How to Get A Book Published Guide: From Submission to Contract Signing

Already finished and edited your first manuscript? Congratulations! The next step is learning how to get a book published. The publishing process can be as tricky as plotting your novel but fear not. First-time writers now have three different publishing options, one of which can put a book in front of 197 million people worldwide in a matter of 24-48 hours, and without hiring a literary agent. 

Determine The Best Publishing Option for You

Whether your novel falls under romance, thrillers, fantasy, science fiction, or any other genre, there are three ways you can have it available to the public. These are traditional publishing, self-publishing, and hybrid publishing. 

What Is Traditional Publishing?

An author handing her manuscript to a publisher

Traditional publishing is when established publishing houses like Penguin, Random House, and HarperCollins edit, design, print, and distribute your book. Many publishers, unfortunately, do not accept direct manuscript submissions from a first-time author. Instead, they only work with literary agents. So, you’ll need to commission one – more on this topic later. 

If a literary agent successfully pitched your book, you will be offered a book deal. The agreement varies from publisher to publisher, but expect to work with their in-house editor for revisions.

A traditional publishing deal also often includes a book advance, which means you receive a payment before your book even hits the shelves. The amount is based on multiple factors, including the publisher’s size and if you already have an existing fan base.

Keep in mind that the book advance is not a lump sum payment. Instead, it is paid in installments, usually based on the book’s development. For instance, you can get 20% on signing, 15% after submitting the final manuscript, and so on. 

However, you won’t earn royalties, commissions of sales that you receive when a book is sold, right away because the publisher will need to earn out (i.e., they need to recoup the expenses from the initial investment in the author).

Pros

  • Prestige of having a book deal and having a publishing company back your book
  • Work with an experienced team of people 
  • No financial loss to you / no overhead costs 
  • Guaranteed payment that includes an upfront advance
  • Better book distribution, especially in physical book stores 
  • The publisher takes care of everything – from printing, marketing, and distribution

Cons

  • Traditional publishing companies typically require you to have a literary agent
  • Stringent submission guidelines 
  • Lengthy and time-consuming 
  • Loss of creative control 
  • Lower royalty rates 

What Is Self-Publishing

A person sitting in the library thinking about how to get published

If traditional publishing requires collaborating with the publisher and a literary agent, self-publishing is the opposite. You will be managing everything, from printing and distribution to marketing. And that means having the budget, time, and dedication to push your book for visibility and sales. 

There are a plethora of self-publishing platforms to choose from. One of the most popular is the Kindle Direct Publishing or KDP, which lets you upload and sell an electronic copy of your book (eBook). Print-on-demand distribution is also a viable option. 

Another way you can self-publish is through vanity publishing, wherein you pay a vanity publisher to print your books (often in bulk) in the hopes of selling them once you find an audience. 

Pros 

  • No wait time to get published; relatively faster than traditional publishing. 
  • Complete creative control from the book cover, editing, and so on. 
  • You get to keep all the profit 
  • Maintain your rights 
  • Attract and build a fan base 
  • No deadline stress – you get to work at your own pace 

Cons

  • Less visibility
  • Less time to focus on writing 
  • High probability of financial loss 
  • Requires investment in editing and designing 
  • More demanding to distribute and market 
  • Distribution and selling are limited to online space
  • Physical book stores rarely accept self-published books 

What is Hybrid Publishing

A hybrid publisher employee standing next to an author

Through the years, writers only have two options on how to get a book published – traditional and self-publishing. Now, you have a third option – hybrid publishing. So, what is it? 

It is like the love child of traditional and self-publishing. Hybrid publishing takes the good qualities of both publishing models, mashes them together so you can have: 

  • A team of experienced individuals that can publish your Word document draft into a physical book. 
  • Distribute your investment/capital/budget to the right channels. 

Basically, hybrid-publishing companies are like a contractor. You pay them to oversee the publishing and distribution of your book, but you keep the rights. Do keep in mind that they, too, have requirements set in place. And yes, that means you’ll have to send sample pages to be “vetted.” If yours is accepted, a hybrid publishing company will offer packages ranging from copyediting, designing the front covers, and media outreach. 

