Publishing A Book: A Guide to Get You Off to Press

How do you write a book? In the modern age, this is a talent that everyone owes to themselves. It only takes an idea, commitment, and several weeks of writing or typing it all down.

But how can your hard work reach print? How do you turn several pages into a book?

As a writer, publishing your work is one of the greatest dreams. It’s just a matter of getting there.

We’re here to answer your question. From traditional publishing to self-publishing options, we have every tidbit of information.

What You Need in Publishing a Book

Let’s publish a book. Before anything else, organize what you need.

#1 Prepared Material

Make sure you have everything you need before taking on the publishing process:

  • Complete manuscript
  • Query letter
  • Novel synopsis
  • Proposals
  • Sample chapters

Of course, should you decide to take on the self-publishing route, some of these items may no longer be necessary. Don’t worry – we tackle them all in this article.

Speaking of publishing options, we have the next requirement: an action plan.

#2 Action Plan

It’s not just your material you have to have prepared. What do you plan to do with it? Will you go for a traditional publisher, or will you self-publish your book?

Before you publish a book, iron out how much money you plan to allot as a budget.

If you choose to self-publish a book, take into account the price of printing and binding. Decide if you want professional artists or editors.

After you pick out a publishing route, you have to consider what comes after. You don’t want your writing to go to waste. Think about any edits you have to make during the process.

If publishing doesn’t go your way, are you ready to self-publish a book instead? Like we said above, it can get costly and needs preparation.

What are the tools at your disposal? Can you print and market your first book by yourself?

Do you have an online platform you can use? Can you prepare a marketing plan? What is your target audience? What do your readers want most?

Consider your primary plan, your back-up plan, and other fallback options. Be committed to getting your book published!

#3 Ample Feedback

Before you even think about getting your work to a publisher, get a lot of feedback first.

Show friends and family a sample of your work.

Enter a page or two into writing workshops. If all else fails, hire professional help. An editor is the best way to improve your writing and get your book to see print.

How to Publish a Book

Publishing your book takes several steps, but we cover them all here. The following are the steps you need to take for publishing your book.

First, you have to consider two tracks: traditional and self-publishing.

Traditional Publishing

Traditional publishing involves a contract between a publishing house and the author. Here, the publishing house is in charge of printing, publishing, and selling your book.

Why Traditional Publishing?

An upside to this is that traditional publishing houses take all the risks. The author pays no expense for edits, art, and advertisements.

Marketing, distributing, and storing your books are all up to the publishing house as well.

The publishing house purchases all rights to the book. Authors can earn by receiving royalties and payment advances with future royalties.

A royalty is a legally-binding payment for the use of a person’s assets. In the publishing world, the authors’ rights are the assets in question! Publishers take out royalties through percentages of book sales.

So, how do you get into traditional publishing?

Step 1: Complete Your Manuscript

Your book manuscript should be ready before you put in any more work into the publishing process.

It may take a long time to get accepted by a traditional publisher. However, you don’t want to miss out on any opportunities. Once you submit queries, a publisher or two may request a full manuscript.

Step 2: Find Your Genre

With the number of overarching themes you can have in your story, it can be hard to pin down a genre. However, it’s crucial to narrow your book genre down in the writing and publishing process.

Put your place in the reader’s shoes. When you look for books in stores, what do you do?

It helps to find books by category. You’re more likely to pick up and read them. It’s the same way with publishers. Categorizing your book helps a publisher market the book and sell more copies.

Of course, hybrid genres are possible. Experimental pieces and collections sell, too. We don’t discourage creativity! But it still helps to find out what specific genre/s your book falls into.

To earn more from your books with a traditional publisher, you rely on sales. Genre and marketability play a huge part in earnings. Be honest about your book’s potential.

What if your book isn’t a good candidate for big publishing houses?

There are several different journals, small presses, and digital presses. Don’t limit yourself with regards to the platform options you can have with your book.

The genre also ties in with your writing. You may need to make more tweaks depending on the genre you choose.

The first decision is easy: is your book fiction or nonfiction? If it’s nonfiction, does it have a strong concept?

Nonfiction books usually include narrative and prescriptive stories.

Memoirs, how-to’s, travel guides, and creative nonfiction fall into those categories. What is timely? What is a strong hook for your book idea?

If the book is fiction, research the genres it could fall into.

The big categories include romance, fantasy, thriller or horror, mystery, and science fiction. Each one has sub-genres, like historical thrillers, dystopian fiction, and contemporary romance.

As a writer, it is a good idea to scope out the market with your book genre. The more unique – but at the same time, relevant – your idea is, the more marketable it is for a traditional publisher.

Step 3: Find An Appropriate Agent or Publisher

Now, decide if you want a literary agent. Literary agents are essential to any writer wanting to get into traditional publishing houses.

A literary agent is your representative. They contact editors and publishers, giving you the right connections to get the best out of your work.

They also interfere when needed and act as career advisers and managers. They provide all kinds of assistance for your book.

Typically, a literary agent takes around 15 percent of your royalties. So, they only earn when you get book sales. This area of publishing ties in with your genre and your book’s commercial viability.

