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Step Six: Publish

Updated on July 17, 2014

Pick a Publisher

Research publishing options. Authors don’t have to go straight to a big-name traditional publisher with their first manuscript. There are self-publishing methods, small publishing presses, and websites available where authors can submit their manuscript and start making copies to sell in bookstores. Authors should make sure to find the best fit for not only themselves, but also the novel. Certain genres have a niche market and require marketing techniques found with traditional publishers, while others can work with self-publishing.

Literary Agents

Authors may want to look at literary agents as well, who can review the manuscript and determine which publishers would be most likely to accept, and which venues to go through to achieve publication. Literary agents are a gateway to publishers, who suggest editors, designers, illustrators, and more. With an agent, authors aren’t alone in the process, and may have a higher percentage of acceptance. Research agents the same as publishers: some specialize in certain genres or services, so don’t send a comedy piece to a horror agent. There are large agencies, similar to big-name publishers, as well as individual agents to look through.

Query Letters

For authors wishing to use traditional publishing and for those searching for a literary agent, query letters are essential. These letter give information about the author and the manuscript, such as contact details, genre, audience, word count, a summary of the novel, and more. Authors should give details according to the publisher or agent guidelines; it is the pitch for the novel. Publishers, editors, and agents review a query letter before reading the actual manuscript, so it is important for authors to grab their attention. If an agent, publisher, or editor is uninterested in the query letter, they will reject the manuscript without even reading it. Because of the rise of authors, making sure the novel stands out and is picked from among hundreds is the purpose of a query letter.

Traditional vs. Self-Publishing

A growing issue within the publishing community deals with whether authors should seek out traditional, big-name publishers or choose to self-publish their novels. There are pros and cons to both options, and each individual author must decide what is best for them and their particular novel.

In both cases, it is important for the author to research all options available. Some companies like CreateSpace by Amazon, BookBaby, Lulu and more may seem enticing for self-publishers and authors who prefer to use print-on-demand services, but they do not take care of everything and can often cost authors more than necessary. Also, books made by these companies may not be accepted in every store; for example, because CreateSpace is a product of Amazon, their books are not allowed to be sold at Barnes & Noble, a major national bookseller. Authors who wish to use these companies should still hire their own editors, consult other authors and agents, and become familiar with their legal rights.

Traditional Publishing

Wider readership
Harder to get accepted
A percentage of overall profit
Publisher pays costs
Owns the rights to the novel

John Green on Publishing

Traditional Publishing

Not all publishing houses are the same: they have niche genres, house rules, and direct guidelines for publishing. The publishing house takes control of the entire process, from editing, design, formatting, printing, marketing, and distributing—which can help the author out exponentially, or cause a migraine over fights for legal rights. Once a publishing company has bought the rights to a novel, the author cannot publish the book elsewhere without violating their contract. Authors should read over their contract thoroughly before accepting, and negotiating is completely fair when it comes to their own intellectual property.

John Green talks about traditional publishing


No need for query letters
Harder to get a large readership
Author has full control
And pays the full cost
Author owns the rights
Has to market, print, and distribute the books


Self-Publishing can be beneficial to those who have connections and an extensive knowledge of the publishing industry, who are then able to market themselves and their books to make sales. With Self-Publishing, being able to choose editors, printers, distributers, and marketers can be helpful to the publishing process, but also costly. There has been a stigma about Indie Publishing to the point where some readers shun self-published books, but there has been a large rise in self-published books over the recent years.

Vanity Presses

I advise authors to avoid vanity or subsidy presses, because they are usually more hassle than they are worth. Vanity presses act like traditional publishers disguised as self-publishers, allowing the author to print their books as long as they pay a fee (or various fees) which may include authors buying their own books, editing services, printing costs, and more.


It is important for authors to know about printers, whether they choose traditional or self-publishing. Printers are the companies or individuals publishers use to physically create the hardback and paperback copies of a book. The manuscript, once formatted and edited, will be sent to the printer with specifications on design, format, page count, and more. Printers are responsible for the actual book being produced, so authors should be careful on which they use. A large printing company, widely known and used by traditional and self-publishers alike, is Lightning Source which has recently divided its corporation into a resource for publishers and authors (using Ingram Spark). There are a lot of online printers as well who specialize in printing-on-demand.

Print-on-Demand: This service is for authors, usually self-publishers or vanity presses, who wish to produce a certain number of books in the beginning for marketing and distribution, then later only prints books as they are bought. This allows authors to cut costs so they do not end up paying for thousands of books but only sell a few hundred. However, authors still need to be careful on which company they choose, because printing errors can be costly and reduce the original value of the book.


Another rising trend is that of electronic publishing, used by traditional and self-published authors. E-books are digital copies of the novel which can be bought and read on E-Readers, such as the Nook by Barnes & Noble, the Kindle by Amazon, and more. E-books can also be read on smartphones and tablets, and even on computers with a digital library, using an Amazon account. Some authors are wary of e-books because of the low profits and fear of erasing print books from the market. However, the controversial emergence of e-books has only encouraged more authors to produce books for the digital age, and has yet to hinder print publication. Most authors choose to produce their books in both format, e-books and print books, so readers can choose between mediums.

However, the manuscript format and design aspects vary greatly between a print book and e-book. Publishers are beginning to hire specialized format editors for the sole purpose of turning a print manuscript into an e-book format. Books with illustrations and images have their own difficulties in e-book form, although are not impossible to produce. Even school textbooks are becoming e-books!

Authors Who Have Been Rejected:

  • J. K. Rowling
  • Stephen King
  • Agatha Christie
  • Dr. Seuss
  • C. S. Lewis

Shoot for the Moon!

Send the manuscript off. Once authors has written and edited it thoroughly, and after doing research on both publishers and agents, they are now prepared to send their manuscript out into the world.

Do not quit after being rejected the first time. All the greats have been rejected. In fact, authors will probably be rejected more than accepted, no matter how many books they write. The first novel is always the hardest, because the author is new to the world of the publishing industry. If all else fails, go back to editing and see what the novel is missing or doing wrong. Just keep sending the manuscript and someone will see the value in it.


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