There are two main publishing systems. The main difference between them is that in one the publishing company takes care of all costs and in the other, the writer does just that.
The first and more traditional one refers to finding a book agent—someone who knows editors and who can get you the best publishing deal possible—and consequently an editor and publishing house.
In this system, your book is proofread and edited ‘in-house’, and there is a back and forth between editor and writer as questions are asked and answered, suggestions are made, and re-writes take place. A designer works on the layout of the text (and images, if there are any) and an illustrator—or sometimes a designer—creates the cover of the book.
In a publishing house, a lot of people work together during pre-production, production and post-production. Editors can also have input on the marketing campaign, and from experience and a clear consideration of the target audience, they may also influence distribution decisions. Publishing also involves the world of finance—not my strongest suit—and other professionals. But the gist of it is, the writer focuses on the writing and the publishing house takes care of the commercial aspects.
The other way of getting your book out there—the road I took—is self-publishing. Self-publishing companies offer the possibility of publishing your book, no agent needed. They usually offer an array of editors, proofreaders, designers and illustrators who can work on your text, but the cost runs on the writer. There are also many online platforms that allow you to publish your digital book, which means you don’t have to spend money printing copies, and others offer the possibility of print-on-demand.
Some self-publishing companies include the possibility of post-production commercialization and marketing. Writers usually have a more active role when it comes to self-publishing, because they have to find the tools needed for production and promotion, to say the least.
So, why did I take the self-publishing route? Simple: I got over two hundred rejection emails and spent many months waiting for a positive one. I only received one email asking for a lengthier excerpt from a novel but never heard back from the agent. I gave myself a time limit; I decided I wouldn’t spend the rest of my writing career waiting for an agent to take me on as a client, so after eight months, I gave The Last Summer to a few draft readers and asked for their opinion.
I know that an agent’s job is no easy feat; in just one email they have to read about an author, a plot summary, and an excerpt, and decide—on a gut feeling—whether to take things further or not. I’m not that great at selling myself, to be honest. If I read the emails I sent, I’ll probably be embarrassed and think, I wasn’t trying that hard now, was I? For some it may be easier, I just lack that self-marketing capacity and wasn’t fond of the process.
So I decided to try on my own. Is it easy? No. I’m aware of the many issues that have to do with publishing because I’m an Editor and because of my professional experience; if I didn’t, I’m not sure I would have accomplished things in quite the same way. I know I’m lacking in the design aspect of books, so I look for help in that department from friends, who are always willing to lend a hand. Having people in your life who can give you advice or a hand is crucial for publishing, especially self-publishing, or at least that’s my take.
Do you have any questions about the broad descriptions? What do you think are the pros and cons (besides the financing) of each model?