How to get a book published: 6 steps to success

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Navigating the realm of book publishing in the UK presents a unique set of opportunities and challenges for aspiring authors. Whether it’s your first venture into storytelling or you’re looking to get a children's book into the hands of eager young readers, understanding the steps to publication is crucial.

The process can vary widely, from drafting your initial manuscript to finding the right publisher who shares your vision. The journey involves crafting a compelling narrative, thorough editing, and often, enduring the rigours of submission and rejection before finally seeing your work in print.

For many, the question isn’t just about how to write a book but about the strategies to get it published. Despite the challenges, getting your book published with the right approach and persistence is an attainable goal.

Step 1: Understanding the publishing process

Understanding the differences between traditional publishing and self-publishing is essential for authors deciding how to publish their books. Traditional publishing means working with an established publisher to manage editing, design, marketing, and distribution. This offers professional editing, marketing support, and wider distribution but requires getting a literary agent and facing a competitive, often slow selection process.

Self-publishing allows authors to control every aspect of their book's production and sales, leading to quicker publication, more creative freedom, and higher sales royalties. However, it requires significant personal investment in editing, formatting, and marketing to ensure quality. We have a handy self-pub checklist here!

Before seeking publication, authors should understand their market and genre. Knowing your audience and the trends in your genre helps guide your writing and publishing strategy.

Step 2: Preparing your manuscript

Once you have a solid understanding of the publishing landscape, the next step is to write a manuscript that stands out. Creating a book that captures and retains reader interest goes beyond having a unique idea or captivating story. It involves deep character development, engaging dialogue, a structured plot, and an immersive setting. Engage readers by showing rather than telling, letting them experience the story through actions, thoughts, senses, and feelings, not just the author's descriptions.

Professional editing and formatting are crucial. Even the most skilled writers can miss errors or be unaware of weaknesses in their work. A professional editor can transform a potentially overlooked book into one that is compelling and polished, offering insights into plot coherence, character development, pacing, and structure.

Professional formatting ensures your book meets industry standards and offers a smooth reading experience. Good formatting improves readability and visual appeal, key for keeping readers engaged. Whether aiming for traditional or self-publishing, a professionally edited and formatted manuscript greatly enhances your chances of success.

Step 3: Finding the right publisher for your book

Identifying the right publisher is a pivotal step in your book's publishing journey. Start by researching publishers who have a strong history of publishing books in your genre. This alignment ensures they have the expertise and audience base that matches your book's content.

Understand your genre

Make sure to have a deep understanding of your genre and the nuances that distinguish it. This will help you identify publishers who specialise in your area and increase the likelihood of your manuscript being accepted.

Research publishing histories

Look into the publishing histories of potential publishers. Those with successful books in your genre are more likely to understand how to market and sell your work effectively.

Check submission guidelines

Always check the submission guidelines of each publisher carefully. Some publishers may not be accepting submissions at the time you're looking, or they may have specific requirements for submission that your manuscript must meet.

Attend literary events

Literary festivals, workshops, and conferences can be excellent places to learn about publishers, make connections, and even pitch your book directly to publishing representatives.

Seek recommendations

If you know other authors in your genre, ask them about their publishers and if they would recommend working with them. First-hand experiences can provide invaluable insights.

Evaluate their distribution channels

Research how a publisher distributes its books. A publisher with a strong distribution network can ensure your book reaches a broader audience.

Consider the publisher's size

There are pros and cons to both large and small publishers. Large publishers have more resources, but smaller ones may offer more personal attention. Consider what is most important for you and your book.

Analyse their marketing and support

Find out what kind of marketing support publishers offer their authors. This support can be crucial in getting your book noticed by readers.

Read the fine print

Before agreeing to anything, carefully read the terms of the publishing contract. Understand your rights, royalties, and any obligations you are committing to.

Trust your instincts

Finally, trust your instincts about whether a publisher feels like the right fit for you and your book. Your relationship with your publisher is crucial, and it's important that you feel confident and comfortable with their approach.

Literary agents can also serve as valuable intermediaries in finding the right publisher, mainly if you aim for traditional publishing routes. They have industry connections and knowledge to match your manuscript with the ideal publisher.

Step 4: Join a query letter with your manuscript

A well-written query letter should succinctly introduce your manuscript and yourself, compelling the recipient to want to read more.

Here are some tips to create a standout letter:

  • Be clear and concise: Your letter should be no longer than one page. Make sure to use the right letter format.
  • Personalise your letter: Address the publisher or literary agent by name. Show that you have researched and chosen them specifically.
  • Introduce your manuscript: Provide a brief, engaging summary of your book. Highlight what makes your work unique and exciting.
  • Include your bio: If you have any relevant background, publishing history, or credentials, include them. If not, it's okay to be brief.
  • Showcase your writing style: The tone of your query letter should match the tone of your manuscript.
  • Proofread: Ensure your letter is free of typos and grammatical errors.

This letter could be your ticket to getting published. Take the time to craft a personalised, polished, and professional letter that showcases the best of your manuscript and yourself.

Step 5: Submitting your manuscript

When ready to submit your manuscript, it's important to follow submission guidelines closely. Publishers and agents provide specific instructions, including manuscript formatting, whether to include a synopsis or cover letter and preferred submission method (email or post). Adhering to these guidelines is critical to making a positive impression.

