Maybe you have an idea for a book. Perhaps you’ve already written one. Regardless, you’re probably wondering how to publish a book, given all the options out there.
Let’s dive into the book publishing to help you on your way to your first paperback.
Why would you want to publish your book?
Before you write your book, it’s important to consider why you would want to publish it. This reasoning will inform which publishing route you will follow later.
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of reasons to publish a book. Here are some examples.
- Do you have an exciting story you want to share with the world? Publishing a book is the only way to share your words with a large audience.
- Do you have a new business that you’re trying to promote or establish? Publishing a well-written book can help establish you as a thought leader.
- Do you want to diversify your income streams or secure speaking engagements? Publishing a captivating or useful book can bring in more income.
- Do you want to share the skills you’ve gained over decades of experience? Publishing a book will get your knowledge into the world.
Carefully considering your reasons for publishing will help you decide which publishing route to take. It may add weight to certain pros and cons of the two main methods you’ll have at hand.
How do you decide which publishing route to take?
There are two publishing routes to take. You can attempt traditional publishing or self-publishing.
With traditional publishing, a publisher prints and distributes your books. Many books you read—though certainly not all—are published through traditional means. Upon acceptance of your manuscript, you’ll receive an advance and promise of royalties after exceeding the amount of the advance after initial sales.
Typically, the publisher will provide an editor, proofreader, and cover designer. They will do some marketing on your behalf and might ask you to do more. Plus, they will control items like your messaging, your events, and your payment.
Traditional publishing can bring you success, but it’s certainly not guaranteed.
Self-publishing is precisely what it sounds like. With self-publishing, you are in charge of everything from editing to distributing your book. You need to determine how to distribute your book as well as how to market it.
However, you get to control every detail, like when to release it or how to promote it. It can also bring in a steady stream of income if you market it well. Certain self-published books have met great success. Some are picked up by traditional publishers after they succeed.
How to publish a book: Four steps to traditional publishing
Within traditional publishing, there are three main types of publishers: trade publishers, academic publishers, and independent (indie) publishers. The process will be similar for each.
To get published through a traditional publisher, you will need to:
- Determine your genre or category of work. Before pitching agents or publishers, decide which genre your book fits. If you’re not familiar with genres, do some research. Determining the type will help you choose who to pitch your manuscript to. Prominent genres include novels/memoirs and nonfiction. Within these genres, there are many others.
- Find appropriate agents or publishers for your work. Now that you know your genre, you can start deciding who to pitch. If you don’t have any experience in the publishing field and you don’t already have a big platform (e.g., a million followers on Twitter), you’ll need to pitch to an agent. For smaller presses and academic presses, you might be able to approach the editors directly. Duotrope.com is an excellent site for identifying publishers. PublishersMarketplace.com is a helpful site for identifying literary agents.
- Prepare your submission materials. Your submission materials will depend on your genre and the agent or editor. If you’re writing fiction, you’ll need to have a complete manuscript ready. If you’re writing nonfiction, you might only need a detailed book proposal. Other than that, you will submit a query letter (a pitch letter with a short description of your work), a novel synopsis, a nonfiction book proposal or sample chapters.
- Submit your materials to agents or editors. Finally, you’ll start submitting your work to target agents or editors. Once an agent or editor has responded in the affirmative, they will guide you through the rest of the process. An agent will probably ask for edits, then pitch your book to multiple publishers. If you submit to editors directly, they will let you know whether they want to purchase your book.
How to publish a book: Ten steps to self-publishing
Self-publishing is a different journey. In many ways, it can be faster. You’ll manage everything yourself, so you may be able to make faster decisions than a publishing company would. You don’t need to jump through hoops, either, or ask for approvals.
To self-publish, your process will look something like this:
1. Write your book. In traditional publishing, there are cases in which you pitch a book proposal or sample. Since you’re self-publishing, you’ll need to write your book upfront. A first step is to write the entire book quickly, then return for revision once you reach the end. With a tool like Word, you can use headings to navigate chapters with ease and bookmarks to note places you’d like to revisit.
2. Revise your copy. Once you have completed the first draft, set it down for a couple of weeks. Then, read it with fresh eyes and revise any problems you see. You want your book as polished as possible before you hire someone to edit it for you.
3. Hire someone to edit your book. You can ask a friend to edit. You can even do it yourself. However, if you want readers to enjoy your book (and leave high ratings), you need to hire a professional to review your book and help make it shine. Using Review tools like track changes and comments in Word will make it easier to pass edits back and forth.
4. Hire someone to design your cover. This task is something that you can do yourself or leave to a friend. However, a professional will most likely do a better job. The right cover design can increase the number of people who pick up your book.
5. Price your publication. Pricing can be confusing. To determine your price, review books in a similar genre. Prices for E-books often fall anywhere from $0.99 to $5.99. Consider starting at a lower price and raising it as you see demand increase.
6. Decide how to release your book. There are multiple self-publishing channels. For example, print-on-demand providers will print anyone’s book one order at a time. It’s more common to self-publish through a platform. Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing is a popular choice. It allows you to publish both eBooks and print books.
7. Create a self-publishing account. If you choose something like Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, you’ll need to create an account. These platforms offer training videos and formatting tools to help your book succeed.
8. Prepare your marketing strategy. As a self-publisher, you’re officially a Chief Marketing Officer, too. Plan a marketing strategy before you release your book. Be sure to include social media, Google Ads, and Amazon ads. A spreadsheet can help you organize content posting dates.
9. Release your book. It’s time to release your writing! Be sure that your marketing campaigns release the same day. Ask your friends and family to read your book and leave reviews if they can.
10. Engage with your community. Your work isn’t done once your book is published. You need to thank the people who write reviews of your work. Additionally, you can repost any social media posts that mention your book.
Getting your book published
Whether you choose to try traditional or self-publishing, one thing is clear: you’ve got a lot of options. So decide why you’re diving into the world of publishing, write your book, and choose a publication route to follow. The path to publication may be long, but now you know how to publish a book.