Have you ever had an idea for a book that you’ve been itching to share with the world? You’re not alone!
Millions of aspiring authors are eager to get their work out there, especially now that the self-publishing industry has matured and publishing costs have come down dramatically.
But how do you make it happen?
Getting a book published is no small feat — it takes time, dedication, and a good dose of hard work.
If you’re wondering what it takes to get a book published and what is needed to turn your draft into a finished product, this article will provide you with the steps required to take your book from manuscript to market.
How Hard Is It to Get a Book Published?
Getting published isn’t easy — but it’s not rocket science either. To ensure your book makes its way into the hands of readers, you’ll need to learn some new skills so you can take care of any challenges that may manifest along the way.
For instance, if you choose the traditional publishing route, how do you find an agent who believes in your work and helps shepherd it through the publication process? What do publishers look for when selecting new titles?
If you choose the self-publishing route, how do you revise your manuscript until it shines? How do you find an experienced editor and a graphic designer who’ll help you produce a product that can compete effectively in the marketplace?
You also have the competition factor: hundreds of thousands of manuscripts make their way into the market each year. How do you position your book so it stands out from the crowd?
With so many aspects involved in getting a book published, it’s safe to say that success doesn’t happen overnight, but rather through dedication and persistence.
To make it in this business, you’ll have to outwork and outsmart your competitors. The good news? Most new authors give up at the first major obstacle, so if you’re resilient enough you’ll do just fine!
Can You Publish a Book with No Money?
Yes and no.
Yes, you can technically self-publish your book using a free service like Amazon’s KDP or Lulu, but in order for the end-to-end publishing process to be free, you’ll have to do 100% of the work yourself including your cover design and editing.
The problem with this approach is that your book will likely look amateurish in comparison to traditionally published books (your competitors!) and will simply sell very few copies outside of family and friends.
So, in essence, you’re not really publishing here but printing copies for friends and family (not that much different than going to a local printer.)
Now, you could argue: but wait a minute, my book is now listed on Amazon! True, but being listed there — especially if the book feels amateurish — just won’t translate into book sales.
Now, let’s assume instead that you’re lucky enough to be picked up by a traditional publisher (more on this below.)
While it’s true that your publishing costs will be absorbed by your publisher, and they may even give you a small advance (super small these days,) they’ll ask you to pony up to share in your book marketing costs, and this share will be significantly higher than the advance they gave you.
In short, when it comes to book publishing (with the exception of celebrities) there’s no free lunch.
5 Steps to Get Your Book Traditionally Published
Alright, so let’s say you’ve decided traditional publishing is right for you and your project. What do you do next?
Here are five steps to get you to the finish line:
1) Find an Agent
Nowadays, gaining representation from an established literary agent is virtually the only way to get in the door with traditional publishing houses.
The number of unsolicited manuscripts floating around today is so vast, that it’s just impossible to get the attention of a publisher without knowing someone on the inside, or being represented by a reputable agent who does.
Agents act as intermediaries between authors and editors while providing expertise in all aspects related to getting traditionally published, such as crafting query letters and negotiating contracts.
Author beware! Now, there are many fake agents out there (although they may have a beautiful website and large social media presence) who do not have publisher relationships and will ask you for money up front to “cover expenses.”
If an agent asks for money upfront, just run for the hills and don’t look back — I can tell you from experience that they’ll be happy to take your money but you won’t end up with a publishing deal, at least not from a reputable house.
In fact, you may end up with a deal from a fake traditional publisher who’ll take even more of your money in exchange for lackluster results.
2) Prepare Your Initial Submission
Once representation with a reputable agent has been secured and they’ve gained the attention and interest from a traditional publisher via querying efforts, begin preparing your manuscript for submission according to the guidelines provided by the publisher.
Your agent will be instrumental in this phase in advising you and mentoring you. More often than not, your publisher will want to see the first few chapters before committing to the project.
If this is the case, make sure to submit nothing short of your very best effort — you’ll only get one chance to make a first impression.
3) Sign the Papers and Celebrate
If the publisher wants to take you on and sign you to their roster of new titles, your agent will handle all the details for you (by signing up with a literary agent you’re entrusting them with the negotiating process.) Having said that, they will consult with you on a regular basis.
Once the contract negotiation is completed, it’ll be time to sign the contract, receive your advance (don’t expect much unless you have a track record of previous sales, a long email list or a large social media presence) and get ready to go to work on your manuscript.
Your publishing house will take care of editing, cover design, printing/ebook formatting, publicity and distribution services (expect some cost sharing for the marketing and book promotion effort.)
4) Complete and Submit Your Work
Once you have the go ahead from your publisher, complete your manuscript and make sure to consult with your agent every step of the way.
Even though they’re not technically editors, they’ve seen so many manuscripts in their careers that they’ll be able to ensure you don’t stray from the right path.
They know from experience what sells and what your publisher wants to see from authors. Listen to their feedback and make sure to constantly sharpen the saw.
Keep revising your drafts until your editor and you agree that you have a sellable, engaging and compelling product in your hands.
At that point your agent will submit your final manuscript draft so that the editing process can begin in earnest.
5) Implement Editorial Suggestions
Once an editor is assigned to you by your publisher, they’ll begin to provide you with feedback to address issues found during the editing process.
A professional editor is an artist, specifically a wordsmith. To them, every word matters and books are like sculptures that need to be chiseled, refined, and polished over time until they’re just perfect.
