It’s not really that complicated, but getting your book published can seem quite daunting to new authors. While this isn’t an in-depth look at book publishing, it should help you to break down the process and understand what happens at each stage. Bear in mind though, that publishers work their own way, and self-publishing can take you down some different paths. Also, if you’ve written a book, you must be realistic … not every book should, or can, be published.
So whether you are a fiction writer, writing an academic text or non-fiction book, or creating a book for your business, here’s what to expect from the publishing process.
Writing your book can take years, so you want to make sure that you do it right. Take your time, create a style sheet to help you keep consistent, and track your plot to make sure it holds up to scrutiny (or make sure your non-fiction book is factually correct and engaging to read). Ask yourself if it could be published for a wider audience, or just for family and friends, or within your organisation if it’s a business book. Research your target audience and the market … is the book idea a viable one? There’s no point in spending months or years writing a book if realistically no-one will want to read it, or it will be out of date by the time it’s published (harsh, but true). If you’re sure you have the commitment, crack on.
The agent will have access to publishing houses – this is the ‘easiest’ way to be published by mainstream publishers (unsolicited manuscripts sent to publishers have huge competition, if the publisher actually accepts them in the first place).
How to find an agent – https://www.writersandartists.co.uk/ is a great resource, both online and in print. Look for agents online and on social media (you’ll often see them letting writers know that they’re looking for submissions). They’ll hang out where the writers are, so Goodreads and Facebook, again, are good places to be. Choose agents who work in your genre, because if you send your manuscript to someone who works on romance and you write horror, your book is going to get rejected immediately. Look at their submission guidelines and stick to them. Send to an agent belonging to a reputable agency, or if they’re independent check to see that they’ve actually had books signed up by publishers. If they’re new agents don’t discount them, but find out what qualifies them to have set up as an agent.
When you find an agent who’s interested in your book think very carefully about their offer – the agent will be with you for a long time so make sure their terms and conditions are acceptable. If in doubt, consider taking advice.
Once the agent has submitted the book to publishers, commissioning editors will read the manuscript and decide whether they want to go forward with the book. If they do, the publishing house will take care of the rest of the process, with input from you as they go along.
Many people these days decide to self-publish. This means you have to deal with the publishing process yourself, from finding the right editor to finding the right publishing platform and formatting for ebook and print. The marketing is up to you too – there’s no point in having a brilliant book if no one knows it exists.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to hire an editor to look over your book. Even if you’re confident that you don’t need a structural edit, a copy edit is important to catch all the things you will miss yourself.
If you’re using an agent, this process will usually be taken care of by the publisher. If you’re self-publishing these are the steps you need to take yourself, finding professionals to help along the way.
Once your book has been accepted it will go through a series of edits, these cover everything from the overall structure to the spelling, grammar and flow of the sentences and paragraphs. It will also be designed, which is something that should be done with care – everything from the font used to the cover design must be in keeping with the book’s contents and the expected look for your genre. You’re looking to produce a book that is as attractive as it is readable.
The process goes like this:
Next comes the …
When the copyedit is done …
If you’re self-publishing you’ll have to decide if you want to publish as an ebook, as a paperback, or both. Rather than a hire a professional typesetter who tends to work with publishing houses, it’s more common to hire a book designer/typesetter who will set out your book for you. Many will set out your book as both ebook and print, but there are differences in the setup for both, so be prepared to see a different layout for both of your formats. And be patient – images and tables can still be tricky for ebook design.
Here is where some self-publishers decide to format the book themselves for uploading to online publishers such as IngramSpark and Amazon. There are help files and documents available to help you, but you might find you get a better result (and less frustration) if you hire a professional. No matter which direction you take, you will have to proofread for the last stage of the process.
Sometimes the indexer gets to work before the final proofread, but the index will have to be checked again if the proofreader’s check moves any text between pages.
If you’re self-publishing you will now give the OK to your designer, or upload the file yourself to your preferred publishing platform.
You’re now ready to finally see your book in print, send it out into the world and wait for the reviews to pour in. And remember, not everyone will like your book – enjoy the positive reviews and ignore the rest; most of all never, ever get into a verbal war with bad reviewers, it will only make you look bad. Accept all reviews with good grace and be proud of your achievement.
Hopefully this has demystified the process and you’re now set to start on the path towards getting your book published.
To find an editor or proofreader head to the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading in the UK https://www.ciep.uk/
or the Editorial Freelancers Association in the US http://www.the-efa.org/
or have a chat with me if you feel I’d be the right for your project.
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© Sara-Jayne Donaldson, 2013-2020.