I often get asked, “How do you get published?” Well, that’s a tricky question. There isn’t just one answer. If you were to ask how a person became a singer, there would be multiple different answers. Maybe they were discovered, maybe they knew someone who knew someone in the industry, maybe they went on American Idol. You get the gist. It’s the same with publishing. There are many different avenues to publishing and there are many different kinds of publishing.
Today, I want to talk about the three main avenues a novel can be published through. There are obviously other options, but these are the major three that people recognize the most when discussing publishing.
When you walk into a bookstore like Barnes and Noble and see books on the shelves, chances are good that those books have been traditionally published. Traditional publishing is what most people not in publishing think of when you mention publishing. That means a major publishing company (like Penguin or HarperCollins or Macmillan) purchased a book from an author in a book deal, helped that author edit their book, and then sold that book to Barnes and Noble so they would stock it on their shelf. At its most basic, this is what the publishing industry looks like. But these days, there are more options.
Indie publishing is just like traditional publishing but on a much smaller scale. Independent publishers are their own entity and tend to operate independently from the rest of the industry. While large publishers might work closely with retail chains like Barnes and Noble, Walmart, or Target, an independent publisher might have to work a little harder to create relationships with such businesses, and then it would be on a store-by-store basis instead of a company-wide basis like a big publisher. That means your book may or may not end up in a bookstore. In general, independent publishing is easier to break into but harder to make a career of.
If you have any experience with Amazon, you’ve seen self-publishing firsthand. It is what the title suggests, it’s a way for you to publish and market your own work. Amazon is the most popular place to self-publish but not the only avenue by any means. There are many self-publishing companies out there that will print your books or help you format them for e-books to sell online. The upside to self-publishing is that every cent earned for your books goes directly into your pocket, but the downside is trying to market entirely on your own means that (generally speaking) your sales won’t match those of the other two types of publishing, BUT many self-published authors make a living through it.
There’s a lot of thought that needs to go into choosing which way to publish your work. These are just three options, and once you pick one, you still have a long way to go. For the sake of this series, I’m going to be focusing on traditional publishing moving forward. Next, we’ll discuss finding an agent, so stay tuned!