6 Ways to be Published: A Practical Breakdown
By Jennie Jarvis, 2014 Conference Faculty Chairperson
Let me guess: You want to be a published author, right? You’ve written your manuscript (or most of it), and you are already dreaming of seeing your book’s title on an Amazon bestseller list (or better yet, a New York Times bestseller list). You know you still have a little bit of work to do (maybe the book is still out to beta readers or you know you need an editor to help you with the polish). Otherwise, however, you are ready to start making the difficult decision: HOW do I want to publish?
For many years, serious writers considered only ONE option: getting an agent, having that agent send the manuscript out to book editors at publishing houses, and crossing their fingers. Then in the last few decades, self-publishing became the buzziest of buzzwords. Another exciting venue to explore! Thanks to the Internet, authors could be in charge of whether or not their books ever made it into the hands of a reader.
But did you know that we have more than these two choices?
In the age of e-readers, we as authors have a whole slew of options between self-publishing and traditional publishing. As Faculty Chairperson for the 2014 FWA Annual Conference, I wanted to make sure our conference offerings explored all the options. Below is a brief rundown of the pros and cons of various kinds of publishing options and which FWA conference faculty can give you more information about each path.
1. Traditional Publishing
Pros: This is the Dream! Opportunity for great exposure and large readership.
Cons: You have to have an agent, lower royalty rates, limited exposure since your publisher will have other clients as well.
FWA Faculty: Agents Dawn Frederick, Jennie Goloboy, Saritza Hernandez, Kathleen Ortiz, Carly Watters, Laura Zats. New York Times bestselling authors Jennifer Armentrout, Mary Burton, Marie Bostwick, Karen Hawkins, and more!
2. Small or Independent Press Publishing
Pros: You get all the benefits of a larger house but more specialized attention. You don’t always need an agent to submit (check each press’s submission guidelines).
Cons: A smaller press might have fewer resources, including less money for your advance and marketing.
FWA Faculty: Editor Matt Peters. Agents Dawn Frederick, Jennie Goloboy, Saritza Hernandez, Kathleen Ortiz, Carly Watters, Laura Zats. Authors Dr. Tof Eklund, Melanie Neale and more!
3. Digital Publishing
Pros: It’s just like a traditional small press, but you can see your book published in less time! You don’t need an agent to submit (but having one may bump to the head of the line), and some digital presses are smaller imprints of traditional houses (if your book does well, here comes the traditional book deal!)
Cons: Your book will most likely only ever exist in digital format. Most of these publishers are looking for very specific genres such as romance, Young Adult or New Adult,
FWA Faculty: E-pub agent Saritza Hernandez. Editors Nina Gooden, Meredith Rich, and Eden Plantz. Authors Jennifer Armentrout, Jennifer Kacey, and more!
Pros: You are in charge! Higher royalty rates, more control over your product, your book goes from your laptop to your readers in just a few short clicks.
Cons: You are in charge! If you aren’t good at book design, layout, or marketing/publicity, then you may need to hire professionals to help you. With more and more people self-pubbing each year, it’s getting harder and harder to stand out.
FWA Faculty: Authors Ben Hale, Jennifer Armentrout, Vic DiGenti, and more!
5. Hybrid Publishing
(This industry term means that an author publishes books in two ways at the same time. In other words, you don’t have to be JUST self-published or JUST traditionally published.)
Pros: You self-publish one book while you wait for another one that is traditionally published to be released. The marketing of one book helps the other and vice versa, and you can garner short-term income as you wait for the long-term income to arrive.
Cons: You need to have two really solid manuscripts ready at roughly the same time. Can be overwhelming if you aren’t comfortable with marketing and publicity or are a slow writer.
FWA Faculty: Agent Saritza Hernandez. Authors Jennifer Armentrout, Jennie Jarvis, and more!
6. Vanity/Subsidiary Press Publishing
Pros: All the benefits of self-publishing but with a paid staff that helps you through the process.
Cons: You are paying someone to do what you could basically do yourself. Sadly, there are a lot of con artists out there, so be sure to check the Writer Beware website to verify you are working with someone who will help (and not hurt) your book.
FWA Faculty: Publishers Julie Anne Howell (Peppertree Press), William Sudah (Expert Subjects), and Cheyenne Knopf (OnLineBinding.com). Book consultant/publisher Rik Feeney and more!
Jennie Jarvis is a former screenwriter turned literary writer. She is co-owner of 5writers.com and regularly conducts writing workshops. She has appeared in Writer’s Digest Magazine and The Florida Writer, and she teaches screenwriting at Full Sail University. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte.