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Humour me, can anyone explain different avenues of publishing to me?

So I’m interested in self publishing on Amazon as a potential avenue to get my books out there, if I ever came to the point where I had a finished book, because…why not??

I also assume that as a graphic designer I would be able to design the cover at least, which would be another fun creative outlet.

But I’d also like to know how ‘traditional’ publishing works - do you need to approach a publishers with a manuscript or do you need to approach an agent first and foremost? It sounds complicated and £££
 

Mad Swede

Maester
OK, writing this as an author who has a publishing deal with a Swedish publisher.

In the English speaking markets you usually need to find an agent to represent you, and that agent will then find a publisher for your book. Some English language publishers accept direct submissions from authors, but there is usually a very long response time. None of this should cost you any money at all - if at any time someone tells you that you have to pay a fee (for reading, editing or whatever) you should walk away. What you do need is a complete manuscript which has not been published anywhere else - and you need to get that manuscript right. No grammatical or spelling errors, a good plot, good characterisation and good dialogue. Whn you submit to an agent you usually send a query letter along with a synopsis and sometimes the first 2 or 3 chapters or the first 3000 words (or similar) - READ the agents guidelines before you submit to them, and make sure you submit to an agent who deals with your genre and who has sold books to publishers.

In the Nordic market you don't need an agent. You submit your complete manuscript directly to the publishers (no synopsis, and only a simple cover letter) and most of them will reply within 3 months. They will only consider manuscripts written in one of the four Nordic languages. The manuscript must be complete with no grammatical or spelling errors, a good plot, good characterisation and good dialogue. As in the English language market this does not cost you anything at all - except the time you spend writing.
 

pmmg

Vala
This is a big question that cannot be simply answered.

I have found a lot of useful info on this on Reedsy, and on the authortube (which is the vernacular for just anyone posting helpful vids about writing stuff).

If you want to publish on Amazon, you don't 'need' anything. You can publish your rough drafts if you like through kdp, or you can put in a lot of extra effort and make a more professional presentation. There are advantages and disadvantages to every route. If you go with Amazon exclusively, you might get some marketing benefits, but you wont have a print copy, and wont be able to get those advantages if you want to publisher on other platforms.

Since I do want a hard copy, my path for this will look something like:

Write it
Get it edited
Get some cover art (in several forms)
Use something like Ingram Spark to get hard copies
Publish on Amazon or others
And through every step of that create and use marketing tools.
Monitor and adjust as best I can.


If I went traditional publishing, its a whole different path. It falls along the lines of Submit, and hope someone likes it enough to publish, and they handle most of the back office stuff.
 
OK, writing this as an author who has a publishing deal with a Swedish publisher.

In the English speaking markets you usually need to find an agent to represent you, and that agent will then find a publisher for your book. Some English language publishers accept direct submissions from authors, but there is usually a very long response time. None of this should cost you any money at all - if at any time someone tells you that you have to pay a fee (for reading, editing or whatever) you should walk away. What you do need is a complete manuscript which has not been published anywhere else - and you need to get that manuscript right. No grammatical or spelling errors, a good plot, good characterisation and good dialogue. Whn you submit to an agent you usually send a query letter along with a synopsis and sometimes the first 2 or 3 chapters or the first 3000 words (or similar) - READ the agents guidelines before you submit to them, and make sure you submit to an agent who deals with your genre and who has sold books to publishers.

In the Nordic market you don't need an agent. You submit your complete manuscript directly to the publishers (no synopsis, and only a simple cover letter) and most of them will reply within 3 months. They will only consider manuscripts written in one of the four Nordic languages. The manuscript must be complete with no grammatical or spelling errors, a good plot, good characterisation and good dialogue. As in the English language market this does not cost you anything at all - except the time you spend writing.
This pretty much sums it up thanks Mad Swede, for some reason from my dive down the Google rabbit hole it felt confusing as to whether to pay an agent or not. I think the UK does it a similar way. That would be the ‘proper’ way to do it.
 

ThinkerX

Myth Weaver
Short answer - it depends.

Go the indie route, yeah, you can upload and publish dang near anything. Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing is the biggie, but there are others. Kudos if you can do a good job with the cover - that typically runs a couple hundred bucks minimum and can easily top a grand. Then your book can be added to the millions of books competing for attention in the Amazon collection.

