Week 6: Get Published
Free Writing Course > Week 6 Get Published
How to get your guidebook published
It must have been hard work editing your book in Week 5. Fret not, for you are now one step closer to your dream - it’s time to get your guidebook published!
There are generally three ways to publishing:
1. Working with a publisher
Some years ago, publishers would pay their writers an advance, royalties and maybe even a lump sum. Unfortunately - from the perspective of the writer - these times are over. Nowadays, writers typically get a lump sum only, sometimes not even as an advance.
An advance is paid after signing the writing contract, and before the actual research and writing starts. Writers typically use the advance to cover some of the costs of their research trips.The publisher usually has a pretty good estimation of how many copies a book will sell, and is therefore able to pay the advance before the actual earnings come in.
Royalties are the commission given to the author for every copy sold. Hence, the better your book sells, the more royalties you will earn. There is no fixed royalty percentage, it all depends on the size of the publishing company and the 'brand image' you have as an author. If you are just starting out, your royalty percentage will be much lower than the one of an veteran author who has been in this field for decades.
For an idea, authors who are represented by agents get around 10-15% of the retail price of the book. For example, if you receive 10% of a $20 book, you earn $2 for every book sold, and $2000 for 1000 books. In many cases, there will be a stipulation in the contract stating that when the book reaches the 10,000 selling mark, the royalty will be raised to 12% and to 15% if the book crosses 15,000.
Commonly, authors receive royalties based on the 'price received' - what the publisher receives after the bookstores and distributors take a cut from the retail price.
Writing a book proposal
While most big publishing houses only hire writers for specific, commissioned guidebooks, for example when an updated edition is due. Other, mainly smaller publishers are open for new ideas from writers. In this case, you send them a book proposal. A book proposal's purpose is to sell your idea - the guidebook - to your prospective publisher, or in some cases, your literary agent.
The book proposal covers many of the aspects we have learnt in Week 1 - Getting Started, including your concept and target audience. Form your book proposal with the elements below:
Table of contents
Be precise and include a detailed table of contents, as it forms the outline of your book. The table of contents lets the publisher know what you are going to cover and what not.
Preview of content
Provide a preview or sample of one or two chapters of your book. This will showcase your writing style, and lead to a more detailed understanding of your book idea.
Include a short biography with your background, your other published works or projects, and other general information like your family size and your place of birth. A photograph is also useful. These information will put your book into perspective.
Sending your manuscript to a publisher
When the publisher has shown interested in your book proposal, the next step is to send a manuscript. A manuscript is your original, and often not fully edited work.
If the publisher decides to continue with your book project, he will assign one or more of his editors to sieve through your manuscript and align it with the publishing house's rules in terms of style, grammar and layout.
Engaging a literary agent
Big publishing houses receive many more book proposals and manuscripts than they can publish. To reduce workload for their editors, some publishers only consider proposals from literary agents. However, smaller publishing houses usually also accept proposals directly from the writer, and it does not hurt to ask.
The agent's role
An agent will submit your manuscript to one or more publishers at a time, negotiate the terms of the contract, fight for the best royalty percentage or lump sum and try to protect your rights.
Like estate agents, literary agents receive a pre-agreed percentage (typically 10-20%) of the sales they seize on behalf of the author.
How to find a literary agent
You can search for litery agents online, then approach them via email or give them a call. The Association of Authors' Representatives (AAR) has a good list of agents. Also look at acknowledgement pages of other authors, they may include thanks to the author's agent and his editor, two useful contacts you can keep.
Before contacting an agent, check that the specialization of the agent suits you; for example, don't ask a children's book agent for help regarding your travel guidebook.
Look for a few agents at a time. Some agents may be busy, so be patient. Wait for at least one week before calling them if they do not respond to your query.
2. Traditional self-publishing
What is traditional self-publishing?
Self-publishing means that the author decides to do the publishing on his own, handling as much as possible from editing, designing, marketing, distribution and storage, much like a D-I-Y business.
Pros and cons of self-publishing
When you self-publish, you have the freedom to control what goes into your book, without having to conform to the publisher's guidelines or house styles. It is also unnecessary to source for a publisher and literary agent, whose services require costs.
On the other hand, keep in mind that publishers employ professional editors with lots of experience, and the publisher's guidelines and styles are there for a reason. It is very likely that a book from an established publisher will have a more professional appeal than what you can create on your own.
When you self-publish, you must also bear all printing, storage and distribution costs. However, when your book sells well, you also reap and keep all the profits.
Steps in self-publishing
Traditional self-publishing is a tough job, and there are many steps to take care of.
3. Print on demand publishing
GuideGecko is a print on demand publisher, and we strongly recommend print on demand over traditional self-publishing, and sometimes even over working with a traditional publishing house.
Lower up-front costs
Print on demand (POD) and traditional self-publishing differ substantially. Traditional self-publishing - as well as working with a publisher - requires to print in bulk, hence the unit cost is low while the one-time offset costs are high.
With POD, you can print exactly the quantity you need, for example when an order is received. Therefore, you need a much smaller amount to start with, and you save on the printing and warehousing costs. There is also no wastage of unsold copies. In the case of GuideGecko, there are no costs at all, as your book is only printed whenever orders come in.
Due to the digital printing techniques employed by POD, the unit costs per book are typically higher than when printing in bulk. But it is always better to test your sales with lower start up costs. You can still print in bulk when your books sells well.
Faster time to market
POD has several other advantages: POD allows you to print one book at a time, faster than traditional publishing.
Therefore, your time to market is much faster. With traditional publishing houses, it often takes more than a year between the research and writing phase and the first appearance of the book in the bookstores. A lot of information may already be outdated by then, and you may have missed important events to promote and market your book.
Easier and more frequent updates
When you print small quantities, you can also update your book more easily. This is particularly useful for guidebooks, where facts such as email addresses, telephone numbers or opening hours and prices change all too frequently.
GuideGecko prints every single copy of your book whenever an order comes in. Therefore, you can incorporate changes as frequently as you like, and your readers will always get the latest version.
This is also ideal to test the market with different covers, prices or chapter arrangements.
Advantages of GuideGecko
When you publish on your guidebook on GuideGecko, you have the added advantage of GuideGecko's marketing and sales portal. Customers visit GuideGecko to find and buy guidebooks - yours could be right in the middle. When a visitor initially intended to buy a Lonely Planet, he might end up with your guidebook instead or on top!
Besides printed books, GuideGecko also allows you to offer your guidebook as a PDF download. This gives costumers additional benefits to buy your guide, as they can immediately access it after placing their order. In fact, many of our independent authors sell more PDF downloads than printed books!
Publishing on GuideGecko is free. You receive money from us whenever you book sells. You also keep all copyrights. We have a three step tour that explains how publishing on GuideGecko works, our services for writers, and your benefits and revenues. Please visit our Become a Writer page for more info. To publish straight away, go to our publishing wizard.
Perfecting your skills
To perfect your skills, move on to this week's suggested readings and short writing exercises. Get cracking!
You are almost done! The last, and perhaps most important chapter of our writing course, Week 7: Make Your Mark will be sent to you via email in a week's time. Find out more about our writing course and what you will learn.