A Beginner’s Guide to Self Publishing and Traditional Publishing Resources

Like most aspiring authors, I’m enamored with the idea of getting my cherished first novel picked up by a major publisher and seeing it on the shelves of Barnes and Nobel (I’d have said Borders too, but…you know).  But the obstacles standing between the never-published author and the big time are legendary, and the odds of making it from concept to the shelves are discouraging to say the least.

Feeling lost about publishing choices?Which is why self-publishing is such an attractive alternative. Early on after deciding to devote myself to becoming an author I started exploring this option.  And while I’ve learned a lot, what makes self-publishing especially appealing of late is the many talented, passionate writers I’ve met that have used this to get their books out.  True, there is an undeniable credibility that comes with traditional publishing, and I seriously doubt that there is a self published author out that wouldn’t leap at the chance to ascend into the ranks of Harper Collins or Random House.  But self publishing has its definite advantages, and with the eBook market expanding at a dizzying rate, this option is becoming increasingly alluring to me. 

So while there seem to be purists of both methods, I would hazard the guess that most who aspire towards publication are working towards both options. And in the course of sifting through the various tools to help me get to the grand prize, I’ve unearthed some pretty cool tools that can help regardless of how you might decide to finally commit.

Traditional Publishing: The big lesson I’ve taken from my research is: don’t go knocking on the door of a big publishing firm like Random House.  They’re too busy, and if you go to their web sites they make it clear that they have little interest in hearing from individual, non-established authors.  Fortunately, there are agents who can make contact for you. 

Agents typically ask for nothing up front.  In fact, I ran across at least one advice article that recommends you completely avoid any literary agent that wants to charge you upfront.  The way the business works is that if they think they can sell your book, they’ll do the legwork.  They’ll get their cut when the deal has been inked with the publisher.

Here are some resources I’ve come across that I’m excited to use as I begin my traditional publishing journey.  Unfortunately, I can’t personally vouch for any of these yet.  I’m hoping to be more intimately familiar within the next month or two:

 The Query Letter:

QueryShark
This blog has attained a kind of mythic status. Basically, it’s kind of a free boot camp for the dreaded query letter.  You submit your letter, and if it’s selected you’ll see a potentially biting but constructive analysis posted on the blog.  This will be a valuable tool when it’s time to confront the much maligned query. 

AgentQuery 
I have to admit, I really like this tool.  It opens the door to apparently hundreds of agents who handle all writing genres.  The links I’ve followed from my searches through this site have usually been current and useful.

Professional editing:
There are of course multitudes of great, competent editors out there that are available to help the new writer get his or her manuscript up to where it needs to be. But how do you know which one to choose?  I’m afraid I can only offer limited help on this one.  I was fortunate enough to stumble upon Dave King’s website as I researched this late last year. What convinced me to go with his service was when I realized I had recently purchased his book on editing.

Dave King’s Editorial Service
This actually helps regardless of which route you take publishing, and I can’t say enough about Dave’s service.  His credentials are impressive (he coauthored the book Self Editing for Fiction Writers), and his approach is to coach as well as to edit.  I’ve learned a lot from this service, and I highly recommend it.

Self Publishing: As I mentioned above, I heard the siren-song of self-publishing early on, and I still haven’t shaken it.  From my research, it does appear that for an arguably reasonable price, you can pay to have your book bound and available for sale relatively quickly.  Most of the main Self Publishing sites offer editing and marketing advice as well.  So there’s definitely something to be said for getting your literary labor of love bound and online with Amazon.com. 

The downside, though, is that the marketing pretty much falls on you.  While the self publishing companies offer a variety of tools to help, you’re going to be spending a significant amount of time pushing your book in a variety of ways (assuming that sales mean anything to you.  Heck, you might be happy just to have the book published).

The first stop a lot of people will make is one of the larger self-pub companies.  I’ve listed the links to some of the more prominent ones below.  These companies come closest to mimicking traditional publishing by producing the coveted print version of your book.  Some also have eBook conversion capability as well (more on eBooks in a moment).

Outskirts Press
This is one of the more well known companies.  I’ve found the website easy to navigate and the author packages pretty easy to understand. I’m not promoting it, as I haven’t used it myself.  But it’s a good place to start to get an idea of what self publishing can offer.

 iUniverse
These guys are like Outskirts. iUniverse offers a variety of author packages, but they cost significantly more.  I’m assuming that their editorial and marketing advice is part of the reason why. 

Lulu.com
Lulu falls in between Outskirts and iUniverse, as far as prices are concerned.  I found Lulu’s website the most engaging, and I feel they’ve done a better job selling their services.  I may consider these guys if I decide on the self publishing route. 

Aside from the larger self publishing companies, there are a lot of other resources that anyone interested in self publishing should track down.  There are some tremendously useful sites and blogs that are geared towards supporting independent authors and the self publishing process. 

Independent Author Network
This website is a major champion of the self published author.  Since nearly all of the marketing responsibility is on your shoulders, this is the place to go to get you some lift and support from other independent authors.  I’m still on the outside looking in until I have my book ready to go, but start mingling now with folks who are a part of this.  You won’t regret it.

Self Publishing Central
I ran across John Betcher’s blog on Twitter (a little more on that below), and I’ve found it to be one of the most helpful blogs I’ve reviewed over the past year.  He uses his experience navigating the self publishing world, and writes about it in an engaging and informative way.  More specifically, John recently published a 4-part series of articles entitled 5 Self-Publishing Tips (which, with 4 parts, makes it 20 tips).  I can’t tell you how helpful this series has been.  Anyone new to the industry who is interested in self publishing should look at this blo

Of course, there’s plenty more resources out there.  I’ve found tons on Twitter. If you’re not a part of that, you’re really denying yourself the opportunity to network with a lot of talented people in the same boat as you. I hope that, if you’re just now starting down the path of trying to get a book published, that this information might save you some time as you plan out how to achieve your goals.  My personal goal is, if not published, that at least I’ll have made significant progress by the summer.  I’ll be sure to write an update when I get to that point.  Until then, good luck!

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