To choose the best publisher requires two things: knowing the biggest names in publishing and knowing your book inside and out. You may be inclined to go with one of the “Big 5”, but competition is heavy and they might not be the best publisher for your work, anyway.
You should pick a publisher that will work with you, is suited to the nature and scope of your book, and will pay you a fair sum (not necessarily a huge one— a fair one).
The Big 5 book publishers
The Big 5 are the largest and most well-known publishing houses. You’ll recognize the names.
- Penguin/Random House
- Hachette Book Group
- Harper Collins
- Simon and Schuster
Getting your book noticed by one of the big five publishers is no easy feat, but if you manage it, you’ll earn instant credibility as an author. It can definitely be worth the effort to polish your manuscript to be the absolute best it can be.
You’ll also want to thoroughly research your chosen genre, as well as your target publishing company, in order to submit a book to a Big 5 publisher that stands head and shoulders abovethe competition.
Of course, the Big 5 aren't the only publishers out there. You may find a smaller publisher or independent press is the right choice for you. These smaller book publishing companies might offer a more connected, personal publishing experience, or they could be experts in your niche.
Make sure to include these smaller publishers in your research. They could wind up being just the right fit.
How to Publish a Book
It’s important to understand the various stages of the publishing process, so you know what to expect.
The publishing process kicks off with the writing stage. After all, there’s nothing to publish until you have written your manuscript. You may find it helpful to work in several phases, beginning with a rough draft and following it up with one or more polished drafts. Self-editing will be an important part of the writing process.
Pitching and Querying
When your book is complete, you can hire an agent and pitch your book to publishers using query letters.
Finding an agent requires some research into your book genre and the agents available who specialize in your niche. You’ll need to pitch several of them on the merits of working with you and your book. You’ll likely need to have some meetings in order for you both to consider working with each other. As much as you want to find the right agent for your book, agents want to find authors. With enough time and effort, you’ll land on the right one for your needs.
Once your agent is in place, you’ll work together to pitch publishers on your book.
For non-fiction books, you’ll write a book proposal that sums up your idea and the structure of your book. For fiction books, you’ll probably submit the manuscript as a whole.
Even though you have hopefully self-edited your book as thoroughly as possible, it’s no substitute for a professional view. Not only will your book benefit from beta readers (who make sure the plot or structure make sense and offer feedback from an “average reader” point of view), but also from hired editors.
The editing process can be quite long, even arduous for a writer, and have several “rounds,” which can include:
- Developmental editing (editing or even reorganizing entire blocks, sections, or chapters)
- Copy editing (editing for tone, grammar, and logic)
- Proofing (hunting for typos and other mistakes)
Editing can last from the writing stage all the way (in some form) to the final printed proofs. It’s one of the most important parts of publishing a high-quality, error-free work, ensuring it’s the best it can be.
Publishers will often have a team of editors who take on this work for your book.
Formatting and Design
Once your manuscript is polished and spotless, the production process begins. Designers and typesetters take over, formatting the book for the printed (or digital) page. Formatting a book makes your manuscript conform to common, standard book conventions — chapter breaks, page numbers, title page, and so on.
Book design concerns the aesthetic design of the book, both the inside pages and the cover. And since the cover is what people will notice first, it’s a crucial part of the book design process. Publishers have designers who specialize in book cover design, which is an art unto itself.
Files in hand, the publisher arranges for your book to be printed. There are many different options for printing, including offset and digital presses. The printing process transfers your words to paper, prints and attaches the cover, and binds all pages together. The final result will be the tangible, physical product you can hold in your hands and sign for loyal readers.
For digital books, there is no “printing,” but there is a special file format conversion process that takes place. This process insures that your book can be read on eReaders, such as an Amazon Kindle. The eBook conversion process retains basic book formatting and font styling so that the eBook reading experience is as pleasant as the print one.
When your book is complete, the publisher will distribute it to bookstores, warehouses, and online marketplaces — wherever books are sold. This gets your book to the bookstore shelves and other places that readers can encounter it. But distribution is only one part of getting books to readers — the other is marketing, which is the process of raising awareness of a particular book with its target audience.
Like it or not, marketing is hugely important to the success of your book. If no one knows about your book, they can hardly be expected to seek it out. Marketing your book lets people know what it’s about and why they should read. It may also let them know a little about yourself as the author and what makes you tick. There are many, many methods to marketing a book, but you’ll commonly be expected to have an author website and a social media presence at minimum. Publishers will often have entire marketing departments devoted to promoting a book, but you can promote your book yourself, too.