Essentially, authors have two ways to choose for how to get a book published: traditional legacy publishing and indie (independent) publishing.
- Traditional legacy publishing – the ‘big five’ publishing companies and their imprints.
- Funded by the publisher;
- Publisher takes the majority of the royalties (income from the book’s sales).
- Indie publishing includes:
- Small legacy publishers – independent from the big five;
- Hybrid publishers – selective but author-funded;
- Author-run and funded publishing houses (like an author’s cooperative or an author who also publishes friends).
- Self-publishing – Not selective, author pays, does the work and receives all the income;
What does selective mean?
Selective publishers – legacy publishers and hybrid publishers – don’t publish any old book. They’ll only choose quality writing, but the book must also suit their style as a publisher, be something their editors like, and something they believe will sell well. They’re basically choosing books for a curated collection, like choosing art works for an art exhibition.
What’s an imprint?
Publishers create an imprint when they want to expand the kinds of books they publish. For instance, if a publisher has established themselves as a publisher of literary fiction and non- fiction and they want to publish genre fiction, then rather than adding genre fiction to their titles, (which will change their style) they’ll create an imprint. This is a separate publishing house with a different name, but the same publisher runs it. They usually publish less books than their parent company.
For example: AIA Publishing only publishes fiction and narrative memoirs and that gives it a style, like a curated art exhibition has. Readers get to know what kind of books they can expect from AIA Publishing. In order to publish a wider range of books – for instance children’s books and non-fiction – we’ve created Escarpment Publishing as an imprint.
If you’d rather listen than read, watch the video …
Six ways for how to get a book published
The two general methods for how to get a book published can be broken into six different ways to get a book published.
Mainstream publishing houses and their imprints.
The ‘big five’ mainstream publishers are Penguin/Random House, Simon and Schuster (owned by Penguin), the Hachette Book Group, Harper Collins (Harlequin is one of their imprints) and Macmillan. There are many other well-known legacy publishers (such as Scholastic and Oxford University Press), and countries have their own established mainstream publishing houses, such as Allen and Unwin in Australia.
- Highly selective – you’ll need to get a literary agent first before your book can be submitted to the biggest legacy publishers. And then, even if you do get an agent, fewer than 1% of books submitted to the big five publishers are selected for publishing;
- Mainstream publishing has quality control with high editorial standards;
- Authors don’t pay the publisher anything;
- The publisher takes most of the income. Author royalties can be as low as 5% – 10% for print and 25% for digital;
- The literary agent takes 15% of the author’s royalties;
- Authors relinquish their copyright and have no control over the finished product;
- The book will appear in some brick and mortar stores and will have worldwide distribution;
- Authors should receive an advance payment, but they will only get more if their royalties from book sales come to more than the advance.
- There are sales advantage due to sales systems in place, but authors are still expected to have a website and do their own social media marketing.
Small legacy publishers
Same as above, except:
- Authors won’t need a literary agent in order to make a submission;
- Have no or little sales advantage;
- Your book probably won’t automatically appear in a physical bookstore.
And they may:
- Be less selective;
- Give the author some say over the final product;
- Give slightly higher royalties;
- Selective – standards vary. No agent required;
- Author funded;
- Authors get the major share of royalties;
- Authors have a high degree of creative control and may retain copyright – this depends on the publisher;
- Authors are responsible for editing costs, though the publisher may have their own editorial team and offer editorial assistance to help you improve your work to meet their standards;
- Books won’t appear on the shelves of a brick and mortar store unless the author arranges it;
- To warrant the name, hybrid publishers should produce books that meet mainstream-publishing standards and have world-wide distribution, but quality in hybrid publishing varies depending the quality of editing and how fussy the managing editors are.
Self-publishing: the do-it-yourself option.
- No submission process. You decide if your book is worth publishing;
- The author pays for everything and arranges their own editing;
- No quality control. Without comprehensive editing and professional cover art and formatting, you may end up with an inferior product;
- Many reviewers won’t review self-published books because they have no reason to believe it will be worth reading;
- Books won’t appear on the shelves of a brick and mortar store unless the author arranges it;
- Author has total control over and responsibility for the product, pricing and marketing;
- Steep learning curve. The author has to learn the business of publishing;
- Easy to make mistakes – especially if you don’t use professionals for cover design and formatting.
- Author retains copyright and 100% of the royalties.
Self-publishing service providers
Same as above except for the last 4 points. Here the ‘how to get a book published’ in indie publishing is that you get someone else to do the publishing for you. It’s still considered self-publishing, however, because there’s no selection process and authors maintain control over the product. Most self-publishing service providers publish anything, regardless of quality. Some points to note:
- The quality of the books and services varies a lot, depending on the company;
- Editing services included in the package are usually limited to a proofread;
- Other editing services may be offered for extra;
- They may call themselves ‘partnership publishing’;
Vanity press publishing – to be avoided!
Vanity publishers are the best example of how not to get a book published! These are basically self-publishing service providers that pretend to be a mainstream legacy publisher. The biggest ones have been around for a long time, because it used to be the only way an author could self-publish. They’ll make you think they’ve selected your book and may only tell you afterwards that you pay for the publishing. They are known for:
- Glossy websites that appeal to authors’ vanity;
- A pretend submission processes – they actually publish anything submitted to them;
- Excessive charges for services that have little real value;
- Lack of transparency;
- No or limited editing, usually just a proofread, if that;
- Poor quality products;
- No author control over the product;
- Author loses control of the copyright;
- Pushy. They may approach authors who haven’t submitted to them and offer a ‘deal’ or give the impression that the offer will expire if not taken immediately.
What’s the difference between hybrid publishing, self-publishing and vanity press?
Hybrid publishing is primarily distinguished from self-publishing and vanity publishing by a genuine selection process and commitment to mainstream standards for quality. Self-publishing is distinguished from vanity publishing by the writer maintaining control of copyright as well as the editorial and publishing process, including marketing and distribution. Hybrid publishing is further distinguished from vanity publishing the same way, but with shared control of the editing and publishing process under the guidance of the publisher.
How do you choose how to get a book published?
With so many options to choose from, how do you decide which method of publishing to choose?
- First consider your budget.
- Then choose between the traditional legacy publishing route (costs you nothing) or the alternative indie route (costs vary).
- Or start with traditional and go indie if that doesn’t work out.
- When going indie, ask yourself if you’re willing to learn how to be a publisher or if you want someone else to do the publishing for you.
Then research! Find out everything you can about your chosen publishing method. Knowledge is power.
How do you choose good service providers when indie publishing?
Unfortunately, there are a lot of dodgy service providers out there ready to prey on unsuspecting authors, so be careful. Don’t rush into anything. Look for transparency and integrity, details on what exactly you’re paying for, ask questions and check out reviews.
Look for small companies run by editors or authors with publishing credentials – people who understand authors and know what makes a good book. Businesses run by people with no or little knowledge of writing and editing are more likely to put profits over quality and less likely to consider the author in their business model.
Your best bet is to join the Alliance of Independent Authors (Alli) and choose from their partner members. The Alliance only grants partner status to those that pass an assessment process that ensures that the service’s approach, customer service, and pricing complies with ALLi’s code of standards. Their Watchdog Desk also issues a service reports and ratings.
Have you written a book and are thinking of publishing? If so, see what AIA Publishing has to offer. It’s a hybrid publisher, and I’m the managing editor there. We’re always looking for good books to publish. But before submitting your book anywhere, it’s a good idea to have a manuscript appraisal. Contact me now so I can help you make your book the best it can be. After all, you want the publisher to sit up and take notice, yes?
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