The Many Paths to Being Published
Over the past year and a half we have done a lot of research in the publishing arena, and have come up with a list of sorts to share with others who may be new at this. We have narrowed it down to a few basic methods:
The first way is using traditional methods of publishing your book. This involves identifying literary agents and publishers (the Writer's Market is a valuable tool in this search) that will accept your queries about your manuscript. You will find hundreds if not thousands of potential people and companies that will accept your submissions with this tool. Each company listed will tell you if they are accepting submissions and how one should go about submitting (guidelines, etc). This method requires a tremendous amount of patience. It also requires that you have thick skin and can handle getting return rejection letters in the mail. It is not for the faint of heart and I know that it works because there are so many books in the library and in bookstores from various authors who have successfully worked through the mire of being read (and liked) by the right person. It can be like winning the lottery. If your manuscript is not accepted, one should not necessarily take this as a sign that you should not be a writer. In today's economy, it is as tough (or tougher than ever) to be "discovered" in this way, but it is possible. Patience and perseverance is the key.
The second is using a company that will print your books on demand. Going with POD publishers (and/or so-called "vanity publishers") is likely the easiest route to take to getting your book published. Most if not all of these companies will require that you pay them a fee up front for getting your book setup in their system and in return they will send you some pre-defined number of copies. This can be a little scary because what this requires is that the author has to front the money for their book with the hope that they can also sell them. It puts all the marketing on the author as well. Other companies will not charge a setup fee and they will require a mark-up on the book so they get paid for any book that is sold. What is very important in working through this model is considering whether or not the price of the book will be competitive as potential buyers look at your book and compare them to the prices that they are accustomed to paying. (We used Lulu, for example, and they do good work.) The price we had to charge for the book was prohibitive and we found we could not sell them for enough to actually make any money on them. Others find this method workable... it's a viable option. There are MANY such companies out there. Traditional publishers will tell you they all just want your money and not to do business with anyone who asks you for money up-front. The truth is, all publishing companies (POD, small houses, etc) are out to make some money, otherwise they wouldn't be running a business, and you are getting a product for your money. The thing to ask yourself is "Am I getting the greatest possible bang for my buck?" Are you getting enough back for the amount you pay? Any company that asks you for thousands of dollars is (in my mind) trying to rip you off. If their costs are reasonable and you actually get something for what you pay, you may consider using this method (if you have the means). Some offer services such as editing and marketing. Each comes with a cost. Buyer beware.
The third option is to start your own publishing company and work with a printing/distribution company that will print your books for you. This option comes with its own set of complexities and challenges. The first and foremost is that you are opening a company and it requires time, time, and more time. There are Federal and State business requirements, business licenses, federal tax id, state sales and use tax id, and a number of other things that go along with having a business. It also requires that you market and publicize your books. There are companies that can assist you in distributing your book to mainstream bookstores. Usually the bookstores will list them on their websites and maybe a few will pick up a few copies to put on their shelves. Swyers Publishing started in this manner. It isn't easy, and there is some small start-up costs involved, but there are many benefits on the other end. Books are more easily set-up with Amazon and many other bookstores because they are considered to be from a "real publisher" with retail ISBN's. It requires work, research, and again, time. Your small business is limited by your knowledge base and the amount of time and money you have to invest in it. This is a viable way to go as well (particularly if you have some business know-how and company bookkeeping doesn't frighten you off).
Digital books have become an extremely popular method for distributing your books. There are many companies out there that provide a way to have your books published electronically. We are using a company that distributes books to six different major online digital stores, including iBooks, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Sony. They have guidelines for preparing and submitting your books that must be followed to qualify for the premium distribution channels.
Do business with someone else who has already started their own business (like us).
Tip: Make sure that you have a web presence. The internet has really helped advertise and market products, services, and books.
Each of these has its pros and cons. We chose the option to open our own business and that is how Swyers Publishing was initially formed. We decided it was important for us to use our experiences to help others out there who were seeking to get published.