For any author, it's good news to get published. The popularity of publishing material online has not diminished the honor of having one's book published in hard copy, and given a wide, mainstream distribution. Nowadays, the traditional method of publishing has been seeing competition with various other means, such as self-publishing, and publishing on-demand.
- Self-publishing basically means that you, as an author, contract a printing press, and you get to publish your book yourself. This gives you all editorial freedom, and you can do anything you want with your book-from the cover illustration, to the credits, and everything. But you also have to shoulder the costs of printing, marketing, and the like. For a writer, this can become a big headache.
- Publishing-on-demand, or POD, is also one popular choice among authors, and companies like Lulu.com and Mobipocket.com let you email them a print-ready PDF files, and you can sell these online. The books are only actually printed when someone orders. The problem with POD, though, is that you mostly don't have the decision on pricing, cover art, who will edit the book, and the like. And you still have the headache of marketing your book yourself.
- To publish a book that you hope to get mass distribution-even good enough to be a bestseller-you need to go the traditional route.
- Get a literary agent. First, get a literary agent, as these are persons with connections to publishing houses, marketing companies, bookstores, and the like. An agent will essentially be your business manager, and will do all the non-writing related work for you, so you can focus on writing. You can usually introduce yourself to a literary agent by submitting a summary of your story or book, and the first few chapters. If you don't have a manuscript yet, you can submit the summary and how you intend to write the book.
Once you have a manuscript, and if the literary agent thinks it has potential, he will then pitch it to publishing houses, and if they agree to get your book published, it's all easy work from there, as they will be the ones to print, market and distribute, and of course send you royalty payments (usually an advance).
- What to write? Now the big question is what to write about? When you think of best-selling books, what comes to mind are novels with wide appeal, like fantasy novels, or business/finance books, self-help books, and the like. You don't necessarily have to follow the trends, but these can help you determine what kind of niche you can get into. For example, the popularity of Harry Potter books have perhaps made the fantasy and adventure niche popular again, therefore bringing back Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia back into the limelight. So be aware of the trends. While you don't necessarily have to jump on the bandwagon, at least you have an idea of what the public wants.
- Market your writing well. By publishing through a traditional publishing house, it doesn't necessarily mean you have to leave all marketing with them. In this day and age, viral marketing can be an effective means to bring the word out about your book. If you're already an established authority on something, this can help spread the word about your book. Maybe you're a celebrity in your own right, in your own circles. You can harness the marketing potential of blogs, social networks and microblogging services in telling people about your book. You can send samples for review, so that people can write about it.
Publishing a book is big work-more than just writing and printing it. Getting a best seller out involves a lot of people, from you the writer, to your agent, to the publisher, to the marketers, and others.