Pros

  • More control
  • Keep the rights to your book 
  • Bookstore distribution 
  • A team of experts handles project management 
  • Higher royalties versus traditional publishing 

Cons

  • You take the financial risk 
  • You’ll need to find a reputable and trusted hybrid publisher

How to Get Your Book Published by a Traditional Book Publishing Company

Publishing contract with an approved stamp

If you’ve decided that a traditional publisher is the best option for you, here’s how to get a book published the traditional way: 

1. Research and Identify Your Genre / Category / Niche

Before finding a literary agent to represent you, start first by identifying the genre of your book. Why is this important, you ask? There are two reasons: 

  • You don’t want to approach a publisher or an agent specializing in the mystery niche, and yours is a nonfiction book.
  •  Some genres are more profitable than others. 

For instance, a recent report shows that Romance novels bring in the cash, with a whopping $1.44 billion! This is followed by Crime/Mystery at $728.2 million, and $720 million for Religious/Inspirational. 

Pro Tip: It may sound like a bulletproof idea to write a book based on what’s trending now (ex. sexy yet deadly vampires), but it’s not. Remember, publishing a book the traditional way can take years! By the time your first book hits the shelves, the trend is already long gone.

2. Find A Literary Agent to Represent You

We’ve mentioned earlier that you will need a literary agent if you want to approach traditional publishers, especially the “Big Five.” But, do you really need an agent? Well, it depends on your book’s genre. 

You need representation if your genre is: 

  • Fiction 
  • Children’s books 
  • Memoir 

You don’t need a literary agent if your niche is: 

  • Poetry 
  • Cookbooks 
  • Educational 

Literary agents have the connection and the experience to pitch your book to your preferred publisher. Plus, they handle the business side of things on how to get a book published, meaning you have fewer distractions and more time to write! 

That doesn’t mean you should hastily jump at the first offer. Ideally, you should determine if the literary agent: 

  • Is an expert in your chosen genre 
  • Has the right connections 
  • Has a long list of successful clients or deals 

So, where do you find literary agents? Here is a list of literary agent directories: 

3. Prepare Your Submission

Once you have shortlisted possible literary agents to represent you, it’s time to prepare your submission. Keep in mind that the requirements can vary. But typically, you will need to prepare the following: 

  • Query Letter – a 1-page letter that is your sales/inquiry letter asking the agent if he can represent you. 
  • Novel Synopsis – A shortened version of your book that details the plot and the ending. It is usually 1-2 pages long. 
  • Sample Chapters – Give a copy of the first few chapters of your manuscript. Never send middle chapters unless your book is non-fiction (except memoirs).  

Pro-Tip: When writing the query letter, don’t focus on the content of your book. Make it clear why your book matters now. And, don’t send the entire manuscript or partial manuscript unless it’s indicated in their guidelines.

4. Send Out Your Materials

Once your query letter is ready, it’s time to email it! It may take a few days (or weeks) for a literary agent to reply, and their responses can be any of these three: 

  • No response at all, meaning they are not interested 
  • The literary agent asks for a full or partial manuscript 
  • A full or partial copy of the novel’s synopsis

How to Self-Publish Your Book

A writer typing

If you’ve exhausted all your efforts to publish traditionally or want a faster way to get your book available, self-publishing is the best choice for you. As mentioned earlier, you’ll be handling everything, so be prepared to learn new skills, especially marketing and navigating through self-publishing platforms. And, don’t forget to set aside a budget for a professional editor and a book cover designer. 

1. Determine if You Want Print on Demand (POD), eBook or Both

When self-publishing a book, you have two options – you can either pick print on demand or have an electronic copy of your book available on self-publishing platforms. Both are low risks and the easiest way on how to get a book published. 

You print a physical copy of your book only if someone orders it. Of course, since it is a “demand” basis, expect printing to take at least five days. Costs can also vary. 

eBook

Although physical books are still available, many are shifting to eBooks, with Statista projecting 1.11 billion eBook readers by 2023! As you might know, eBooks are just electronic copies of your novel. They can be in MOBI, TXT, or EPUB formats that can be downloaded to e-readers (e.g., Kindle), tablets, phones, or computers for easy on-the-go reading.

You can also try vanity publishing, but we don’t suggest it because the risks are higher – you will pay for the books that might end up gathering cobwebs in your living room! 

