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How to Get Published

An overview and timeline for traditional, self and DIY book publishing

Having a book published and available to readers is a rewarding journey. Often, writers don't know how to publish a book or what happens between finding a publisher, often the first step of publishing, and getting it in the marketplace, the last step. Here we will cover three popular routes to publishing - traditional, self-publishing and do-it-yourself (DIY) - and cover all the steps of the publishing process for each method.

Traditional Publishing   Self-Publishing   DIY Publishing

Traditional Publishing

How to Get Published: Traditional Publishing

Traditional publishing is the route most associated with the term "publishing." Most publishers require you to find a literary agent to represent you and your manuscript. The agent will pitch your book to traditional publishers and potentially sell the rights if a publisher is interested.

1. Query Literary Agents

Send query letters and manuscript samples to literary agents prompting them to represent you and your book. The process of finding a literary agent can take months, if not longer.

2. Revise Manuscript

Your literary agent will likely review your manuscript and work with you to tighten it up with revisions before they pitch it to traditional publishers.

3. Agent Pitches to Publishers

Once you and your literary agent feel your manuscript is in tip-top shape, they will pitch your story to editors at traditional publishing companies.

4. Contract & Advance Offer

Based on market trends, the quality of the book and the publisher's willingness to take a financial risk, a traditional publisher will decide to pass on the project or move forward with your book, offer a contract and a monetary advance.

5. Negotiations

Your literary agent will work between you and the publishing company on your behalf to negotiate your contract terms and how much money you'll receive as an advance. Your literary agent will also earn a portion from these negotiations.

6. Additional Editing

Your new publisher will likely put your book through several rounds of editing, indicating any areas that need to be addressed and reworked. This part of the process can take several months to a year or more.

7. Book is Designed

Once all editing revisions are complete, your book will undergo design to format the interior. Your cover will also be developed. The designs will be influenced by market trends and decisions will be made by the artistic team.

8. Marketing Plan

Most authors will have a galley copy available to send to reviewers, the media and book retailers to generate pre-release buzz for the book. Books by first-time authors will not usually receive a targeted marketing plan from the publisher; it will be the author's responsibility to drive the marketing for the book. Big marketing money is typically spent on promoting books by A-list authors who generate sizable sales numbers.

9. Release Book

The finalized files for your book will be sent to a printer, who will print the copies of your book to be distributed to wholesalers, retailers and warehouses. This point can occur anywhere from one to two years after your book is acquired.

10. Earn

Once your book generates sales, your publisher will take funds from your earnings to compensate for the initial investment they made to acquire your book. You will begin to earn royalties once the publisher has earned their money back.


How to Get Published: Self-Publishing

A supported self-publisher typically offers packages that bundle a full suite of professional services for publishing, promoting and selling your book. Self-publishing gives you the freedom to maintain control over the decisions for your book without the hassle of doing all the work yourself.

1. Choose Publisher

When pursuing a self-publisher, you are acting as the publisher of your book and hiring a self-publishing company to complete services for you. You front the investment for your book's creation.

2. Choose Package and Services

Most self-publishers will offer a variety of packages and individual add-on services to meet your needs. You can take advantage of services to help with editing, design, marketing and more. How to Get Published: Publishing Packages

3. Submit Manuscript

Once your package is selected, you will submit your manuscript and any other items you would like included in your book (such as photos, graphs, etc. How to Get Published: A Step-by-Step Production Process Guide

4. Choose Book Specs

You will choose the dimensions of your book, available formats, paper quality and cover finish.

5. Book is Formatted; Cover is Designed

Your production team will get to work on formatting the interior of your book from a Word document to the finished book size. Cover art will also begin under the direction of your ideas and vision.

6. Author Reviews Designs

You will have the opportunity to review and make changes or approve of the interior design, cover art and back cover copy.

7. Book File Sent to Printer

When you approve of all the details of your book's design, the finalized file will be sent to the book printer so copies can be printed once orders are placed (known as print on demand). You may also receive an author discount on books and discounts on bulk orders.

8. Market Book

As a self-published author, it is your responsibility to create a marketing plan and drive it forward. Most self-publishing companies will offer advertising and promotional services to assist in your marketing plan. How to Get Published: Book Marketing Services

9. Earn

You will keep all royalties at the rate that was established during the production phase of your book. How to Get Published: Sales & Royalties FAQ

DIY Publishing

How to Get Published: DIY Publishing

DIY publishing utilizes an online tool which you can use to upload your manuscript, create a book and get it into distribution. Some DIY publishers only offer e-book publishing and limited distribution options.

1. Choose Publisher

There are several choices among DIY publishers; some will produce your e-book for free with basic services and others may require a fee and offer advances options such as choices in formatting, design, editing and marketing services.

2. Upload Manuscript

Your DIY publisher will likely prompt you to upload your manuscript to an online publishing program or wizard of some kind. This program may auto-format your book into the size you choose and walk you through each step of choices to make for your book.

3. Choose Book Specs

Most DIY publishers will have a variety of templates to choose from when formatting your book and creating a cover or give you the option to create/submit your own. You can choose your book size, formatting options (e-book, softcover or hardcover), paper quality and more.

4. Design Cover

Again, you can use stock image or a pre-templated cover design from your DIY publisher or submit your own completed cover art file.

5. Publish

If you forgo assisted services, it will be up to you to proof your manuscript and cover copy. Once you feel your book is finalized, you will submit your completed file.

6. Online Distribution

Your completed file will go into online retail distribution to businesses stipulated in the publishing option you choose (i.e., perhaps your e-book is only available from your DIY publisher and BarnesAndNoble.com or you have a softcover and e-book version available, etc).

7. Earn

You can begin earning royalties on your book once it's available and selling on the market.


Publishing a book is not limited to the three tracks above; another option is considered "general contracting." General contracting allows you to maintain complete control over the outcome of your book by hiring professionals to work on each segment of your book's creation. As the author, you are responsible for finding and hiring all these professionals. There are referral services available to connect you with professionals who can do this specialized work (such as editing, interior design, cover design, printers, marketing professionals and more).

Your publishing journey is what you make it. There are countless options and opportunities available to segue you from writer to published author. Do you research and find the option that best meets your goals.