Even though your submitted manuscript was the very best you’ve ever done, expect it to come back in a sea of red editorial notes.
Traditional publishers take the editing process very seriously, so you’ll have to set your ego aside, make every effort to understand your editor’s point of view, hunker down, and implement their suggestions.
For example, if you make an unsubstantiated claim that you know in your heart (and perhaps from experience) it’s true, they’ll tell you to substantiate it with evidence from a credible source or take it out of the book entirely, and you’ll need to be okay in either case.
Once the editorial work is completed, your print-ready manuscript will be slated for book and cover design and finally for publication, including setup in distribution channels, sales and marketing plan and book promotion.
Is It Worth Self-Publishing a Book?
Now, if you choose to go the self-publishing route, then you won’t be needing the services of a literary agent, but you may need to hire a publishing services company (like Cascadia Author Services) to guide you on your self-publishing journey.
Book publishing has dozens and dozens of moving parts and they all need to be orchestrated in a specific sequence in order for your book project to be successful.
While technically, you could become your own project manager, this path is not the most ideal for you because you’ll be immersing yourself knee deep into a process that’s foreign, with lots of new tasks and procedures to learn, while also being responsible for producing a manuscript.
For most self-publishing authors, this is just too much to take on and can easily lead to burnout and project abandonment.
Having said that, you have to do your homework and make sure to hire a reputable, experienced and competent author service company because there are many outfits out there that promise the moon and only to deliver disappointing results.
When shopping around for an author-assisted service, make sure to check reviews and ask to talk directly with past clients. Once you find the best fit for your project, follow the five steps outlined below.
5 Steps to Get Your Book Self-Published
1) Complete your manuscript
Before you start shopping around for an author services company, you’ll need to focus exclusively on your manuscript. Since you won’t have a literary agent to mentor you along the way, you might want to consider hiring an author coach instead.
Many author services offer coaching, but make sure that your coach has a clear and verifiable publishing record with a significant level of success — the last thing you need is the blind leading the blind.
2) Design a cover for your book
While there are many free templates available, seriously consider hiring a professional designer if you don’t have the skills needed to create an eye-catching cover that stands out in today’s highly competitive marketplace.
Remember that your main competitors will be books published by traditional houses, not other self-published books, and your cover needs to look as strong as theirs.
If you attempt to create your own cover to save a buck or two, you’ll be creating a product that’s bound to look amateurish — the saying a book is judged by its cover is 100% true!
3) Hire an editor
The same goes for the editorial work — don’t attempt to edit your own book, or hire family and friends to cut costs (unless they edit books for a living.) Once again, your book will be competing with traditionally published books and they will all be edited professionally.
Also, as the author, you’re just too close to your work to be able to self edit it objectively. Even the most popular authors in the world, with decades of experience, wouldn’t dare to publish a self-edited book — they all use professional editors!
4) Format your interior pages
Once your book is print ready (that is, no more textual changes whatsoever,) then it’s time to hire a book designer to create a professional-looking product that’ll be able to compete in the marketplace.
Don’t attempt to do this work on your own unless you own and have experience using the specialized tools of the trade that are required for this important task (such as Adobe InDesign, Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.)
Your competition will be using professional book designers and so should you if you want to match the quality of their product. Your author services firm will be able to help you source the right talent.
5) Upload your files and promote your book
Once you’ve completed all of the above steps, it’ll be time to upload your book’s cover and interior pages to the self-publishing platform that best fits your needs (Kindle Direct Publishing for the Amazon universe and IngramSpark for brick and mortar bookstores and libraries.)
Most author services companies offer distribution services that’ll perform this task on your behalf so you can focus on the most important remaining task: book promotion!
No matter how great your book is, it won’t sell if no one knows about it. Utilize social media platforms as well as blogging, podcast interviews and local earned media interviews to let potential readers know that your book exists and how they can purchase it.
Finally, since Amazon is the largest online bookstore in the world, make sure to have a clear action plan to generate a large number of positive reviews upon publication (the first 30 days are critical for the Amazon algorithm to promote your book.)
Most reputable author services companies will have staff who’ll be able to advise you and guide you with the intricacies of this important promotional method.
The process of getting a book published may feel daunting and overwhelming, but with enough dedication and persistence, it’s entirely possible to achieve your dream of becoming a published author.
The key to success lies in understanding how the publishing industry operates (both traditional and self-publishing) and following the steps mentioned in this article to set your book up for success.
Best of luck on your journey towards getting your book published!
Harry Wallett is the Managing Director of Cascadia Author Services. He has a decade of experience as the Founder and Managing Director of Relay Publishing, which has sold over 3 million copies of books in all genres for its authors, and looks after a team of 50+ industry professionals working across the world.
Harry is inspired by the process of book creation and is passionate about the stories and characters behind the prose. He loves working with the writers and has shepherded 1000s of titles to publication over the years. He knows first-hand what it takes to not only create an unputdownable book, but also how to get it into the hands of the right readers for success.
Books are still one of the most powerful mediums to communicate ideas and establish indisputable authority in a field, boosting your reach and stature. But publishing isn’t a quick and easy process—nor should it be, or everyone would do it!
A professional grade book takes 250+ individual tasks to complete. Cascadia is an expert in every single one of them. Do you want to harness our expertise to launch your book into the stratosphere? Chat with us!