Modern day publishing, being the multifaceted entity it is, can be a complex and somewhat stressful business to delve into. There are few safety nets, if any, and your success will only ever be as great as you allow it. However many success stories you discover, it is important to note that there are many, many, many more failed attempts. There are always a multitude more that fail to get anywhere, and it may not always be to their own doing. To garner success in the self-publishing world, you must be willing to do anything and everything you can to achieve it.
So, you have an unpublished manuscript you're hoping will be picked up by one of the big publishing houses? Or even a smaller one? The chances of being snapped up by a publishing house, of any kind, are minuscule. The large publishers accept only a very limited number of manuscripts per year, and for yours to be accepted as one of those, it must be literary gold. Your greatest chance is to submit your manuscript to as many literary agents as you can - one at a time, of course. If no agent displays interest, resort to submitting directly to publishing houses, as they will generally read a manuscript only once, and no more. If all else fails, and you decide you would still like to see your book in print, consider self-publishing.
Many authors are beginning to explore publishing on their own. There are many successful, traditionally published authors who have turned away from publishing houses, and have begun to self-publish their new titles. Not only do you have complete control over what happens to your 'baby', you generally have a far greater royalty rate to appreciate. The downside is that, for anybody to buy your book, YOU have to make them want to, which can be a most difficult and somewhat disheartening thing, if you go about it wrong. Marketing a self-published title will be dealt with in a later post. For now, we'll focus on the self-publishing process.
There are far greater avenues for self-publishing than many people realise. You can have your manuscript transformed into digital format (an ebook) at little-to-no cost. Digital book files (generally a .mobi or .epub file) can be submitted to the various ebook websites, such as Amazon's Kindle, Apple's iBookstore, Kobo, Barnes and Noble's Nook and Sony's Reader Store. To do so, you can either register directly to the websites and submit your properly formatted file, or you can use what is known as an aggregator, such as Smashwords, to have them convert your file into the appropriate file-type and submit each file to the major retailers on your behalf. Aggregators are, by far, the more convenient option, but they are not always the best path to take. More on that later.
If you want to see your book in print - and let's face it, we all do - then you can also do this yourself, often for free! We call this Print on Demand (POD). The leading POD companies are Amazon's CreateSpace and Lulu.com, both of which are free and easy to get started, and Lightning Source, which is a paid and more complex route, but more 'professional' (for lack of a better word). I have tried the two free options, and have signed up to try Lightning Source. I will keep you posted on how I go with Lightning Source.
From personal experience, I can vouch only for CreateSpace. The quality of my printed books were far greater with them than I experienced with Lulu. Everything about the CreateSpace copy feels professional - from the cover, to the pages themselves. I chose the 5x8" option with Creme paper. I advise against using white paper, as this has an amateur/novice appearance to it. In saying that, the creme paper CreateSpace use is not like that seen in published books from major publishing houses. This paper is thicker, and does not feel as flimsy. With Lulu, I received a poor quality book that fell apart within weeks of having received it - even though I did not read it! To top it off, the cover had a poor 'photo paper' feel and look about it, which was miles behind CreateSpace's cardboard laminate. In saying this, there are many happy with Lulu's quality - I just failed to see it in what I received.
Further posts will be made shortly, looking particularly at pros and cons of each POD, a 'how-to' guide, printing options, distribution and marketing, among other things. Let me know if you'd like to see anything in particular!
That's it from me... For now :)