How to Get Your Project Published
- Different publishing models: publishing pros and cons - June 5, 2020
- How to Get Your Project Published - May 29, 2020
In 15 years of working in publishing, the question I get asked most often is: how do you get your project published?
Aspiring authors can take many forms. Perhaps you’re an architect or interior designer who wants to showcase their work. Or maybe you’re a medical practitioner looking to promote your proprietary technique and/or research to your target market. Successful influencers often ask about how to publish coffee table books to promote their businesses. You may have even pondered “how can I get my memoirs published?”
Despite the array of reasons for wanting to get your project published, the answer for how to do it is pretty straightforward…
What Options Exist to Get Your Project Published?
Short answer: three.
Since my first book was published in 2005, the industry has changed immensely.
With the emergence of new media formats, Amazon’s domination, and other challenges to the traditional “book-stand” approach to publishing, different models have evolved. Those can be split into three main categories:
- Traditional publishing
- Vanity publishing
There are pros and cons to each approach that I will cover in another post. For now, I’ll go over how these models work in the 21st century, what to expect, and what you’ll need to succeed with each.
Traditional Publishing: How it Really Works (Now)
This is the most difficult way to get your project published. You might expect established publishers to take care of a lot of the details involved in publishing your book. While that may have been true in the early ’00s, the reality today is very different.
Traditional publishers see your book as an investment. They invest their time, money and expertise (not to mention their brand value) into your project. Consequently, they need to see a clear path to commercial success.
Almost always, you will need to have a recognizable name – a personal or professional brand – to get publishers’ attention. Without that, you must be able to demonstrate a highly effective marketing strategy for your book. Traditional publishers will want to see traction on that front before they consider offering you a contract.
That means that you:
- Have built a following (on social media or by other means)
- Can demonstrate a high level of audience engagement
- Have a clear roadmap for how to convert that audience into sales once the book has been released
All of that isn’t easy to achieve. In addition, it assumes you already have a publisher interested in your project. It’s estimated that of all the thousands of unsolicited manuscripts any single publisher receives in one year, fewer than 1% become published books.
So how should you go about it?
How to Pitch a Traditional Publisher
If you want to go down this route, make sure your manuscript is professionally edited before you submit.
I can’t stress that enough. So many great projects end up falling by the wayside because they’re not properly constructed. Traditional publishers who accept unsolicited material (and there aren’t that many) simply don’t have time to pick their way through garbled syntax to discover your underlying brilliance. If your key concepts are obfuscated by jargon, poor grammar or a disregard for structure, your manuscript will hit the bin faster than it takes for you to get an editing quote from us.
Yes, I have ulterior motives here. But ask anyone working in publishing and they will tell you the same thing.
Self-Publishing: How it Really Works
If the challenges of finding and working with a traditional publisher don’t appeal, you might consider self-publishing as an alternative.
In order to do that, you need to engage:
- An editorial team for (ghostwriting), structural editing, copy editing and proof reading
- A design team for the dust jacket (ie: cover), interior graphics, layout etc
- A printer – unless you only want an ebook (in which case, replace with an IT professional)
- An administrator (you?) to organize the workflow and register the title where necessary (see below)
- (Optionally) A marketing team to handle promotion, sales and distribution
Given all of that, what’s the best way to approach self-publishing?
How to Self-Publish Your Project
The key to self-publishing is to build a network of partners or subcontractors who really understand a) their role in your project and b) what you want to achieve overall.
That might sound obvious. But, as any entrepreneur knows, putting together a team for a project without having any prior experience is like putting together a puzzle with moving parts. Make sure everyone working on your project has the right level of expertise to complete their jobs. At the same time, don’t allow their advice to compromise your vision. Your goals need to be clear in the minds of everyone involved: starting with you as the author/primary contributor, on to your editors, proof-readers, designers and marketers.
Organizing who will undertake the necessary administrative tasks – and how – is just as important. To publish a book, you will typically need to procure an ISBN and create a barcode (although Amazon supplies free ISBNs via KDP, and you won’t need one for an ebook). You need to register your title with Nielsen. You’ll need to negotiate with printers – probably internationally – and understand the economics of scale involved in overseas lithograph vs local digital printing.
By no means is any of that insurmountable. But having the right people around you is crucial.
Vanity Publishing: How it Really Works
Don’t skip this section! As with self-publishing, there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding vanity publishing (also called “contract publishing”). Many of the beautiful monographs you’ll find in shops like Assouline, Taschen and others are, essentially, vanity projects. All that really means is that the publisher and author – be that a brand or an individual – have shared the costs of what potentially could be a mutually beneficial project.
Vanity publishers will ask for fees up front. If you’re writing from an academic perspective, you need to be wary of this. Learn about the differences between predatory publishing and promotional publishing as an essential first step before proceeding.
If you’re happy to pay to publish a book on your brand, life story or anything else, the process is simple. Your up-front fee will help fund the production of the book and/or its marketing and PR. Any vanity publisher worth their salt will handle all the details from that point onward. In which case, your only remaining question should be…
How to Find the Right Vanity – or Bespoke – Publisher For You:
When evaluating your options, remember that many publishers offer this service. While it may not be patently advertised, a direct inquiry to almost any publisher out there will likely receive a rapid response. Some may offer even more robust packages to support your publishing project – something I describe as ‘bespoke publishing’ in my work for BPS.
Here are the questions you should be asking before making any financial commitment:
- Do the publishers have the right experience of your subject matter to help you tell your story?
- Will publishing under their imprint (the publisher’s brand name for your niche) give your book any reputational benefit?
- What is their distribution model? If mainstream, what is your marketing strategy to encourage stores to stock your book? If targeted, what audience do they distribute to, and how?
So, What’s the Best Way to Get Your Project Published?
While there’s no definitive answer – every project is unique – you do need to have an understanding of all your options before rushing ahead with any of the above.
Beyond that, the two most important things to remember are, firstly, to make sure your book has been professionally edited before anything else. It makes a huge difference – whichever publishing option you choose to take.
Secondly, seek out good, informed advice as to which option might be right for you. If there’s one thing we literary folks enjoy, it’s talking about books – so please do get in touch!