Want to get published but don’t know where to start?
Firstly, CONGRATULATIONS on getting to this stage!
Let’s face it… getting your first book published is hard.
And getting traditionally published is HARDER. Especially if you are new to the game and you don’t have any other work behind you, no established audience via social platforms and no agent. Because let’s be honest, without one or more of these things, chances are, your manuscript will take a very long 6-8 month trip into a publisher’s ‘slush’ pile.
BUT - when I used to dream about getting published, I had no idea that I had options.
I thought it was a matter of submitting my book to a big, traditional publisher – one I had dreamt of getting published with like Walker or Penguin and just hoping for the best. I thought that if I wasn’t ‘picked up’ by a traditional publisher, then I wasn’t a ‘real author’. But hear me when I tell you that I was wrong.
This is NOT your only option (yay!)
So, here’s what my few short years of research and little bit of experience has taught me. There are basically three main ways to get your manuscript published.
1. Submit to a traditional publisher:
This means researching publishing companies that are the best fit for your genre - they often outline the types of books they are interested in publishing on their websites as well. Ensure that they are open for submissions, and try to find the name of the commissioning editor so you can address them by name. You will need to study their submission guidelines and follow them exactly. EXACTLY. Down to spacing and font size. Put together your ‘pitch package’ and submit. And repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Submissions can take up to 8 months to receive a response (sometimes you won’t even get one), so keep submitting to publishers whilst you wait.
Be wary of vanity publishers who are either looking for manuscripts (this is never the case for legitimate publishers) or those who ask for money or an investment of any kind. Most big publishing companies are drowning in submissions and can only choose a few per month which is what makes it such a competitive market, so be very suspicious if they are seeking writers out. Vanity publishers make big promises and then hit you up for money. Google an up-to-date list of vanity publishers and steer clear.
The reason people (including myself) are so drawn to the glow of traditional publishing is because:
- For a long time, this was the ONLY way to do it
- Once you sign contracts, your manuscript is whisked off you and within a year or so, you have a beautiful, professional, shiny book sitting in major bookstores across the country (with marketing and distribution to boot!)
What's the downside? Whilst there is no financial investment on your end, the return is also miniscule. It depends on which publisher you go with, but typically the royalty rate is around 10%.
You also lose creative control and the ability to choose your own illustrator (if that’s important to you). This is because the publisher takes on all the financial risk and therefore, earns the right to make these decisions.
Even still, this is a really great option if you are looking to get your book published at a high quality and distributed far and wide with greater exposure. There are, however, other options should this not be the right path for you.
Although this is a wonderful option for so many writers, self-publishing is the avenue of publishing that I’m least comfortable with because I found the process completely overwhelming. For someone a little savvier than myself, there are great options such as Ingram Spark or Amazon, for example, that allow you to create high quality products without an exorbitant price tag. You can get your product out into the market much faster than with traditional publishing and because you predominantly sell online, your book most likely will have a longer shelf-life than many books that spend a few months on the shelves of a bookstore before getting bumped for newer published works.
However, for me, I found that I needed someone with experience to oversee and manage the process. Self-publishing lacks the benefit of an editorial team to edit your manuscript, check over typos and errors, and an art director to help with design, layout and cover art, etc. Marketing and distribution also falls entirely with the author which for me, was not ideal. However, many authors have found this to be the best way to get their foot in the door or even utilise this platform for all of their works, and have done so very successfully.
For people who want to maintain most of the creative control including choosing their own illustrator and overseeing all creative decisions, but also need both the expertise and resources of a professional publishing company, this can be a really good option for you. The catch is that it is probably the priciest option.
Why? Because you are paying a team of experts with years of publishing experience to edit, design, coordinate and produce your product at a high quality and then assist you in distribution and marketing, whilst you still earn the majority (if not all) revenue from sales. (This is different to vanity publishers who pretend to be traditional publishers and THEN ask for an investment.)
With partnership publishing, depending on who you go with, you can also have your book distributed into physical book stores as well as into major bookstores online. Again, it’s important to do your research on different companies, but I went with Little Steps Publishing for my first books and for me, I found this to be a really great option. You do still need to submit your manuscript and may or may not be picked up, but you usually hear back relatively quickly.
So, publishing is not a one size fits all. It’s about doing your research, understanding what your goal is and why you want to publish your book, and not worrying about how you thought you were meant to get there. In fact, I turned down a traditional publishing contract for my first book, If You Were Here in favour of partnership publishing because for me, I knew that the need for creative control AND a high quality product was far more important to me than anything else. So, understanding your ‘why?’ will help you to make the best decision for you.
In the meantime, start to build a platform – get onto social media, connect with other authors, ask questions, build genuine relationships with the audience you want to create. Create a website if you can and start to build your brand so that when you have your product, there is an audience there waiting to read it!
In fact, if you are looking for your first audience member, DM me on Instagram @elisabethsophia_author and I would happily answer any questions that I can and cheer you on along the way!
And lastly, have fun! I can’t wait to see your beautiful books come to life.