Conduct research! Look into websites like DuoTropeAgentQuery, and PublishersMarketplace to see agent and publisher listings.

When looking for an agent, ask the following:

  • What is the agent’s sales record or background?
  • How’s their industry knowledge?
  • How do they communicate?

Check your agent’s client list and publishing connections. Decide if it’s the right fit for you and your work. Look into the sales aspect, as well. Is it a good enough range for you?

You want your agent to represent your work with experience and success. However, new writers can also attract new agents.

In the case that you hire a relatively new agent, you can check their work background instead. They might still be building a client list.

Do they have previous writing, publishing, or editing experience? Is their background reputable? This doesn’t just ensure a good book contract but also gives you an idea of their industry knowledge.

A good agent should know the ins and outs of the industry. After all, your book sales as an author typically reflect market trends.

It also helps to have an agent that improves your queries and manuscripts. They should mentor and advise you through the process.

That being said, communication is key. Look for professionalism, enthusiasm, and transparency when you talk to potential agents.

Communication is the foundation of the rest of your business relationship with an agent. You need to trust this person to handle negotiations, payments, and deals.

You can choose to submit to a publisher without an agent directly. However, it is much harder for your book to gain recognition.

Many publishers don’t take in manuscripts without an agent involved.

Step 4: Write a Query Letter

A query letter is what you send to agents and publishers. The purpose is to convince them to take on your manuscript.

Once you narrow your choice of agents and publishers down, it’s time to send the query letter. Here are a few pointers:

  • Keep it short – just on one page if you can
  • Provide all the necessary information about your manuscript
  • Keep personalization as an option
  • Research agencies

A query letter is your sales pitch. Remember the many aspiring authors surrounding you as you try to get your work to publishers. The publishing industry is cutthroat with the competition.

It’s good if you keep your letter short and sweet. Keep your query engaging. Since the competition is tough, a publisher has to go through hundreds of queries and submissions.

A page or two should provide the publishers with essentials (genre, word count, and title), your book’s hook or description, bio note, and closing.

Put your best foot forward. Be direct about any referrals and if you’re answering a manuscript request.

When you get to the bio note part of your query letter, put in any relevant literary awards and fellowships. If you have a sizable social media following or platform, you can also include it.

Personalization comes in handy if you want to establish rapport with the publisher. However, make sure it’s legitimate – don’t fake knowing about the publisher’s background or your admiration for the publishing company.

Don’t over-explain or overflatter. Your intentions and themes with your manuscript can come after you hook an agent or publisher.

Step 5: Submit Your Materials

It’s time to take the leap! Submit everything you prepared to an agent or publisher. This can be the start of all your writing dreams and get your book published.

While there are unique requirements, it’s best to prepare the most common materials, such as:

  • Query Letter
  • Novel synopsis
  • Fiction or Nonfiction Book Proposal
  • Sample Chapters

A novel synopsis should briefly summarize your novel from beginning to end. Once again, “briefly” is the keyword here. Remember to keep it short.

The synopsis should reveal how fresh your story is. It highlights motivations, twists, endings, and reveals. Add emotions and depth to the work. Establish complex, fantastical worldbuilding in simple terms.

Avoid deconstructing your work or adding too many backstories.

Meanwhile, a proposal is more complex. It should include target audiences, marketing plan, and chapter outlines. You can also send sample chapters.

A proposal is more typical for a nonfiction manuscript. Address the evidence of need. How does your book benefit readers? How does your book solve a problem?

A platform is also critical. Do you have a sizable online or social media following? How about offline? Do you have strong networks and previous book sales – even if self-published?

When submitting a sample chapter or two, go for the first ones.

You’re all set! If prompted, you can go ahead and submit your full manuscript.

Step 6: Sit Tight – It’s Part of the Process

Now, we wait. Responses come in various forms.

Some publishers or agents may request a partial or full manuscript.

If you don’t receive a reply after a significant amount of time, your book has been rejected. Don’t worry. Rejection is common for many authors.

As you wait, see if there are any weaknesses in your letter or manuscript. Work on any lapses. A writer probably won’t see printing the first time around.


Self-publishing is another option many writers consider.

Unlike traditional publishing, self-publishers shoulder the costs of printing, publishing, and selling a book.

Why Self-Publishing?

Self-publishing is a good alternative for aspiring authors.

Traditional publishing is a frustrating process – you can submit and submit and receive many rejections.

Self-publishing is also a good option for an author who wants more control over their work. While you spare no expense with a traditional publisher, you may want to take matters into your own hands.

Book art, editing, and promotions may not be up to what you want as an author and for your readers. At least, in self-publishing, you have creative control. You publish a book on your own terms.

You can also set your own price. After that, the profits are all yours. You don’t need to stick to any deal or contract. It’s something you can do independently and remotely.

So, how do you become a self-published author?

Step 1: Decide on a Platform

Self-publishing covers a lot of ground. To narrow down your choices, ask yourself what purpose you want to achieve with a self-published book.

Subsidy and Vanity Presses

Publishing models vary for subsidy and vanity presses. Here, you publish a book and pay for the costs of printing and binding. Some subsidy presses offer editing, formatting, and marketing services.

