How to Write and Publish a Book

You may want to know how to write and publish a book if you've got an idea for a novel or piece of nonfiction. There are several routes you can follow.

Use the Services of a Literary Agent
If you want to publish a novel ort other works of fiction, you will definitely want to write the book, edit it and then seek out a literary agent. Fiction is the hardest market for a new writer to crack, so you will need the help of an agent to represent you to publishing houses.

If you want to write non-fiction, you can write a non-fiction book proposal plus a few sample chapters and submit them to literary agents, who will then represent you to publishing houses.

Legitimate literary agents will not charge you money to edit, shop around and negotiate for your book, but they will charge you when they actually make the sale by taking a cut of your advance and the royalties you are paid. Agents usually get 15% of each.

This is the most traditional publishing route, but it is also the most time-consuming. Agents are picky about who they represent, because they don't get paid unless your book sells and their reputations are built on the caliber of writers they represent. It's not easy to land an agent, but it will give you a shot at the best publishing houses, some of whom won't talk to you unless you have an agent.

Approach Publishing Houses Yourself
If you can't find a literary agent willing to represent you (agents are very picky as to who they take on, so realize this is typical for most new writers), you can approach publishing houses on your own. Read up on the publishing house to find out if they accept unsolicited queries or manuscripts. Look for submission guidelines and follow them to the letter. If the publishing house only accepts submissions from agents, you're out of luck until you land an agent. If they accept un-agented submissions, be sure to polish your book proposal, query letter and manuscript until they shine.

Self Publish and Self Market
If you don't want to go through the hassle of looking for agents and publishers, or if you have not found success in the traditional publishing route, you may wish to self publish through a reputable self publishing firm. You can publish on demand, meaning you pay a publishing company to print and bind a specified number of copies of your book, which are shipped to you. You then market and sell your books yourself. This is a good option if you want a few copies of a memoir for your family and friends or if you already have a niche market. For example, an avian veterinarian might want to self publish a book on parrot care, then sell it at bird shows and at the office.

Self publishing is the easiest and quickest route, but it is also the most expensive and labor-intensive. It is also held in low esteem by literary agents and traditional publishing houses. Anyone with the money can self publish, and there are no controls in place to monitor the quality of the work.

If you choose to self publish, hire a professional editor to review your manuscript. Formatting the book yourself according to industry practices will ensure a professional finished product. Following these steps can help you overcome the stigma associated with self publishing, should you decide to look for an agent down the road.

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