You have perfected your manuscript and now it’s finally time to submit your finished manuscript. This is where your work description changes. Until now you’ve been a writer. Now you need to sell your work to become an author.
There are different ways to do that, either in traditional publishing through and agent or direct to a publisher who accepts submissions from authors. Most require agent submissions only, and some only look at recommended works. You can sell to a small-press publication. Or you can self-publish your work. Take the time to weigh pros and cons of each publishing method, then go to work at your new job—book sales person.
Big press, traditional publishers mostly require submissions through agents. They use standard contracts which are designed by their legal teams to benefit them. They aren’t trying to cheat you or be unfair, but they aren’t working for you. They are seeking the most beneficial deal and terms for themselves. Always read the contracts thoroughly and engage the services of an attorney, preferably an entertainment attorney well versed in industry practices. Be sure you understand the timelines and stipulations, as well as what rights you are signing over to them. You may not want to give them all rights—maybe only eBook and print in English speaking areas and not worldwide rights or media/movie rights. You may want your agent to sell those rights separately for you. Understand how you’ll be paid, record keeping, what happens if the publisher goes under, and how long they have the rights to your book should it go out of publication.
Think each stipulation through and be sure you are happy with the terms. If not, this is the time to speak up. Ask for revisions and be clear why. Most often they will be willing to work with you for a contract satisfactory to everyone.
Large publishers most often offer up front advances for works they purchase. They provide professional editor services and cover artwork. They put effort toward getting your book into catalogues so it will end up in stores and libraries. They sometimes submit your work to reviewers and help with efforts to get it onto best seller lists. Find out what public relations and marketing work they intend to put toward your work, and how you can participate. You will need to do much of the marketing on your own, but ensure you are not duplicating effort.
Small press publishers mostly accept direct author submissions. Some pay advances but most these days don’t. Some publish only eBooks. Others publish both eBooks and print. Only sell them rights to what you know they will publish. The same thing goes for contracting with them, as with large press publishers. Understand what you are agreeing to, and seek legal help.
Vanity presses are publishers who only publish when you invest, or pay for their services. I do not recommend this method of publishing.
Self-publishing or indi-publishing is another way to go. In this case, you are the agent, and the publisher. You can do as much or as little as you want in the process. There are many find editors, formatters, author assistants and artists out there you can hire to help. Or you can learn to do all of these steps, or whichever of them you want to learn to do on your own. It is totally up to you. You are also the sole marketer, PR representative, and book seller. Not only do you reap all the rewards, the success of your work is largely up to your efforts. This is a time-consuming, complex process; however, it’s not all that difficult once you learn the skills and steps involved.
So you’re published. Your role has changed. You are no longer just a writer. You are officially an author. The writing and publishing part of your work is over. You’re ready to change hats again.
You’re in the publishing business. You’ve gone publish. You’ve exposed your guts and the work that came from your soul to the public. You may be out of your comfort zone.
Whether you enjoy it or not, your job now is to publicize, market and convince the public to spen hard-earned dollars to read your work. The fun begins!