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Four Ways to Get Published

Many people have a dream of getting published. Most of us have a book inside just waiting to get out. Few people ever go to the trouble of writing it, but for those that do, here are some ways to get it out into the wild.

Traditional publisher

This is the dream of all aspiring writers — to be “published” means that you have pitched your book to an agent, or directly to a publishing company, and been accepted. The publisher will provide an editor, which may or may not be the acquisition editor that purchased your book and worked with you on your contract, commission a cover design, handle all costs of layout and graphics, pay for printing and shipping, handle distribution and some level of marketing. Usually there will be some kind of cash advance to the author upon signing the contract. For first time authors, don’t expect much.

The traditional publisher will provide a certain agreed-upon-in-advance (by contract) number of author’s copies. Author can purchase more at a discount. For well-known authors or a book with a lot of interest, the publisher may do some advertising and arrange book tours.

All sales to bookstores, libraries and non-traditional outlets will be handled by the publishing house’s staff. Author will receive royalty checks, usually twice a year, once the advance has been “earned out.”

A traditional publisher will never ask you for money, except as mentioned when you need to buy more personal copies of your book. Keep in mind that there is a cost to create those finished copies and the publisher is in business to make money, so they can stay in business and pay your royalties.

Vanity publisher

This is a company that has the capability of publishing professional-looking books but not the financing to do it as a traditional publisher. The vanity house wants the author to underwrite some or all of the cost of publishing the title. These companies came to be known as “vanity” publishers before the days of easy self-publishing because “vain” writers who were more interested in seeing their names on a book than the art and craft of writing needed to satisfy their egos and somebody had to give these people, who often had plenty of money for the project, a way to realize their goal of becoming a “published author.”

Please note that if you have a book you want to see in print, even if you aren’t “vain,” but have exhausted yourself trying to get published traditionally, you can certainly use a vanity publisher if you want. Get some samples of some of their books and if you’re satisfied with the quality, give them your money. But just don’t let one of these companies pursue you and tell you how great your story is and try to convince you that “publishing has changed” and “authors these days have to pay for all or part of the cost.” This is not a traditional publishing arrangement and you need to keep this in mind. As long as you are clear on that, use them if you believe it’s your only way to get into print.

If you use a vanity publisher to get published, go in from a position of strength. Tell them you will allow them to publish your book and you are willing to pay, but negotiate. Don’t pay their price. Pay your price. Think of it as your way of self-publishing.

Book packager

A book packager is a company that may not have all the moving parts in place for publishing a book, but they have the ideas and sources of money. They often seek out authors to write, artists to design, and printing companies to print. They will farm out the distribution. They will hire a marketing firm if the title will support the expense.

The packager will put all the pieces together and create a book where they believe there is a need. They will hire the author and the artists and pay for the printing. Perhaps they will offer an author a piece of the project in return for writing it. In fact, that may be your only payment and it may not be guaranteed. Negotiate some form of payment up front so you at least be compensated for your time. As an author, you can make money working with a book packager, but you should never have to spend money to do it.


If you’re so inclined and are tired of trying to get published traditionally, or just don’t want to go that route in the first place, do it yourself. There was a time when it was said that “no bookstore will carry a self-published book.” Well, self-published books used to look like crap so it was true. But now with the advent of print-on-demand and services like Amazon’s KDP, there is no reason that a self-published book has to look like crap.

A word of warning though. If you want to self-publish, be aware that using something like Microsoft Word or other word-processing programs isn’t going to get you a book that looks like a traditionally published work without an immense investment in time. These programs, even today, don’t have the layout features that standard book layout programs such as InDesign, QuarkXPress or FrameMaker have. These programs are expensive but make the process of typography much easier. Of course you have to know typography to be able to produce a book that looks like it was laid out by a professional typesetter. If you must use a word processor, learn the intricacies of typesetting and find those features in your program if they exist. Use them to the best of your ability and perhaps have a friend who knows typography look over your finished product.

If you decide to use Amazon’s KDP platform, you will most likely just be selling online, but they do have an expanded distribution option that will allow bookstores to order your books. If you expect to do any kind of volume, your book will still need to look professional. Remember that saying about self-published books in bookstores? Well, it’s still true. The reason there are self-published authors in bookstores now is because their books look like “real books.” Make sure yours does too.



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Steve Walker

Steve Walker

Freelance writer. Broadcast Engineer. Computer guy. Linux geek. Libera fan.