Guest Blogger: Pete Nikolai
While the majority of people believe they have a book in them, very few actually start writing their book and far fewer finish. If you have started or even finished your manuscript then you may have begun looking into the options that are available for getting your book published that run the gamut from “the big five” traditional publishers to self-publishing. An author is usually best-served by considering the options in that order. Being published by a traditional publisher has numerous benefits including broader distribution and the affirmation and market position that comes with the support of an industry leader.
The first step to getting your book traditionally published is to develop a comprehensive book proposal as early in the process as possible—preferably before you start writing. In doing so, you will get to know the wants and needs of your target market, identify competitive titles, and begin to determine how to create the book your target market needs along with how they might become aware of their need for your book. Your book proposal should encapsulate the information literary agents and publishers need to evaluate your book’s commercial viability.
As you work on your proposal you should also research the literary agents that may be interested in representing you (if you want to be traditionally published). Most of the publishers you might be familiar with do not accept “unsolicited materials” directly from authors. Publishers rely on agents to sift through thousands of proposals and manuscripts to identify the strongest ones and to pitch those to the publishers who would be the best fit.
One way to identify agents to consider is to determine the ones who represented the authors of books similar to yours. Many authors mention their agent in the acknowledgments section of their book and many agents list the authors they represent on their website. The Write For Us page on the HarperCollins Christian Publishing site has a link to a list of literary agents who represent authors of Christian books along with links to other helpful resources such as a book proposal template.
To secure an agent, first identify several candidates and then visit the website for each to obtain their submission guidelines and follow those guidelines very closely. Your ability to adhere to those guidelines is a good indicator of whether you will be the type of author agents want to work with.
Give yourself a reasonable deadline for each milestone such as hiring an agent within 3 months and then securing a publisher within 6 months. Doing so helps you stay focused on your objectives and also provides some perspective as to when it might be prudent to consider other options such as self-publishing.
The majority of the books published and sold each year are self-published. Most readers rely on recommendations from their friends and associates or on reviews on websites to determine what to purchase so whether your book is traditionally published or professionally self-published will have little impact on how your book is perceived by potential readers. The most important elements include a quality manuscript and a professionally produced book (pages and cover).
Nearly every book is made available on the various book retailer websites and included in industry databases so it can be ordered by any bookstore. However very few self-published books are actually sold to bookstores and other accounts in any way close to the intentional and methodical efforts of a traditional publisher’s sales team.
At WestBow Press (the self-publishing services division of HarperCollins Christian Publishing that I manage), we help hundreds of authors self-publish their books and the ones that get strong reviews and sell well initially are then sold by the HCCP sales team to bookstores and other accounts.
If the deadlines you set for being traditionally published have passed and you’ve decided to pursue self-publishing then do your research so you know what to expect and are ready to take the necessary steps. Self-publishing service providers (such as WestBow) have a team of experts on hand to edit, proofread, design, market, sell, finance, print, and distribute your book.
Whether you self-publish your book or have it traditionally published, it can and should be a tool to impact your readers for good. You will put an amazing amount of time and resources into your book, and it can serve as part of your legacy—if you get it published well.
For more information including a free guide to publishing your book, visit WestBow Press today!
Pete Nikolai is the coauthor of Write Your Book and has been in the book publishing business for over 25 years, working in a variety of roles for Thomas Nelson Publishers before becoming the Publisher of WestBow Press.