coffe-book-sessionIf you’ve done your research, got your plan worked out and have started writing your book, you’ll need to think about how it will be published. There are a number of options:

  1. Get a publishing house interested and get a contract
  2. Self-publish
  3. Publish it as an ebook and sell it online

There are pros and cons to all these. Let’s take a look at the realities of these publishing methods.

Finding a publisher
This is most writers’ dream. Get a publishing contract and then sit back and wait for the royalties to roll in! Most people have heard of rejection slips and although there are things you can do to improve your chances of success, book contracts are still not easy to come by and require the hide of a rhino and buckets of persistence.

The first step is to know what a potential publisher will want to see in your submission. Most don’t want your entire manuscript – just a couple of chapters – but they will want you to have a clear idea of who your competition are and what your book offers that is new or different. Anything that is totally unique is unlikely to hit the target as the market has not been proven and book publishers are cagey about breaking new ground!

Find out which publishers publish books in the genre you’re writing in – Mills and Boon won’t be interested in a Horror story or a self-help book. Take a look at the publisher’s current catalogue and approach those who publish your genre, but haven’t published anything close to your niche subject in the last year or so. They are more likely to be interested if it fits their profile and they’re not competing with their own existing titles.

Advances are not unheard of, but less common with so many people writing books, so don’t count on it. A publisher will edit the book for you and do the cover design and layout. However, the marketing effort they put in is minimal for all but established authors or celebrities.

This means that if you want to become a best seller you’ll need to get stuck into a marketing campaign and make as much effort as you would if you self-publish.

What will you make from each book sold? Between 7.5% and 12.5% of net sales. In other words, not very much.

There are dozens of self-publishing houses, AuthorHouse, Shaking Tent, iUniverse, Trafford, Summertime, and many more. They all offer different packages and deals and you need to investigate what’s on offer before you make your choice.

Many self-publishing services are digital and offer print on demand (POD), which means you can have one book or 1,000 (or any other amount). You pay the same per copy regardless of the quantity as each book is published digitally. This is great if you don’t have a garage or spare bedroom to keep large quantities of books in, but, if you are planning on selling a lot of books it’s not the most cost effective way to print. Once you are printing more than 500 you probably need to look into offset litho printing. It’s much more cost effective.

They usually provide an ISBN number for your book so it can be listed. If you want the high street bookshops to stock it you’ll need to find out if your chosen self-publishing house offers distribution through the big book wholesalers (Gardners and/or Bertrams in the UK).

Just because you are self-publishing, doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to be professional. If you want to build a good reputation you’ll need to invest a good editor. Typically, self-publishing houses don’t offer editing services, they will publish anything you give them.

Don’t fall into the trap of getting a friend to edit your book – there’s a lot more to editing than simply proof reading for spelling, punctuation and grammar.

A good editor will charge anything between £15-£100 per 1000 words, depending on the quality of the raw material and the expertise of the editor. Most books go through at least two edits and a final proof read so, if your book is a modest 50,000 words you’ll be looking at somewhere in the region of £2,500 to get it edited.

Your revenue per copy varies depending on the self-publishing house you choose – but it’s likely to be much more than 12.5% – and you have control.

In today’s digital world you can get your book converted to e-format, either as a pdf document or as a Kindle format. You can sell pdf ebooks on Amazon (they invented this) as well as on your own website.  There are other websites that specialise in ebooks too.

The challenge is for those people who like to have a ‘real’ book in their hands. You are much less likely to sell to them in digital format, but more and more people are getting to grips with the advantages of reading on an electronic device.

Just because it’s an ebook, doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to be professional. Everything that applies to self-publishing applies to ebooks – you need a budget for editing, the graphics and maybe a template for your page layout.

What’s your return on this investment?  If you sell it on your own website you get to keep all the revenue.  If you sell it on Amazon, they get to keep a chunk, but you get the advantage of getting readers leaving you testimonials and being on a site where a lot of readers visit.  Amazon have a publishing package for both paperback and ebook formats – read it all carefully before deciding to take the plunge.

With a good marketing campaign you can make considerably more than you would with the same amount of effort when you have a book contract with a publisher.