Like most authors trying to sell books to the public, I frequently get questions regarding an idea someone wants to publish. It usually goes something like this, “I’ve thought of a book that I know would be great and sell like hotcakes but I can’t tell you anything about it or you’d steal my idea. How do I get a publisher?” I think the main idea is that if a guy like me can get a book published, just about anybody must be able to!
My advice is usually to get the darned thing done first. There are more unfinished first manuscripts out there than you can shake a stick at. Then I suggest finding an editor, hopefully someone with some experience other than correcting third grade English assignments. That will be a whole other column in itself.
Once a writer has a good solid product, the question is how to get it produced and available to the audience so it can sell like hot cakes. Essentially, there are 4 levels of publishing (the way I see it):
1) Being a famous celebrity and just putting any piece of crap out you want. You then cash checks and make appearances. If you aren’t famous to begin with, you will need to commit a heinous crime, perform a lifesaving feat, have a torrid affair with a celebrity or perform some other publicity rich act to make this work.
2) Medium / Large publisher. This is what we all strive for and there are many levels in between here. To hit this level, you probably need an agent and they reject 98% of what is sent to them. Nonetheless, I usually tell people to take their shot at the big time. There is a plethora of information on how to make your pitch stand out to an agent. A friend of mine wrote fifteen novels over eleven years and pitched hundreds of agents before she got signed on by a Random House imprint.
3) Small publisher. There are no upfront costs in producing and printing the book, but you will be doing all of your own marketing.
4) Self-Publishing. The concept is changing quickly. It is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between a self-produced book and small publisher. A few years ago it was looked down upon in the industry, but now it fits some authors/books perfectly. It really comes down to a cash flow issue.
The economics of each method are different and except for #1, are pretty crappy. I always tell people that if you are writing to become rich and famous, you probably are better off studying lottery numbers as the odds are better.
We all tend to jump to the publishing decision too quickly without thinking through the audience. A writer needs to think about who will read the book. Then he or she has to figure out how those people choose what they read. That analysis sheds a light on publishing and marketing methods. For instance if a book has primarily a regional appeal and is going to be sold directly by the author, self-publishing may make the most sense. An author has to seriously consider if the subject matter of the book would ever been on the New York Times bestseller list.
Bottom line, get the damn thing done first. And don’t count on it making you rich.