“You should write a book.”
That simple phrase has ignited a dream in the minds of many aspiring writers. What was once a hobby becomes a passion. The writer, filled with the heady magic of publishing a book, spends months putting words to paper.
That’s the easy part. The real challenge lies ahead.
In truth, the quality of a book is of secondary consideration to the publishing process. Writers are driven by art or interest, while publishers are driven by profit. Seeing their book at Barnes and Noble may be the author’s greatest wish, but the publisher desires a healthy bottom-line.
However, authors have options. The good news is that publishing a book is possible for anyone. The bad news is that few people may ever read it.
When it comes to publishing a book, the author needs to temper their expectations, define their goals, and never expect to be viewed as the next John Grisham or Stephen King. They should make certain their manuscript is free of spelling or typographical errors. They should enlist a friend, or hire an editor, to perform a critical analysis of the work.
With those tasks completed, the author has two options. The first is to submit the manuscript to an established trade or commercial publisher. Unfortunately, large publishing ventures, such as Random House or Simon and Schuster, rarely accept unsolicited submissions. Mail an unsolicited manuscript to such industry giants, and it will likely remain unread. At best, authors will receive a form letter thanking them for their submission.
Large publishing houses deal almost exclusively with established literary agents. Those interested in publishing a book would be wise to contact an agent, but they should also take pains to make certain the agent is legitimate. Only use agents listed with the Association of Author’s Representatives. All members of this group have a proven record of sales, and also function under a strict canon of ethics.
The author’s second option when publishing a book is via self-publishing. In this case, authors pay to have their own book produced. This is most easily done via companies offering “Print on Demand” services (POD). The advent of digital printing allows POD operations to print books one copy at a time. This is in contrast to commercial publishers, who must print thousands of volumes, warehouse them, and engage in distribution and promotion.
POD operations are also known as vanity presses or subsidy publishers. Production fees can run from several hundred to several thousand dollars. Additional services, such as editing and critiques, are almost always offered by a vanity press, but control is ultimately in the hands of the author.
The drawback of a vanity press is that authors must do their own marketing, sales, and distribution. On average, books produced by a vanity press sell less than 500 copies. Typically, the author purchases most of these. Bookstores rarely place orders for self-published books, and most book critics will not accept them for review.
On the other hand, publishing a book is a worthy goal. For those who seek to put their thoughts in print and share them with the world, self-publishing is sometimes the best alternative. In terms of appearance, vanity presses offer high quality and a professional product.
The quality of content, however, depends upon the author’s skill and talent.