Getting published for the first time can seem incredibly daunting, but don’t let that put you off. If you have the perseverance and resilience to write a book, which in itself takes dedication, then you can apply the same qualities to getting your book published. Here at ShieldCrest, we work with many first-time authors to help them realise their dreams of being published authors.
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Introduction to book publishing
The publishing industry is unique, and the better you understand it, the easier it is to get inside. For every publication that makes it to the shelves of the bookshops, many more lie discarded on the floor. Lots of people try to write a book or think they have what it takes to become a published author. Publishers estimate that on average people have a 1 to 2% chance of getting their creation published, but this is often due to them receiving a large amount of poorly written or unoriginal manuscripts. So, if you produce a high-quality piece, you are immediately increasing your chances of success. Self-publishing has increased, as more people move away from trying to follow the traditional route of getting their books published. This gives a greater spectrum of what is now available. Traditional publishing houses are less likely to take a gamble on your content, and will often keep their marketing and sales budgets for established authors, for whom sales are guaranteed.
Why It is Important to Publish a Book?
Everyone has different motivations for wanting to get published. Often we want to share our stories with others, our philosophies on the world, and the lessons that we have learned. Many novels contain life lessons and pearls of wisdom that can help other people in their own lives. If you have written a novel in this vein, then the desire to help others will drive you to get your book published. Some people have an incredible amount of knowledge about a certain subject area and want to publish a non-fiction book to share this with other people. Others may simply want to delight or entertain. Whatever your motivation, the urge to share our stories with others is an innately human desire, since we first sat around campfires sharing stories that were passed down through generations.
Steps to Publishing a Book
The publishing process comprises many steps. From your initial kernel of an idea to holding your published manuscript in your hand, the publishing process will require you to work through each of the steps. Publishing is not a quick process, writing a standard-length novel of 60,000 words will take many months or even years of hard work, and once you type “the end” your work hasn’t finished yet. Understanding what is required after you have finished your initial draft will help you to work towards getting your book into publication.
Preparing Your Manuscript
Edit, edit, and edit. Editing isn’t only checking that your spelling and grammar are accurate, but also that your plot holds together, your facts are accurate, and your story flows. It can be hard to edit your own work, so ask a trusted friend to read your manuscript for you and give you honest feedback. Once your manuscript is edited, you must format your manuscript so that it is easy to read. Publishing houses will have guidelines for submission, which will include how they require the manuscript to be formatted, make sure that you read the guidelines for each publishing house. When you work with a publishing house, they will advise on the design of your book, including the cover, however, it is good to consider the font that you choose for your book, as different fonts will convey different emotions. Think about your title, for some people the title comes first, whereas other authors choose the title once they have finished writing their book. The choice is yours, but the title needs to capture people’s attention and be representative of your book.
Submitting to Mainstream
Mainstream publishing houses will not accept submissions directly from authors, so if you wish to submit to a mainstream publishing house, you will need to find an agent, who can deal with the publishers on your behalf. However, certain publishers will accept submissions directly from authors. All publishers will have submission guidelines, and you must follow these. They will state what the publisher wants to see, and in what format. Each publishing house will have different guidelines, so you must check each one before you send your manuscript to them. Many publishing houses do not like multiple submissions when you send your book out to many publishers simultaneously, so again, check this. While it takes longer, it is better to send it out to each of your chosen publishers in turn, making sure you keep track of which ones you have sent it to!
If you want to submit your book to a mainstream publishing house, then you will need an agent. Mainstream publishing houses will not accept submissions directly from authors. It can be very advantageous to have an agent, firstly as a route into mainstream publishing, but also because they will negotiate on your behalf. They will know how to get the best deal for you and your book, including areas such as royalty payment, overseas rights, and future development rights. You may not have knowledge or understanding of these areas, and having an agent will ensure that you will get a good deal for your book. Agents will typically take 15% of your deal, so it is also in their interest to negotiate a good price for your book. As with publishing houses, agents receive many submissions from authors, and it is important to optimise your chances of success. Most agents will also have submission guidelines, so make sure that you follow these and provide them with what they are asking for. Generally, this will include a query letter or pitch. This is your chance to sell your book to the agent, so spend time working on this.
If you don’t feel that the mainstream publishing route is right for you or your book, then there are other options. One of these is self-publishing. It covers a whole host of different processes, from publishing an e-book by yourself, to working with reputable publishers to bring your book to life. As with everything there are pros and cons to each chosen avenue. Self-publishing an e-book requires very little investment, but you will be doing everything alone, with no professional help or advice, and the finished product is unlikely to be as polished. Working with a self-publishing publisher will give you access to the full range of professionals involved in the production of a book. While this may have an initial cost, the finished products will be more than reflective of the increased investment and will give you the chance to sell your book more successfully. In the case of ShieldCrest, we are a self-publishing company but our parent is Pressman House Publishing Ltd which is a traditional publisher so we have both disciplines available.
Contracts and Royalties
Whichever route you take to get your first book published, make sure you understand any contract that you sign. A contract is a legally binding document, and it is easy to get so caught up in the excitement of your first-time book deal that you don’t thoroughly check the contract. If you are unsure about any of the terms, or conditions within the contract, seek legal advice. A contract will often refer to royalty payments, and these will vary according to the type of publishing that you have chosen for your first book. Royalty payments from a mainstream publishing house are usually lower than a self-publishing house, however, a mainstream house may offer an initial advance on your book. If you have an agent, they will help you to understand each of the conditions within the contract, but if you don’t have an agent, make sure you do understand what you are signing.
Tips for First-Time Authors
The main tip on getting a book published for all first-time authors is not to be disheartened. It can be a long path to getting published, and you may have to deal with rejection along the way. If your book is rejected, it is not necessarily that it is not a good book. Often, publishers have particular books that they are looking to publish, and yours may just not fit in with their current agenda. Try not to take rejections to heart, however, if anyone does give you feedback, then read it and learn from it. Most publishers don’t have the time to give feedback, so make the most of any that you do receive. Keep going, you will get there, and the satisfaction when you hold your book in your hand will make it worth all the effort it took to get there. Be realistic about your book, you are unlikely to be an immediate best-seller, nor are you likely to make lots of money from writing a book. The average author makes less than £10,500 per year, so as get-rich-quick schemes go, being an author is pretty low on the list. Write a book because you love writing and because you want to share your story, write it for yourself, keep trying, keep editing, and be extremely proud of your achievement.
Where to Publish a Book?
As we have discussed, there are many different ways to get published. As with everything in life, there are pros and cons to each route, and the best thing that you can do is to research each route and work out which will suit you best. There are many more available options than there used to be, which gives you more avenues to publish your book. From the traditional mainstream publishing house to indie publishers, to e-books, to self-publishing, each path will give you a chance to share your stories with the world.
Don’t give up! If you are struggling with your plot, or your story, consider joining a writing group or taking writing classes. Writing can be a lonely business, you are alone wrestling with the words across a blank page, and looking for support is very sensible. Your writing group will encourage you, you will be able to share tips and build good relationships. Often, writing classes are taught by people who have connections within the publishing industry, and if they see talent in your work, may well point you in the right direction. Talk about your writing, and keep trying to develop your skill and style. Everything gets better with practice and writing is no different, so make sure you write every day, even if only for 10 minutes. Jot ideas down, otherwise, you will forget them, and keep trying. A rejection is simply part of the process of getting published. Remember, J K Rowling got rejected by 12 publishing houses, so you are in excellent company!