Most of us have dreams of writing a book one day but the statistics verify that the vast majority never complete the task. There are lots of reasons for this failure but one of the most important is that would-be authors have heard that publishers accept only a tiny percentage of the book proposals they receive. People have heard how difficult it can be and they give up on the task as a result.
Technology has changed a lot of things in the publishing industry, not to mention just about every other industry you can imagine. Not only is it easier for an entrepreneur to start a book publishing company but the costs of printing a small number of books have come down dramatically, allowing authors to avoid the prohibitive minimums that are used to characterize the book printing business.
With these recent developments in mind, we need to re-introduce would-be authors to the new book-publishing landscape so they can re-evaluate the possibility of finally making their dream a reality. This article will review the three primary ways of getting a book published in the modern world. Future articles will cover the opportunities and challenges of each strategy.
The first way of getting a book published is the path that has existed for years and years. There are a number of huge publishing houses including Penguin, Random House, and McGraw Hill that can do the job. But these industry elephants only work with proven authors and generally require you have a literary agent before they’ll even review the proposal. Of course, the upside is that these publishing giants are well respected, leaving you with better credibility and preferential shelf space within the major retailers.
The second strategy is to use a smaller independent publisher. There are more and more of these popping up every day and they tend to specialize in one genre or another. Of course, there’s a wide variety of publishers within this category – some very small and others quite well-established – but they all generally have full distribution channels in place, allowing your book to reach the same shelves as the big boys. Proposals are sent directly to the Acquisitions Editor for consideration and literary agents are optional.
The last strategy is by far the most common: self-publishing. Because printing minimum order quantities have come down so much in recent years, authors can quickly and easily print a few copies of their new book and risk less money than ever before. Obviously, this virtually eliminates one of the major barriers to entry and an estimated 90% of all books being published today are self-published.
The clear upside is that nobody can reject your proposal. If you want to write it and print it, go right ahead. And in many cases, the printing houses you would use to get the book put on paper have respectable distribution channels in place as well, meaning your book could theoretically reach the same shelves as those published by larger publishing companies. The downside is a lower degree of credibility but for many, that’s a small price to pay for their dream to get realized.
The important thing to remember is that regardless of the publishing method you choose, the majority of the marketing effort is left to the author. Even with the industry majors, it’s the author’s job to promote and sell his or her book. So if you have ambitions to publish your own book, sit down and think about how you’re going to sell it. If you have an answer to that question, you have a much better chance of getting accepted by the big boys.