The publishing industry is at once a behemoth and a labyrinth. Much like its famous cousins, the movie and media industry, it is the success stories that make the news, while the hardships are brushed under the carpet, hinted at, maybe even protested, but not widely publicized.
However, the industry only seems baffling and has certain defining/identifying factors that would make understanding it easier. With enough market research and proper guidance, authors can avoid the shocks and the unpleasantness that has become synonymous with the industry now due to the presence of a few opportunistic haymakers.
The First “Most Important” Step!
The common, most important steps for any author are similar. You need to have written a good manuscript with a compelling storyline and interesting narration. The more unique features it has, be it in the plot or the presentation, the better it would be for the book. The said manuscript should preferably also be error-free; if not at the proofreading level, at least at the major loopholes and technicalities level.
Publishing Pointers: The Ways
It is often this step that flummoxes authors. Every writer believes they have written a good book, for they have invested their intellect, energy, time, and other resources in the project. So they naturally would believe that the book deserves to be published, only to enter into the industry and see the number of daunting options available.
1. Traditional Publishing
This is the most preferable but also usually the hardest to attain. In this method, the manuscript gets ‘accepted’ by a major publishing house with a good market presence. The House decides to champion the manuscript and take care of everything from the editing, restructuring, designing, printing, publishing, and marketing of the book.
This is the ultimate Utopia for authors, their wildest dream.
But the sad industry reality is that, for a traditional publishing house to invest in your story, it has to satisfy the toughest industry criteria along with the author having a market presence. It is always a good practice, though, to submit one’s manuscript to these firms.
1. A well-written manuscript, preferably with a unique story or engaging narrative – hopefully, free of major/glaring errors. While traditional publishers offer editing services, the manuscript needs to have at least basic editing done so it is not rejected at the submission stage due to quality issues.
2. A literary agent – who would present your manuscript to these houses and also offer advice on how to structure or polish it. Most traditional publishing houses these days have made it mandatory for the books to be represented by agents.
3. Author’s presence in the publishing scene – traditional publishing houses have started using the most easily available quality filter these days. If the author already has books published, with good ratings and reviews, not to mention solid social media presence, they are considered bankable, and their books have a higher chance of being accepted.
4. Query letters and synopses – since the traditional publishing houses encounter a large number of manuscripts, the authors must send their books with a query letter and synopsis attached so they could read through and choose to take it further if these impress them enough.
Even after all this, the traditional publishing houses may reject the manuscripts due to a variety of factors, which is why the other routes have come into existence recently.
To combat the high rejection rate in traditional publishing methods, self-publishing options have surfaced, giving aspiring authors a chance to realize their dreams. With some careful planning, marketing, and monetary investment, the author can publish their book and become a literary success through hard work.
However, self-publishing requires a lot of preparation when compared to traditional publishing. While in the former, effort is put on getting the manuscript accepted (with the risk of high failure rate), self-publishing requires the author to be constantly aware of the fact that they are the only quality control in place, which would also eventually affect their reputation. So much more diligence is required in the process of publishing.
Get the manuscript professionally edited – there are a lot of professional, freelance literary editors offering their editing services. Even if you consider yourself to be strong in the language department, hire an editor who will polish your manuscript and make it publishing-worthy. A badly edited book is an indicator of carelessness.
1. Acquire the copyrights and ISBN – Even before you submit your manuscript to editors (or, for that matter, literary agents), get it copyrighted. The publishing industry does not operate on a trust basis, and even if the chances are low of one’s work being copied, there are a lot of chances for ‘inspirations’ to surface. Since intellectual property is a vague classification, it is better to get the idea and development copyrighted. Also, acquire the ISBN, which makes you the undisputed owner of your book.
2. Get the book cover designed – even if people do not judge a book’s contents by its covers, an appealing cover will make people pick up a book and glance through other details, which may then decide the purchase.
3. Invest in quality typesetting and pagination – one of the main critiques against self-published books is that they lack quality in the presentation. This is because the books are not paginated or typeset properly, leaving way to typographical mistakes and odd layout. This would make it hard to read and put off readers.
4. Prepare yourself to market books – even traditionally published authors these days are required to market themselves as the brand and their books as the product. But in self-publishing, this is mandatory. Even a well-written book might flounder if people do not know about it. Reviews and ratings help, but for a broader, wider reach, people will have to know about the book or the author. Special marketing is required to stand apart from the competition. Make your presence known. It may mean all the difference.
3. Vanity Publishing
There is another publishing method – vanity publishing, where the only requirements from the author are the manuscript and some heavy monetary investment. This method is not recommended, and in addition to incurring losses, the author could also risk losing their reputation. These two articles will be helpful to understand this better:
Dhivya Balaji is an Engineer turned Editor. She is the founder of Precis Penning Literary Services, through which she hopes to ease the stress of authors by providing an array of services.