To Market, To Market
You have your novel finished. Now what?
You have lots of options -- ebooks publishers, small press publishers, traditional publishers, or some form of self-publishing.
I'll talk about each form of publishing with some pros and cons to consider.
Traditional publishers are the usual publishers you find in bookstores. In US publishing, many are based in New York City. Some of these publishers of genre/popular fiction include Tor, Pocket, St. Martin, and Kensington.
The major advantage to these publishers is distribution. Their books are usually carried by all the major bookchains and distributors so anyone can walk into the neighborhood bookstore and buy or order your book.
The better the distribution, the more books sold.
They will also give you an advance on your earnings and cover all the costs of creating the book itself including editing, the cover, and the printing.
Authors published this way are on the top of the author pecking order.
The major disadvantage is competition. You will have an uphill battle to gain a coveted slot in a publishing schedule and your competition will include many published authors.
In some markets, you'll need to get an agent even before you begin the fight for that slot, and this is an equally difficult and slow process.
Another disadvantage is lack of control. You will have almost no say in your book's title and cover. More often than not, you will also be required to change some of the book's content.
Pigeonholing is another problem. You must write to fit the current trends in popularity. It's a rare book that can be totally different.
Small press is really a small version of the traditional publisher, but rather than being owned by a conglomerate, it is owned by individuals. Many are niche publishers specializing in a particular market like regional mystery or paranormal romance.
Some have the advantage of good distribution through book chains and distributors so they can be found in bookstores, but others do not. It will be much harder to find your book in a bookstore, but it should be available for ordering.
All the expenses of editing, cover art, and printing are covered by the small press, and some offer advances on earning which are usually much smaller than the traditional publisher.
The amount of author impute in the publishing process ranges from none to a great deal according to the individual press.
The disadvantages include poorer distribution, the vagaries of the how each runs its business, and the inherent risk of working with a small company where an owner's illness can stop the presses.
SUBSIDY OR SELF-PUBLISHING IN PAPER
This category runs the gamut of subsidy/vanity publishing to self-publishing. Many of the subsidy and vanity publishers have the system for publishing the book set up so all you have to do is plug in the various components of the book. You will design the cover or pay to have someone design the cover, you will write the book blurb, and you will edit or pay someone to edit your book. They will take all this and print the book for you.
With self-publishing, you must also find a printer to print your book for you.
The major advantage to this method is you have most of the control for every element of your book.
A major disadvantage is that you have control over every element of your book. If you don't know what you are doing, you will have spent a lot of money to make a fool of yourself.
Distribution is the biggest disadvantage of self-publishing. It is almost impossible to get your book onto the shelves of bookstores and in the catalogs of distributors. Even those subsidy presses who claim they can get your books on those shelves rarely do.
You will have to literally hand sell each book. To do this, you must have the soul and charm of a successful used car salesman and lots of time.
A self-published book, unless it achieves best-selling status, is also more harm than good to a writer's reputation and future. Unfortunately, most in the publishing world have a great deal of disdain for the self-published so moving into another form of publishing later is much harder to do.
Epublishers release their books in digital format although some also offer print options mainly in the form of print-on-demand publishing.
The advantage to epublishing is a wider range and number of publishers as well as less pigeonholing of book types. Since the costs of producing an ebook are much smaller than with paper-published books, the publisher can afford to publish books that don't fit tight market requirements.
Most epublishers handle the cost of editing and cover design, but only a few offer a very small advance of royalties.
You will usually have a great deal of impute into the cover art, editing, and the book blurb.
Distribution is nonexistent in bookstores, of course, but the books are available either at the publisher's website and ebook distribution sites like Fictionwise where they will be sold with the ebook versions of books from traditional publishers and small press.
One major disadvantage is less money. Not enough people are buying ebooks yet so the money isn't there.
Even erotica, the growth market for ebooks, isn't offering much profit for most new authors because of the glutted market.
Those most successful in ebooks are prolific writers who are able to produce three or more high quality books a year that are sold to the same audience. That audience buys all their books, and each new book draws in more readers who buy the backlist. Darrell Bain and Charlee Compo are good examples of this kind of success.
Epublishing companies also have the same disadvantage as small press. They are run by individuals so an illness or family tragedy can put your book on hold, or the publisher can fail completely.
SELF PUBLISHING IN EBOOK FORMATS
You can format your book into an ebook then sell it from your website, at Smashwords, or the Kindle bookstore.
The advantage is total control and a much cheaper setup cost than a paper book. The disadvantages are much the same as with any form of self-published book.
A WEB NOVEL
The final market really isn't a market because no profit is made.
If you want to be read and money doesn't matter, putting your book on the web for free via a website, a blog, a free download site like Memoware, or a listserv like Yahoogroups may be the route to take.
You will have to promote for readers, but you will get them, and a few will actually comment on your work.
Some writers do this as a learning experience. Others simply don't want to bother with the hassle of the publishing process.
The disadvantages are no money and the possibility your book may end up elsewhere without your permission.
The simplest way to gain popularity, readers, and comments is to write in a popular fan fiction universe like Harry Potter or the TWILIGHT series. A decent writer can become a big fish in a very small pool with lots of fans and none of the heartache of the professional markets.
If you're still confused about which market you should try, think long and hard about what you really want from publishing and go from there.
And welcome to the wonderful world of publishing. Tighten your seatbelt because you're starting one heck of a bumpy but fascinating flight.
Copyright © 2012 by Marilynn Byerly
This article may be reproduced, but only with the permission of Marilynn Byerly (firstname.lastname@example.org). It must contain the byline and copyright information.