A friend of mine asked me recently to guide her friend through getting published. Well, firstly, I haven't been, so the following is just my thoughts on the matter.
There is of course a lot more to it than what I have written, I have read so many pages on the net about it but haven't saved the address' of the sites. But I hope I have covered the basics of the different ways to publish. If you wish to ask anything else, just let me know.
The world of publishing is a tough place. I have been sending my queries out to agents for a year now and have had a little interest but mainly form letter rejections. Agents/publishers will only take on a book that grabs them and that they think will be a best seller. The problem there is, they don't know what will be a best seller until it hits the shelves and, ummm, sells, lol. Unfortunately the in thing at the moment is werewolves and vampires, but that is beginning to pass. Agents are like readers though, what one thinks is rubbish the next thinks is brilliant. It is just a matter of getting the story down, editing and editing it and sending it out. Harry Potter was rejected by many agencies and publishers before she got a deal, similar with Aragon, twilight etc, etc, etc...
A question to consider is why all those editors rejected Harry Potter. Among the (ostensible) reasons for rejection were it was too conventional, too long, too weird or too old-fashioned. As if any of these things matter to the audience for which Rowling wrote Harry Potter! They just want a good story, for goodness’ sake!
More serious are the following:
The book is slow to start. Even young readers who went on to become staunch Harry Potter fans admitted this in the beginning. They probably wouldn’t admit it now, of course.
The attention of the editor needs to be grabbed as quickly as possible; preferably with the opening sentence, but certainly before the end of the first page. The first page of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is all what writers call “telling” instead of “showing”. My guess is agents would particularly dislike the opening sentence.
The book doesn’t start where it should: with Harry, or “inside Harry’s head”. In a book for children the main character should be introduced either at the beginning of the book or very near it.
The characters we meet at the start of the book are ones with which few readers could identify. They are far from likeable.
Having fat people (especially a fat boy) depicted as unbelievably nasty would definitely be a turn-off for many editors. For a start, it’s a fact that a fat boy is more likely to be the victim of a bully rather than being the bully. Taken from http://labarker.com/HarryPotter/howharry.html
These are only a few reasons. See what we are up against with agents. LOL.
Self publishing is a long road to walk. Firstly there are the shysters, whom can you trust. The problem with self publishing is that reputable book stores, etc.., know the companies that do this kind of printing. With a real publisher your novel would be edited to within an inch of its life while the self publish company will print anything in any condition. You could write, I is the best, I is the best, etc, etc.., for 200 pages and they would still print it as long as you are willing to pay. Bookstores know this and will be very hesitant to sell it. In saying that, there have been many great success stories from people that have self published and then been picked up by the mass media. The next issue is the outlay for say 500 books, shipping etc. These may lay in your garage for years, maybe forever. You also need to be the sole marketer of these books, either as a presence online or door to door to bookstores, newsagents, etc.
E-Books you say. Most of the larger e-book stores will only look at work submitted by an agent. Hence we are back to the need to approach and procure the services of an agent. Smaller e-book stores will accept your work, usually at a cost to you. Again, you become the sole marketer of this work as a smaller e-book store will not generate a great amount of sales just from their browsing customers.
Print on demand. Online bookstores, such as Amazon, offer a print on demand service. You upload your work and set it up as a book. They supply you a barcode and ISBN no# and it goes on their lists. When a customer clicks on your book and orders it, Amazon, will print a single copy at the time and then post it to them. The same customer could order any amount of books this way, 1 to 1000's. You can also use this to get your book printed and give it to friends etc.., or use to sell locally to where you are. The drawback here is the shipping of course, a large number of books weigh a lot. You can choose to pay Amazon to help you set up your book, different packages include cover art, editing, layout, etc, etc... Each comes at a cost though, but if you believe in your book and want it to succeed, some outlay is acceptable. Remember though, a usual book, that isn't a best seller, will sell as little as 10 copies, maybe it will sell 5000 copies, but even at a few dollars profit per copy that is $10,000, less setup costs and taxes.
As daunting as the above sounds, it is the world of publishing. Personally I believe that you should get your book nailed down. Once it is nailed, get it read by people that you trust to give an honest opinion. Some readers will just say, 'Wow, it's brilliant'. Whilst it’s wonderful to get praise and feels great, they are not helping your book. On the other side, you don't want someone who wants to re-write your work to suit their ideas and totally change YOUR voice. The best BETA READER/ CRITIQUER is the one who will honestly tell you when an area of a book doesn't work, when a word seems wrong, when a character seems out of, well, character. When the story is drifting or where it just doesn't quite make sense. You as the writer can visualise everything in a scene, a reader needs to be told so they can visualize it as well. The other side is, a critique is just someone else’s thoughts on you work. Always take what they have to say into account, read the part again and again, and try to see what they are saying. If their suggestion makes sense to you, make changes. If it doesn't then leave it as is. If you start chasing every suggestion you get you'll change the whole story and just ruin it for yourself. A gauge for this is the amount of readers that pick a particular part, if 4 out of 5 readers says, 'here seems wrong' then it probably is. If 1 out of 5 says it then it is probably ok to leave as is. It is important though to listen to what they have to say, mostly they will be saying it for a reason. Close friends and relatives are 'NOT' BETA readers, their feedback is great, but will usually be along the lines of, "It's wonderful".
Believe in your work, get it finetuned and then get it out there. Grow a thick skin, not everyone will like your work, it's life. You may be lucky and hit the best agent for you on the first try; you may have to send out a hundred + queries. A Rejection from an agent is not a personal thing, they generally make a decision on whether they think they can sell it or not. The other side is, do you want someone representing and selling your work if they don't love and believe in it?
Some good sites for agents names and email addresses are,
http://querytracker.net/index.php Query tracker is a great search engine for agents and you can track your queries.
http://www.authoradvance.com/agents?page=2 Author advance is also a good place to find agents.
http://www.jbwb.co.uk/agents.htm a list of English agents.
http://1000literaryagents.com/index.php 1000 literary agents
There are a lot of sharks out there that will try and rip you off. If an agent asks for a fee to read your query etc, you should quickly delete and forget them. Some will suggest you use their manuscript editing service; it will only cost you thousands. Again, these are rip offs and should be avoided. A real Agent/Publisher will read your work for free and will either offer you representation or a deal, they will not ask you to pay anything.
You should check out the credentials of each agent you are going to query. Sites such as the following help with that.
http://agentquery.com/ Agent Query
http://pred-ed.com/peals.htm Predators and editors
Some good writing forum's are
http://www.fmwriters.com/community/dc/dcboard.php Forward Motion for writers
http://querytracker.net/forum/index.php Query tracker forum
Remember, if you choose to put work up on these sites to be critted, then you must be prepared for varied feedback, they are random people with random ideas that may answer, never take what they say to heart. Take from their comments only what makes sense to you.
Some other websites I have found useful
http://www.charlottedillon.com/ManuscriptPreparation.html Manuscript preparation.
http://www.ehow.com/how_2054667_market-ebook.html Marketing and E_Book
http://www.writing-world.com/publish/leblanc.shtml writing a synopsis
AMAZON'S self publishing page. This is the print on demand site.