The Paths to Publication

I’ve heard many writers say that writing is the easiest part of their job.  It’s the querying and publishing part that can be complicated, frustrating, and confusing.   So, in this post, I would like to explain four different paths to publishing your work.

Traditional “Big Five” Publishing

A traditionally published novel is the goal of many writers.  However, it is arguably the most difficult to achieve.  To become traditionally published, one typically must query an agent, gain agent representation, and then wait until the agent can read your work.  If the agent likes your work, he/she will likely send a rewrite letter with suggestions that will improve the chances for a sale.  (NOTE: There should be no charge to you, the writer, for this work.)  Once satisfied, the agent will send your book to various traditional publishing houses, to acquisitions editors, and try to sell your book while getting you the best deal he/she can.  (The agent makes a percentage of what you make, so it is in his/her best interest to get you the best deal possible!)  Once you have the book deal, the editor will begin the editorial process by sending you a rewrite letter, the first of three or four rewrites you can expect on your novel.  Over the next 18 to 24 months while you rewrite, your book will get cover art, a title (that may not be what you had envisioned), cover copy, and everything else as process chugs along. Yes, it make take about two years before you see your book on the shelf.  Traditional publishing is a slooooow process.

Small Press Publishing

A small press is a publishing company that does much of the same as a traditional publishing house, but on a smaller scale.  They may also have different (and often more flexible) rules about how much say the writer has in cover art choice, title, whether or not an agent is necessary, and how the book will be promoted.  Small press publishing companies may not always get you into Barnes and Noble or Books-a-Million, but depending on the publisher, it could happen.  However, they may offer a closer working relationship with the authors than one might find with a big publishing house.

For-Profit Publishing Companies (aka Vanity Publishing)

There are some publishing companies that will publish your book exactly how you want it…for a fee.  Usually a large fee.  In exchange for the fees, you will get printed copies and have your name on the cover of your book.  It’s then up to you to promote it and sell it.  As I said at the beginning of the post, that’s the hardest part.  The route is also quite expensive for the writer, and you may end up spending far more than you make.


Finally, there is the option to self-publish.   Writers, agents, editors, and publishers argue about the validity of self-published (indie) writers as much, if not more, than they argue about the elegance of a semicolon or the Oxford comma.  With self-publishing, you are in charge of it all.  You’re the writer, the agent, the editor, the cover artist, the publisher, the marketing committee, and the warehouse.  Some self-published writers hire others to perform certain services for them like editing, creating cover art, or e-book formatting.  Others do it all on their own.  Self-published writers also set their own price and keep 100% of the profits.  So, there are some questions you should consider.  Will you offer your book for free on Amazon?  A steal at $0.99?  Or something else?  Also, you should consider if you want to sell e-books only, print books only, or both.  There are a lot of decisions to make, but you’re in charge.

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