Traditional publishers - that depends on whom you approach. A lot of them deal exclusively with agents and find the right agent who can cut such a deal is a bit like winning the lottery. Some take unsolicited offers, but, well, that's like trying to win an even bigger lottery. This site gives a rundown of traditional publishers - select 'books' and scroll down.

 

BearBear

Inkling
Disclaimer: I'm just a Bear so take it with a grain of salt. If you need salt, I have plenty to share.

If you're famous, they come to you. Otherwise anyone coming to you is likely a scam.

You can go to publishers online where you pay them a cut, then you pay them directly, then you pay them to print them, and you basically buy all the books yourself and hope to sell them. A friend of mine went this route, about $5000 later he sold a dozen copies and has several dozen sitting in a box. Plus some software they required was near impossible to work with. But you can pay someone to do it. Which he did and they did an awful job. But it was probably just him because he's very hard to deal with, honestly.

He also put it on kindle and that process took 6 months because one nit pick rejection after another and of course some crazy format issues.

In conclusion, get famous and sit back.

I know a guy who was child actor in a very well known cult classic movie from the 90's and every so often someone will offer him a book deal and he couldn't care less because he actually took care of himself and his money, didn't buy a million dollar car, and didn't suck it all up his nose. So basically he's just living an average life now and you wouldn't recognize him anyway; the best kind of fame. I would think the hardest part would be who to choose to do his book because probably they're mostly scams anyway. 🤷‍♂️
 
Getting your book on Amazon is easy. Digital is easy in general. I've no idea what your friend was trying to do and how.

PRINT: Print on demand is the way to go for the indie, you can do this on Amazon or something like Ingramspark.com. Ingram will get your print books everywhere they're wanted, for the most part. You pay about $50 per book (25 for content and 25 for cover) and then they take a cut in "printing costs" for each one sold. I had hardcovers end up on target.com and indie bookstores via Ingram.

The easiest way for both is likely Vellum, but I think it's Mac only. Vellum will format for print and digital, BUT I don't use it for print, so I won't vouch for it. I use Adobe InDesign because it's hands-on and, to the best of my knowledge, does a few things that nothing else does, and certainly nothing does them automatically. It's to the point now where I can throw a big print book together at 6x9 in a matter of several hours, and it will more or less look pro.

What your friend experienced is the "old scam" that I'm shocked anybody does anymore. The "new scam" is promotional websites. Neither is really a scam, but neither tends to work all that well outside of a few exceptions. I'd guess many promo sites are well-intentioned but just fail, while others are just crapola meant to take your money.
 

BearBear

Inkling
Print on demand is the way to go for the indie, you can do this on Amazon or something like Ingramspark.com. Ingram will get your print books everywhere they're wanted, for the most part. You pay about $50 per book (25 for content and 25 for cover) and then they take a cut in "printing costs" for each one sold. I had hardcovers end up on target.com and indie bookstores via Ingram.

What would you say is the chances for an unknown author to sell? What advertising or promotion would you suggest for an unknown author?
 
Everyone is unknown until they aren't. And the weird thing is that people who do know you will assume you are at least a little famous because how else would they know you? LMAO. In the indie world, you'd be better off taking 5k and putting it into a marketing agency than sending it to a "self-publisher". Will that guarantee success? Oh, hell no, but it's a chance. Buyer beware in all cases. If you have a pile of cash and confidence in your book, hire a marketing firm and let it fly; if nothing else, it'll be a fascinating ride. Now, let's consider all us rubes without that kind of money sitting there.

Odds? What does it mean to you to "sell"? 100 copies? 500? A thousand? Ten thousand? More?

To be blunt, more is going to be a bitch, and that's if you make it past the other landmarks. Consider that some winners of "major literary awards" sell copies numbering in the thousands through traditional publishing. Granted, the literary market is relatively small compared to Genre Romance, but it's something to wrap your brain around. I am in the "more" category in sales and it took a combination of an award-winning book, luck, and advertising cash to get there. There was a gold-rush era of indie publishing, one I missed by a bit, and much of the advice you see being sold out there is from people who hit the gold rush or had lots of gold to make their own rush. The market is %$!$#@$ flooded and getting someone to spend even a few bucks on a book is amazingly difficult, and that AFTER getting your name and title above the waves of shitty books.

