The Reality of Book Publishing

According to a recent survey, more than eighty percent of Americans want to write a book. This shocking statistic is somewhat puzzling because the National Endowment for the Arts estimates that only fifty-seven percent of Americans have read one book in the last twelve months!

What is it that makes people — even non-readers — want to put pen to paper?

Perhaps it’s the desire for fame and fortune. Maybe it’s the need to earn respect from others. Or maybe it’s the hopeful wish to leave some mark on the future, a permanent record of a life lived.

Whatever the reason, for those who actually complete a manuscript, the odds of seeing it published by a reputable book publisher are slim to none.

For the estimated two million manuscripts that authors complete, there are only 64,000 publishers of record, and only a fraction of those publishers actively seek new manuscripts.

So what are the millions of hopeful authors to do?

The first step would be to ensure their manuscripts are the best they can be. This is usually accomplished by re-writing, editing, and proofreading by an outside firm or by a well-read and literate colleague.

Even then, most of those two million books stand no chance of being accepted by a traditional publisher. Authors who do make the cut are not necessarily the best writers, but rather they are writers who can sell themselves and their stories most convincingly.

Some authors, after rejections from the trade, will find themselves victims of vanity publishers, who take advantage of the hopes and aspirations of writers to extract an exorbitant fee to publish their book. Writers are better off publishing through firms like iUniverse and Lulu. Although their books will likely never see wide distribution, at least their losses will be minimal.

Finally, there are the select few who decide to become publishers themselves, even if it is only to self-publish their own book. These self-publishers will find great obstacles and a great deal of work in this route. The challenge and reward of having one’s success or failure entirely in one’s own hands is a powerful feeling.

Whether they choose to publish electronically, or use a short-run printing service like Lightning Source, or even to go full boar with a print run of 1,000 or more, their success depends on how well they sell themselves and their story to others.

There’s an age-old debate about which method is better; using a publishing company or self-publishing your own book. You know your situation and you know what will work best for you. You’ll want to consider how much time or money you have to invest in the project. That should give you an idea as to which route to take. Using a publisher takes less time on your part, but you’ll forfeit some of the royalties by using this method. If you self-publish, you’ll have to pay “upfront” and do the initial work to get the ball rolling on sales of your book.

If you are about to embark on a new manuscript, educate yourself thoroughly about the industry, its scams, and potential pitfalls. More importantly, learn to market yourself well, for this, more than any other skill, is the determining factor in your success or failure

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