doors to self-publishing
- 1997 Lightning Source, POD company is founded, opening the market up to small presses and indie pubs and inspiring companies such as Ingram Spark and Lulu.
- In 1999, blog hosting takes off. Writers use blogs to share their work.
- In 2000 Stephen King was the first major author to self-publish a book (The Plant) online in electric instalments.
- In 2007 Amazon launches Kindle Direct Publishing, allowing authors to self-publish their books to be read on the Kindle e-reader.
- 2008/09 crowdfunding platforms like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter make it easier for artists and writers to raise money for projects.
- 2011 increasing numbers of people own e-readers and companies like BookBaby and Smashwords allow writers to publish and distribute ebooks worldwide.
And since then, things have continued to change and evolve! In fact, it’s pretty hard to keep up and anyone thinking of discussing the subject or offering a workshop or course, would certainly need to do their research again to ensure their information is up to date.
We’ve mentioned self-publishing so let’s examine that first.
Many people assume self-publishing simply means uploading a manuscript and book cover to Amazon and pressing ‘publish’. In reality, it’s far more complicated and complex than that, and even self-publishing has more than one option available to you.
- Go it alone with Amazon Select
- Go with Amazon and other distributors
- Go with a publishing platform such as IngramSpark, BookBaby orSmashwords
- Pay for a publishing company to edit, format and market your book
All of these options have benefits and drawbacks to them and if self-publishing is the route for you, it’s a good idea to research the various options available before you start. Your final choice might be what suits you and your book or it might be decided by finances as the options have different price tags.
Indie press/small publisher
This option is becoming more popular and is an attractive one to most aspiring authors. Independent presses or small publishers are just that – independent and small. They are more likely to take on unique and original manuscripts and more likely to take a risk on you and your book. Often they are themed, as in some cater purely to crime writers, some to romance and so on. But there are plenty out there who publish books in multiple genres. Usually, you do not need an agent to submit your book to these publishers. There are drawbacks though: they will often require you to have a social media following or author platform on the go and they will certainly ask you to do as much of the ‘marketing’ of your book as possible. They just don’t have the same funds as the big, trad publishers. You’re also unlikely to receive an advance.
The model of publishing most people are familiar with. You polish up your manuscript and send it to a multitude of suitable agents. If you are lucky enough to be signed with an agent, it is then the agents job to sell your book to a publisher. If successful, you might receive an advance, but possibly not one as generous as in days gone by. The publisher will do the bulk of the marketing and selling of your book. This is often the preferred or ‘dream’ route for many authors, but it’s important to remember that the big publishers and agents often know what they are looking for and they are looking for what they already know will sell. You might also be waiting many, many years to see your book in print.
Joining other authors to form a publishing ‘name’ or creating your own
This is a more unusual way to get published but it seems to be growing in popularity. In essence, this is self-publishing, but with a slight difference. You can set up your own publishing name, perhaps with similar authors and create a logo and a website. Although your books are still self-published, they have a ‘brand name’ attached to them and possibly a logo. If you are in a collaborative group with other authors you can all help advertise and market the books and this will lead to increased sales. You could have a group newsletter to sign up to, have group giveaways, competitions and appearances and so on. It’s very much a DIY approach and can be a lot of fun for creative people.
So, there you have it. These days, if one door closes on your manuscript, you can be sure that there are still plenty of other doors to try. That doesn’t mean it will be easy – but that is a topic to explore another time!