From major money makers I've met, there are two keys: write romance and write it prolifically, LMAO. That's only a little tongue-in-cheek. There are other ways, such as capturing the zeitgeist, but there is no rule for success other than to push and keep pushing. If you're prone to giving up and sales mean everything to you, the odds dictate it's going to be a short and rough ride, heh heh.

The only book promoter that is damned near a slam dunk for selling several thousand copies of a book is Bookbub, and good luck getting your book on there. I'm proof it can be done, but don't hold your breath. More and more Bookbub promos are dominated by Neil Gaiman and other big names. think I saw Sanderson flip by the other day in my Bookbub email. Bookbarbarian is puny in comparison, 20-50 sales? But way cheaper than Bookbub and easier to get into.

Everything is a crap shoot. I've turned down two agent offers because I didn't click with them and they didn't have much of a track record. Was that stupid? Maybe. Some mornings I wake up thinking so, but then I stumble upon agent horror stories and think... well, at least I'm not in that level of hell.

Advertising: Facebook used to be good. Privacy issues has wounded that beast big time. Amazon ads are the only other things I'd say works, but there's a lot of friggin' rocks in that field you're gonna hoe. Bookbub ads suck.

Here's the huge thing to consider when it comes to advertising as a newbie with 1 book out: You are competing/bidding against people with 20+ books out, which means they can bid more without losing their shirts.
 

ThinkerX

Myth Weaver
You can go to publishers online where you pay them a cut, then you pay them directly, then you pay them to print them, and you basically buy all the books yourself and hope to sell them. A friend of mine went this route, about $5000 later he sold a dozen copies and has several dozen sitting in a box. Plus some software they required was near impossible to work with. But you can pay someone to do it. Which he did and they did an awful job. But it was probably just him because he's very hard to deal with, honestly.

For that, he'd have been way better off going with Draft2Digital. A hundred bucks, give or take, will get you twenty author copies, though there's also shipping. And the cost of the cover. Plus, they'd put the book up at half a dozen distributors for him. And yeah, it's a print on demand thing. Literally about a tenth of what this guy spent, barring the advertising.

What would you say is the chances for an unknown author to sell? What advertising or promotion would you suggest for an unknown author?

Unknown author here - one of many. From my own experience and talking with other unknowns on Facebook, you're basically trying for '99' or '00' on the old D100 dice roll (two ten-sided dice.) Go the KDP route, get some reviews set up, try ads on FB and Amazon, go the book promotion route...a couple hundred sales in the first week or three is possible. Not real likely, but possible. Most of the time, it's like two dozen sales.

In my case, four books out there...lessee...

'Empire: Country' is at 38 sales - for the year.
'Empire: Capital' sold 31 copies this year.
'Empire: Estate' is sitting at 13 copies for 2022
'Empire: Metropolis' is at 16 copies for 2022.

This is a series, which sort of helps sell itself after the first book. About a third of the sales for 'Estate' and 'Metropolis' came from preorders, and most of the rest were within the first couple of weeks, meaning people read the previous novels and liked them enough to buy the next ones. If I'd gone with KDP instead of D2D, written better blurbs and the right ads I might have tripled those numbers - maybe. As it is, well, the ad and promotion budget shot past the four-digit mark...back in September.
 
Some really useful replies thanks all - it would appear that it is pretty easy to self publish an e-book on Amazon, or even physical copies. That would be a fun experiment potentially and perhaps ice to know its ‘out there’, but probably won’t lead me anywhere in terms of professional writing career, but I’m just exploring right now so doesn’t particularly matter at this stage.

It would seem that after some rudimentary research into approaching literary agents (UK) you need to check a. If they are taking submissions from debit authors and b. You need to follow their strict guidelines.

Essentially it shouldn’t cost me much money, unless I get a book published and then you would pay your agency/agent commission, much like when you go through a mortgage broker.

All in all, it’s been demystified for me!
 