Audiobooks are also gaining traction, with audiobook sales reaching 1.3 billion US dollars

2. Self-Edit Your First Draft

Hiring an editor to go through your manuscript will cost money, your money. So, before you pass your book to a professional, clean up as many grammar and punctuation mistakes as possible. We highly recommend getting Grammarly Premium to help with this since it will catch most, if not all, errors a costly professional editor would catch. If you are a fiction writer, create multiple drafts, ironing out the plot and characters. For first-time nonfiction authors, send it to a focus group and be open to any feedback. 

Remember, the goal is to make the editorial process smooth, quick, and affordable! 

3. Hire An Editor

Getting a fresh pair of eyes wouldn’t hurt your book. Professional book editing fees can range from $2,000 to $3,100 (sometimes even more!). This estimate usually includes a mix of proofreading and copy editing. 

Before approaching an editor, keep in mind that there are different types of editing: 

  1. Editorial assessment 
  2. Developmental Editing 
  3. Copy Editing 
  4. Proof Reading 

The final cost of hiring an editor is based on several factors like word count, genre, the editor’s experience, and your manuscript’s state (is it a rough draft or almost to the finish line?) 

4. Design the Cover and Interior 

Once you have the final version of your manuscript, it’s time for the fun part – designing the front and back cover! A professional book cover designer can ask anywhere from $500-$800. Of course, this can be lower if you reach out to a designer with less experience. The final cost can also vary based on your requirements like the number of revisions, deadline, and if the format is only for eBook (physical books require special attention to the spine and overall dimension)

Don’t forget to have the interior of your book professionally designed as well, especially when your book includes plenty of pictures. On average, you’ll be paying $399 or more.

5. Upload Your Work

If you are looking for the fastest and simplest way on how to publish your own book online, join Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)

All you need to do is upload a copy of your book, and they will take care of the rest! They can also print a physical copy if someone orders it. 

However, there is a catch. You will be exclusively selling your book only on Amazon

How to Find a Reputable and Trusted Hybrid Publisher

An author checking her published books

If neither of the first two publishing options is appealing and you’d rather try your luck with hybrid publishers, here’s how: 

Pro Tip: Be extra picky and always do your due diligence when choosing a hybrid publisher. Some of the lesser-known hybrid publishing companies are actually vanity presses.

1. Review the Hybrid Publisher’s Submission Guideline 

A legitimate hybrid publishing company will have a website that includes its submission guideline. TCK Publishing, for instance, has a 40,000+ words minimum requirement for fiction books. 

2. “Vetting” is Part of the Process 

Like traditional publishers, a reputable hybrid publisher will review your manuscript before offering a book proposal or taking on your publishing project. Depending on the publisher you pick, vetting can take as long as 21 days. 

3. Ask About the Royalties 

One of the pros of hiring a hybrid publisher is they offer better royalty rates than traditional publishing. So, if a hybrid publishing agency asks for a 70% cut without any explanation, run. A reputable hybrid publisher like InkShare will provide a royalty structure outright. 

4. Check the Offered Packages

Don’t be surprised if you find a hybrid publishing agency online that doesn’t publish its rates – some operate on a case-by-case basis. If you want to know the cost (without sending them an email), check Hybrid publisher SheWritesPress. They have the She Writes Press Publishing Package that you can get for $8,500. It is a lot of money, but they’ll take care of everything – which a reputable and trusted hybrid publisher does! 

5. Books Are Published Under Their Own ISBNs 

A legitimate hybrid publisher will always use their own International Standard Book Number (ISBN), the 13-digit unique code identifier for published books. If they can’t offer it, look somewhere else. 

Fun Fact: Publishers buy ISBNs in bulk from Bowker (the only place you can purchase ISBN in the U.S.). And, ISBN is single-use, meaning once it has been assigned to a product, the publisher (or yourself if you decide to self-publish) can’t reuse it. One ISBN costs $125.

Conclusion

Getting your first published can be confusing and daunting, especially for first-time indie authors. Hopefully, our guide on how to get a book published gave you a better understanding of how the whole process works. 

Remember, you’re not limited to the lengthy process of book deals with traditional publishers – you can always self-publish or try hybrid publishing. Happy writing!


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