Getting Your Work Published
Updated January 31, 2018
Launching your career as an author takes courage, as well as a publisher.
We recently met with Nadine Kenney Johnstone, author of Of This Much I'm Sure, and she shared professional advice and her experiences while becoming a published author.
Traditional publishing houses aren't the only choice for aspiring authors, however. Self publishing or using a hybrid/independent publisher could be a winning approach. Regardless of the publishing method you choose, you need to be marketing and promoting your work as much as possible. Creating your own website to promote your work is a great place to start, and something we can help with if you'd like to become one of our clients (aka GIM Buddies!). Having a website allows your friends and family to share information about you more easily. Collecting reviews and endorsements should be part of your long term vision from the start.
Attending conferences such as the AWS Writers Conference, workshops, and live storytelling events like The Moth will gain you exposure, networking perks, and potential practice in public speaking. Joining social media groups, book clubs, and writing contests are also helpful efforts.
Before you publish your novel perhaps you should start with a personal essay. That's what Nadine Kenney Johnstone, author of Of This Much I'm Sure did.
If publishing a zine is part of your path, Quimby's Bookstore is your best resource in Chicago. Once you've published your zine, Quimby's also offers the chance to sell it in store on consignment terms. Quimby's has also sponsored the Chicago Printer's Guild annual fair.
Self publishing yields the largest royalties, but if you don't have the know how or distribution reach, you may be better off using a publishing house. Budget $20,000 for self publishing once you consider copyediting, converting your work to an ebook, gaining distribution and production.
Publishing on Amazon
Author Sara Watchorn successfully launched her series of books for children, titled Sara Fay and the Elementals, via Amazon. Book sales on Amazon can be for either physical books or ebooks. Forbes estimates Amazon's kindle book sales at $265 to $535 million dollars per year.
Alternative Self Publishing
Blurb is an easy-to-use book and magazine publisher. The website has its own Bookright publishing design software, can print ISBN labels onto your creations, and even sell your book in their marketplace. Furthermore, Blurb is a great option for those wanting to print small batches of books at a time.
Traditional Publishing House
Do you have a publicist or public relations skills? If not, using a publishing house may be the best choice to get your work the exposure it deserves. However, traditional publishing houses will require a larger initial publishing run, and a less favorable royalty share compared to self-publishing and hybrid publishing methods.
Finding an Agent
Finding an agent can be as simple as meeting one at a conference or conducting an online search. That said, finding an agent to help you publish your work is an important first step in getting published that shouldn't be taken lightly. Your agent's job isn't just to get a contract, your agent should be keeping your goals and artistic vision in mind. Start with authors or books you've liked and look at the acknowledgements section, it is common for authors to thank their agents. You could also reach out to local authors to ask for recommendations. Networking with authors who are at your stage in publishing or slightly ahead of you will be advantageous. Once you've landed an agent, they will likely send your manuscript to multiple (e.g 6-8) editors at a time to create a sense of urgency and competition. The editors are tasked with selling your idea and gaining approval from their sales and marketing team, so be sure you include relevant information and a sense of why this work will sell. Keep your social media and site updated at this time because they will surely be researching the face behind the work.
Writing a Book Proposal
Book proposals are an opportunity to show your writing style and concept before it is published. In some cases a formal book proposal may not be necessary, but for most non-fiction, they are. Promote yourself as an author and illustrate your social following and potential readership. Publishers prefer authors who have an existing reach. Provide an outline with sample chapters.
Hybrid Publishing House
She Writes Press is an online membership for women writers as well as a hybrid press house based in Chicago. Read more about how SWP is different than CreateSpace, LSI, Author Solutions and other options here. When you submit a manuscript to She Writes Press, you pay a fee to cover the costs of publishing. The initial fee depends on the size of the publishing run, but $5000 would be a good budget to build assuming prints cost $2-3 each. This is incredibly affordable compared to self-publishing. A minimum print run should be at least 500, many hybrid print houses will help with sales projections. The royalties you receive are, as you would expect, a hybrid between self publishing and a traditional publishing house. While a traditional publisher may give a 10% royalty for a print or ebook, a hybrid publishing house may offer up to 60% for printed books and 80% for ebook sales.