Everyone is unknown until they aren't. And the weird thing is that people who do know you will assume you are at least a little famous because how else would they know you? LMAO. In the indie world, you'd be better off taking 5k and putting it into a marketing agency than sending it to a "self-publisher". Will that guarantee success? Oh, hell no, but it's a chance. Buyer beware in all cases. If you have a pile of cash and confidence in your book, hire a marketing firm and let it fly; if nothing else, it'll be a fascinating ride. Now, let's consider all us rubes without that kind of money sitting there.

Odds? What does it mean to you to "sell"? 100 copies? 500? A thousand? Ten thousand? More?

To be blunt, more is going to be a bitch, and that's if you make it past the other landmarks. Consider that some winners of "major literary awards" sell copies numbering in the thousands through traditional publishing. Granted, the literary market is relatively small compared to Genre Romance, but it's something to wrap your brain around. I am in the "more" category in sales and it took a combination of an award-winning book, luck, and advertising cash to get there. There was a gold-rush era of indie publishing, one I missed by a bit, and much of the advice you see being sold out there is from people who hit the gold rush or had lots of gold to make their own rush. The market is %$!$#@$ flooded and getting someone to spend even a few bucks on a book is amazingly difficult, and that AFTER getting your name and title above the waves of shitty books.

From major money makers I've met, there are two keys: write romance and write it prolifically, LMAO. That's only a little tongue-in-cheek. There are other ways, such as capturing the zeitgeist, but there is no rule for success other than to push and keep pushing. If you're prone to giving up and sales mean everything to you, the odds dictate it's going to be a short and rough ride, heh heh.

The only book promoter that is damned near a slam dunk for selling several thousand copies of a book is Bookbub, and good luck getting your book on there. I'm proof it can be done, but don't hold your breath. More and more Bookbub promos are dominated by Neil Gaiman and other big names. think I saw Sanderson flip by the other day in my Bookbub email. Bookbarbarian is puny in comparison, 20-50 sales? But way cheaper than Bookbub and easier to get into.

Everything is a crap shoot. I've turned down two agent offers because I didn't click with them and they didn't have much of a track record. Was that stupid? Maybe. Some mornings I wake up thinking so, but then I stumble upon agent horror stories and think... well, at least I'm not in that level of hell.

Advertising: Facebook used to be good. Privacy issues has wounded that beast big time. Amazon ads are the only other things I'd say works, but there's a lot of friggin' rocks in that field you're gonna hoe. Bookbub ads suck.

Here's the huge thing to consider when it comes to advertising as a newbie with 1 book out: You are competing/bidding against people with 20+ books out, which means they can bid more without losing their shirts.
That’s interesting, when you say romance genre do you mean ‘romance’ or ‘erotic’ fiction. Mine could be classed as fantasy / romantic
 
Romance is a very specific genre that may or may not include eroticism. Having romance does not make a Romance.
It does seem to be a very broad genre following a quick Google, which includes erotica along with general romance, but I assumed that one might be more profitable than the other just from memories of fifty shades of nasty being released into the world…The second most profitable genre would appear to be crime/thriller.
 
Basically, yes. And don't discount an indie career. An awful lot of traditionally published authors make less than many indie authors. It's just that the number of Indies is massive, heh heh.
It does seem to be a very broad genre following a quick Google, which includes erotica along with general romance, but I assumed that one might be more profitable than the other just from memories of fifty shades of nasty being released into the world…The second most profitable genre would appear to be crime/thriller.
 

ThinkerX

Myth Weaver
That’s interesting, when you say romance genre do you mean ‘romance’ or ‘erotic’ fiction. Mine could be classed as fantasy / romantic

I suggest you check out my thread here:


One of the book promotions outfits I tried was 'Books Butterfly.' My results with them as a fantasy author were disappointing. However, others were quite satisfied with their services. When I looked into this a little deeper, it was because five of the top ten categories of novels promoted by 'Books Butterfly' were romance and erotica titles. Fantasy was in the list - but it didn't even make the top ten. Fantasy/romance crossovers would probably do fairly well.

Make no mistake, the romance genre is huge, possibly dang near as large as the other genres combined.
 
Eeeyes, the SFWA is beginning to focus on getting more "romance" writers into the association. I find the whole thing disturbing, as if Romance writers haven't already tried to destroy their own group, heh heh.
 
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