If submitting via email, use a professional email address that ideally includes your name. Avoid outdated or informal emails that might undermine your professionalism.

Ensure your submission includes all required documents, such as your query letter, manuscript, synopsis, and any other requested materials.

Submit to one agent or publisher at a time. If simultaneous submissions are allowed, inform potential publishers or agents that your manuscript is under consideration elsewhere. Otherwise, wait for a response before submitting to another.

Keep records of all submissions, including dates, recipients, and any responses. This helps you track your manuscript's progress and manage follow-ups efficiently.

Step 6: Dealing with rejections and acceptances

Rejection is a natural aspect of the publishing process, and even successful authors have experienced numerous rejections before achieving success. When you receive a rejection, it's crucial to stay professional and thank the publisher or agent for their time.

If you're given feedback, reflect on it thoughtfully and use it to refine your manuscript. However, be cautious about making significant alterations based on a single rejection – remember, publishing is subjective, and what might not appeal to one publisher or agent could well suit another.

Conversely, an acceptance can be an exhilarating milestone in an author's career. Seize the moment to celebrate, then swiftly attend to any requests for revisions or contracts. It's vital to meticulously review any contracts before signing and possibly seek legal counsel if necessary.

Pros and cons of self-publishing

Self-publishing offers authors control and flexibility over the publishing process, but it also comes with its challenges. Here's what our team often hears from our clients:

Aspect Pros of self-publishing Cons of self-publishing
Control Complete creative control over content, cover design, and marketing. All responsibilities fall on the author, from editing to cover design, which can be overwhelming.
Royalties Higher royalties per book sold compared to traditional publishing. Typically, 40-60% of the list price on eBooks. Must sell books directly or through platforms that take a cut, affecting net earnings.
Pricing Freedom to set and adjust pricing. Pricing strategy can be challenging to optimize without market insights.
Speed to Market Can publish as soon as the book is ready; no need to wait for publisher timelines. Rushing may lead to inadequate editing or marketing, impacting book quality and sales.
Publishing Costs No need to share profits with a publisher. Upfront costs for professional editing, design, and marketing are borne by the author.
Distribution Direct access to large platforms like Amazon, allowing global distribution. Limited distribution outside of major online platforms; difficult to get into physical bookstores.
Marketing Full control over marketing and promotional strategies. All marketing efforts and costs are the author’s responsibility, requiring significant time and/or financial investment.
Audience Reach Opportunity to build a niche audience and use direct marketing techniques. Without a publisher’s network, it can be harder to reach a broader audience.
Professional Network Freedom to collaborate with any professionals of choice (editors, designers). Lacks access to the professional network and support a traditional publisher might offer.
Recognition Easier to publish and potentially gain recognition if the book does well independently. Self-published works are often not eligible for many prestigious literary awards and critical recognition.
Longevity Books can remain available indefinitely; no worries about being out of print. Without continuous marketing efforts, the book may quickly fade from public view.

Marketing your book as a self-publisher

As a self-published author, marketing and promotion are critical for getting your book in front of potential readers. 

Here are 10 tips on how to effectively market your book:

  1. Use social media: It might be an obvious one, but it definitely comes first. Social is highly visual, so you can use your profiles on Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, and Goodreads to promote your book with a video. Engage with your followers and other authors to build a following. You can also join book clubs and groups to reach a larger audience.
  2. Create a website or blog: Having a dedicated website for your book or blog can help you reach a wider audience and showcase your work. 
  3. Create an audiobook: You can also convert your book into an audiobook to offer another format for readers. You can self-publish this as well.
  4. Offer freebies: Offering free samples or chapters of your book can entice readers to purchase the full version. You can also run a limited-time promotion for a discounted or free eBook.
  5. Book signings and author events: Book signings and author events are an excellent way to connect with potential readers in person. Partner with local bookstores, libraries, or cafes to host these events.
  6. Reviews and book bloggers: Reach out to book bloggers and offer them a free copy of your book in exchange for an honest review. Positive reviews can lead to more sales and exposure for your book.
  7. Press releases and media coverage: Contact local media outlets, such as newspapers, radio stations, and podcasts, about featuring you and your book. This can generate buzz and attract new readers.
  8. Collaborate with other authors: Partnering with other authors for cross-promotion or joint events can help expand your reach and introduce your book to a new audience.
  9. Set up Amazon ads: If you have self-published through Amazon, take advantage of their advertising services to target potential readers based on their interests and reading habits. You could consider using  tools like Midjourney to create a good book cover using AI.
  10. Book awards and contests: Consider submitting your book to literary awards or contests to gain recognition and attract potential readers. Winning an award can also boost your credibility as an author.

Developing a marketing strategy that includes social media, book reviews, author websites, and video promotions can significantly impact a book's visibility and sales.

Final word from our team

Marketing plays an important role in the success of a book. Authors should not solely rely on their publishers to promote their work; they must be proactive and take charge of their own marketing efforts.

By following the strategies discussed above, authors can increase the visibility and reach of their books, attract new readers, and ultimately achieve success in the competitive publishing industry.

Remember to evaluate and adapt your marketing plan as needed constantly, and never underestimate the power of connecting with your audience through genuine engagement.

Advice from a published writer
This article is always evolving and being updated regularly by our expert writers. Information featured in it has been fact-checked and verified.
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