You may store the books yourself, or the subsidy publisher may offer a warehousing service. You also get royalties.

In a vanity press, it’s more or less the same thing. You pay for all services. Again, this includes printing, editing, formatting, and marketing the book. They may also work on the copyright and ISBN.

However, you own all rights and retain all profits. You don’t have to rely on royalties.

If you simply want to see your book in print or have several people interested in buying it, you can opt for subsidy and vanity presses. Writers who are hobbyists or writing to keep a memento are ideal for subsidy and vanity presses.

While vanity self-publishing doesn’t have the reach or prestige traditional publishing does, it is a good alternative to publish your book.

Writers from the nineteenth to the twentieth century have used this as an option. Vanity publishing isn’t limited to books, now, too. You can choose vanity publishing for video and music productions.

If you decide to promote your book on a larger level, you can choose vanity publishing for video and music, too.

Print-on-Demand Publishing

Some writers still consider print-on-demand publishing as a type of vanity press.

Print-on-demand is when you pay to print your book. Retaining rights vary. Some POD publishers take control over the copyright; some don’t.

You can set an amount to meet demand and print the books as you like. If you have a dedicated fanbase, this is the best option.

You can survey how many copies you need and print according to the number of readers you have. This is much more cost-effective, as well!

You don’t need to spend as much money as you can to ensure there will be no unsold copies. You don’t have to spend money on warehousing and storage, either.

However, editing, proofreading, and marketing your books can still cost a lot.

Other Self-Publishing Platforms: Kindle Direct Publishing, KDP Select, and More

The self-publishing platforms we discuss in this section all rely on the author alone. The above platforms still involve transactions to process with other companies.

One example is Kindle Direct Publishing. Otherwise known as KDP, it has a simple process to self-publish your book.

You have to sign up with an Amazon account first. Then, check if your manuscript is up to Amazon and Kindle’s quality and content guidelines. Enter your book’s details, content, and pricing.

You can opt to upload it on Amazon as a paperback book or as an ebook.

You maintain rights and earn up to 70% of royalties. As Amazon has a wide reach, your book is available for many readers in several countries.

There’s another option: KDP Select. With KDP Select, you access marketing tools, earn higher book royalties and participate in the Kindle Unlimited Program.

This program makes use of a subscription program for customers to borrow as many books as they like per month.

While lucrative, KDP Select requires you to give exclusive digital distribution rights. After you give those over to KDP, you are no longer able to distribute your book digitally. Physical copies are still welcome!

Not a fan of Kindle? Several platforms such as BookBubCreateSpaceGumRoadBarnes & Noble Press, and Kobo are all available.

There’s a whole menu of self-publishing platforms out there. Just find the best one for you.

Step 2: Edit, Format, Design

Self-publishers saturate the market every day. How does an author stand out?

With professional editing, formatting, and design. While it is possible to edit the book yourself, there may be some lapses you haven’t seen. In this case, it’s best to hire a professional.

Proofreaders and editors can work on your book and see that it has no flaws once printed. However, there is more to editing than grammatical mistakes. Look into plot holes, weak paragraphs, and areas for improvement as well.

A book doesn’t stop at writing. You have to take a page out of artists’ books to format and design your book. Again, you can choose to do this all by yourself!

If you have enough confidence in your skills and background, we don’t see why you couldn’t format and design everything for your book.

Or hire a professional. The results will speak for themselves. Explain themes and your creative vision and harvest the results.

A book cover can make or break your book’s success. While we may throw around the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” people ignore that all the time.

The layout, binding, images, and typography matters in your book. Striking visuals get potential readers’ attention quickly.

Instead of reading what your book is all about, a good book cover instantly makes people feel your writing. Engagement is key!

Step 3: Market Everything

We get it – writers are often shy as people and about their work. However, if you don’t market something, it’s unlikely for any product to gain traction.

But, remember: you managed to publish a book! Take pride in this, and run with the confidence to promote your work. Ask friends and family to share the word.

Take advantage of the digital world. Invest money in a website or blog. If you don’t have enough money to do so, there are many free alternatives.

Treat the Internet like a menu for possible networks. Know your target audience and optimize promotional material to reach them.

Use social media and hashtags. Connect with people interested in writing or reading online.

If you go with KDP, maximize the promotional sets available. Pay reviewers to critique your book or write enticing book blurbs.

If you have physical copies, go to independent publishing conventions.

The Bottom Line

Are you now ready to publish your book? We hope you enjoyed this guide!

Remember to be prepared with your material, action plan, and feedback. Choose the right route.

Traditional publishing can get you into commercial success. Self-publishing, meanwhile, has the advantage of creative control and more profits.

In both situations, persistent effort is a requirement. Publishing any book is a big feat. As creatives, we all dream of achieving publication. Your work is out there, recognized, and changing many people’s lives.

Share your opinions and experiences with us in the comments! Share this article with other writers – everyone should get all the handy tips!

2 Responses

  1. Excellent post. I was checking continuously this blog and I’m impressed! Extremely useful info specially the last part 🙂 I care for such information much. I was seeking this particular information for a long time. Thank you and good luck.

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