Friday 19 April 2013

Publishing Your Work - The After Process

So you've done your first draft, it's been beta read and edited and you've managed to work through to your final draft. Maybe it's taken several drafts in between, but now you're finally read to call it your completed work. What next? You have a few options. You can go a number of routes and depending on what you hope to achieve will determine which of these routes you take.

Route 1: Agent & Publishing
This route involves taking your work to an agent and seeing about getting it published. This is a long route that may take a few more edits before you actually get your book in print. You will also need to be ready for the rejection letters. We all get them, and it doesn't necessarily mean that what you have written will not be accepted by someone. Look at J. K Rowling, probably one of the most successful writers of the 90s in regards to children's books and she was rejected from a fair few publishers. (Wikipedia tells me it was twelve in total.) I'm sure you can think of other successful writers who have been rejected at some point in their career. So, do not be disheartened if you are not successful after your first try (or second or third). There is a great book that you can buy from Amazon called "The Writer's Handbook", a new one is complied each year and will have the names, addresses and information of all the agents in the world. It will tell you their specialities, basically whether they prefer fact to fiction, articles to short stories, children's books to adult literature. The good thing about an agent is that they will do the negotiating for you and will probably not make money (or expect payment) until they have sold your works to a publishing house. Once you start to make money, they will take a percentage. So, the first step really is finding an agent.

From there, they will work with you (and it may take more than one try to get an agent) to make your manuscript into something that is publishable. Yes, you've already had it beta read and edited, but they will probably arrange for one of their editors to work with you as well. If they don't, the publishing house will most likely do this. So, you've found an agent and they will then start to approach publishing houses on your behalf. It is possible to be published without having an agent, but it is a lot harder and more and more publishing houses are ignoring submissions without the use of an agent. They prefer that their submissions come with the middle man to negotiate cost, payment and other matters such as paying tax and personal appearances and such.

Once you've found your agent, worked the manuscript up to their satisfaction and they have approached and found you a publishing house, that's the job done. All you have to do now is sit back and decide if you want to write another book. Usually though, the publishing house will negotiate a contract with your agent on the number of books they expect you to write. That won't necessarily happen though until after your book hits the shelves and they can determine how popular it is.

The upside of having an agent is that they will do a lot of the leg work for you. They will arrange, with the publisher, promotions and advertisement and help to get your book out in both physical stores as well as online in e-book format. A lot of people take this route and become successful, but some also just manage to live on what they make. Not every writer will become the next J. K Rowling and make millions overnight, nor will all of them make enough for it to be their day job. Getting a book published is an incredible thing, but it doesn't mean you'll be able to quit your job and never work again. However, this route is not for everyone and some will choose a different one.

Route 2: Self-Publishing
Now, it used to be that if you couldn't go the conventional route to being published, then you paid a vanity publisher to put your book out there. It was also the route that a lot of people both in the writer and reader community looked down upon. The belief being that if you self published, or paid to be published that you were somehow less of a writer. Their argument being that if you were good enough, a conventional publishing house would be paying you for your work.

In the age of e-books, that is not necessarily the case any more. (Paying someone I mean) There is still some disapproval  from some members of the writing community, but that should not discourage you from self publishing your work. Amazon have a great site that allows you to publish your works as e-books for their Kindle readers. They allow you to set the price and you will receive the majority of the profit. You can just use that and make your work exclusively available on Amazon, or you can use another website, such as Smashwords, which will allow you to have your work published as an e-book and will distribute it to many store (including Amazon) as well as through their own site. It will be made available in a number of e-book formats and sent through to a number of retailers such as the iBookstore, Barnes & Noble and others. Again, you set the price and you receive a percentage of the sales. Both of these options allow you to control where your book is available and both will guide you through the process easily.

The downside to self-publishing and not using an agent, is that the job of promotion and advertising and such, comes down to you. Amazon KPD allows you to run promotions five days per book for every 90 days that it is exclusive to Amazon Kindle. And they do check. Smashwords allows you to offer coupons that are valid for a period you determine, but only on their website. The coupons do not work on other retail sites. Amazon do do some advertising, but again the majority of it is up to you. And the biggest drawback is that you don't have a physical copy of your book. These sits just offer you the option of an e-book, which is great since a lot of people own e-book readers, but there are some people who prefer the paperback. So, what are you options if you want both?

I'm afraid at that point it becomes a matter of paying to have your book printed as a paperback. You can go with a vanity publishing (and for a price you can have them do promotion and advertising) or you can go with a site like Createspace, which is where Amazon KDP directs people who want their books in both formats. It will be listed for sale on Amazon (and I assume elsewhere too) but it does come at a cost. One you may not have the money for, or be willing to pay. Usually this is done on a "print on demand" service, where they only print a book once the order for one has come through. If you sell enough copies then a website and/or book store may buy in bulk, but it is harder to break into the market.

However, advertising these days isn't as hard as you may believe. If you use the full force of the social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, then you will be able to spread the word. You can also send copies of your books to reviewers and ask them to give you an honest review and some web space. You will also do better with a website of some sort, but again, these things do not cost the earth. It's basically up to you how much promotion you want to do and where you want your book to go.

So, those are the two main routes. Both are valid and good ways to get your work into the public. I don't see that one is more valid than the other and I personally believe that both have got their own good and bad points and both have produced both good and bad works of fiction. It is down to the writer as to which route they choose. It is not unheard of for a self-published writer to do so well that they are then picked up by a publishing house. Nor is it unheard of for a publishing house to drop a writer and they then turn to the self publishing route. In the times we live in, I think it is more important for the writers themselves to be happy with their work and choices and to get their work out to the public. They are the ones that will decide what is good and what is bad, in terms of stories and content.

My final words are though, that whatever route you choose, be prepared that it will not all be a sucess story. Consider how many books and writers there are in the world. Then think about how many of them are as successful as J. K. Rowling or Stephen King, not everyone who publishes will end up famous, and nor will every author write a best seller. Sometimes it is just about the knowledge that your work is out there and people enjoy reading it.

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