Publishing a book is incredibly difficult. If you've got the patience, time and skills to sit down and write it, that's only the start of the journey. You'll need to find an agent, have them read it and accept your manuscript, have your work sent to publishers, receive rejections and – if you're lucky – finally accepted.
Then there are the contracts to write up, the multitude of changes to make, the edits and re-edits and re-re-edits. Finally the day comes for your launch, which you have to travel across the country for (as that's where your publisher is, right?), where you give a reading, stay in a dodgy motel and hopefully sell a few copies.
After that comes the difficult marketing process, getting the word out there, giving readings, interviews, talking your publisher into putting the book on sale, or taking it off sale, encouraging them to print more copies when it sells out. Sounds fun, right? Well, perhaps not.
Thankfully there are plenty of ways around the traditional road to publishing. With the advent of the digital age, both in terms of e-readers and online paperback book publishers, you can publish what you like, when you like, how you like, and keep the majority of the profits for yourself.
This guide has been written to help you to better understand the purpose and various functions of book publishing websites. It will outline some of the pros and cons, and some of the things to look out for when deciding which publisher to go for.
Whilst some sites will offer a DIY service, where you simply upload your work and it is published, others provide more substantial services to help you with the writing, design and marketing processes. So, sharpen your pencil, pour a cup of coffee and read on...
Digital vs. Print
Digital or e-books are a relatively new phenomenon but they're rapidly taking a lion's share of the book market. If you don't know what an e-book is then it's essentially just a digital version of your text which can be read on a mobile device such as a Kindle (or sometimes even a cell phone). They have the great advantage of not needing any physical storage space, not needing to be delivered, and are instantly accessible. This means that there are far fewer costs in publishing an e-book in comparison to a printed book.
However, not everybody is ready to accept the digital revolution and paper books are still selling online and in shops. They're generally more expensive to produce and distribute but if you want something special for your shelf or to give your friends and family, then you may want to go down the line of having your book printed. Many of the sites we've reviewed will offer e-book or paper book options, so you can select one or publish in both formats.
Profits and royalties
Most writers need to make a profit from their work in order to pay the bills. As such you'll need to carefully consider whether the financial investment of publication is likely to make you a return. E-books are often free to produce (although some sites do offer editing and design services) but the sales sites will take a cut of your profits. This ranges from 10% to about 70%, leaving you with anything from 30% to 90% of the money from sales. Not bad, especially when you consider that many mainstream publishers will give their authors just 10% of the net profits.
However, if you aim to make a profit then you ought to consider the cost against your potential earnings. If you spend $10,000 on a stylish book with marketing campaigns and editorial services, you're going to have to sell a lot of it to make any money. Printed books are even riskier because you need to sell the stock (either through an online shop or post it out yourself), but you do keep all of the profit if you sell your own stock copies.
Editors do more than you think. Yes, they can read over your work and check for typos but good editors will also provide feedback on your writing, suggesting possible changes. This is time consuming and takes a lot of understanding as to how the mechanics of a book (its plot, pacing, language and so on) work. If you feel that your book could use this expert opinion then you'll want to find a site that offers editorial services. These probably won't be cheap because it's an intellectual and demanding job, but equally you don't want to run the risk of your book not selling because it simply doesn't make sense.
Many websites will offer a range of options when it comes to producing your book. In printing this can range from paper size, paper type, binding type and even whether you can include diagrams or colour inside the covers. Meanwhile a lot of sites will offer you design options whereby you can develop your own cover or have a professional design one for you.
If you're looking to publish a specific kind of book, such as a graphic novel or a children's book with illustrations, you'll want to consider the cost and production quality provided by each publisher. If in doubt, send an email their way to ask what they can do. It's also worth taking a look at their current catalogue of books to see if the quality is up to your standards.
This is one of the most difficult areas when it comes to getting your book out there and read by people. With so many books on the market it's hard for readers to choose which one they'd like to purchase. Check out what options are available for spreading the word about your book.
For example, does the publisher have a sales site? Do they offer book reviews? What are their networks like and how many decent contacts in the business do they have? Distribution is also a factor: if people want to buy your book but it's only available through one website, it's unlikely to get many people finding it. However if it's available on several of the key sales sites then you're more likely to get sales.
The Bottom Line
That's about all you need to know for now. We recommend taking a good look around the various reviews we've written, many of these sites seem similar on the outside but they each provide a different range and quality of service to help bring your book to publication. Whether you've already written a book or you're just looking for the ideal way to put it out to the world, these sites are sure to help you out. Now finish that coffee, and get publishing!