The number of people who aspire to be writers is far higher than you might imagine. Unpublished novels practically litter the country, and authors looking for ways to get their books published. But the options are plentiful nowadays – what is the best way of publishing your book? How can you give yourself the best chance of literary success?
Big publishers are, of course, a great step. They can guarantee you an exposure that gives you the highest chances of success and allows you a great deal of publicity. But one of the problems is that big publishers don’t take on unsolicited manuscripts, and if they do they don’t generally handle previously unpublished authors. This is actually where agents come in; while many people think of agents as folks who take a percentage of their money for no reason, agents actually provide you with contacts you do not yourself possess. An agent can make in-roads into great publishers’ houses and is able to get you published by organisations that would otherwise never look at you twice, and as such more than earns his or her commission. Start looking at literary agents as soon as you have something to show them, and you may well find an ally without whose help your search for success would go a lot less rapidly.
Small publishers can offer you far less publicity and less exposure than their larger counterparts. Some people believe this makes them useless, however these are often people who feel success has to come all at once; from zero to international super star in the space of a day or two. While this does happen on occasion, it’s exceedingly rare, and if you look into the back story of a famous actor, writer or musician you’ll usually find many years of slowly climbing a very slippery ladder. You will need to start at the beginning and make your way up, hoping for shortcuts and taking them when you can but otherwise working your way from step to step. Being published, even by a small publishing house, may well be just what you need to get a foot in the door with a bigger publisher.
Often, writers are taken in by the idea that self-publishing is a great idea as it allows you to take home all of the profits and manage your own publication rather than wrestling with an editor. However, you’ll need to make quite a bit of money in order to pay for the print run, and all of the publicity and work will be up to you. Many writers who take this route find that they are unable to sell even some of the copies they have already paid for. If you don’t make your money back, you won’t be able to justify the expense of printing the books, and as it is very difficult to generate the interest required for success based on a few hundred books and your own after-work available time, it’s often not worth either the money or the hassle.
So there you have it; the various steps to publication and the ways in which they may be viable. Don’t be afraid to speculate to accumulate, but remember that if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. And good luck with your literary dreams!