The contemporary publishing environment is complex and can be difficult to navigate. New technologies and platforms for writing, publishing, and reaching readers with your content are constantly evolving. As a writer you should consider what your career goals and priorities are and which publishing pathway(s) will best serve those goals.
Broadly speaking, you have two pathway options; traditional publishing and self-publishing. Along those pathways, there are more choices to be made regarding format e.g. print, e-books, audio books, apps, and so on.
If your goal is to have your manuscript accepted by a traditional publishing house then there are a few things to take into consideration.
Finding a publisher
To find out about Western Australian publishers, go to Our Member Organisations and follow the links.
Further afield, the online Australian Writers Marketplace provides comprehensive information and listings for publishers throughout Australia.
Approaching a publisher
Submitting copies of your manuscript to publishers can be a time consuming and costly process. To avoid wasting that time and money, first research which companies are publishing the genre you’re writing in and submit only to the ones who might be likely to have a general interest in your work.
Once you’ve identified the publishers that you want to approach, and you’ve confirmed that they accept unsolicited manuscripts, the next step is to read and follow their submission guidelines. Submission requirements will vary from publisher to publisher and it will save you time and effort in the long run if you make sure at the outset that you are providing the material that has been specified, in the format specified.
Finding and approaching an agent
You may prefer to secure a Literary Agent to represent your work to publishers and handle the business of making submissions. In which case, be aware that as an unpublished author, it can be just as difficult to secure an agent as it is to find a publisher for your work. If you would like to know more about this pathway then read our article, All About Agents.
Building your CV
When making submissions to publishers or agents, it will help you get noticed if you have built up your writing CV with achievements in writing competitions or with publication in journals, anthologies, and so on. Keep in touch with competitions and other available opportunities by visiting our Noticeboard and subscribing to our e-newsletters.
It may also help your case when approaching publishers if you have invested in securing a manuscript assessment from a credible, professional assessor and they have delivered a positive assessment. For more information about this option read the article All about Manuscript Assessment.
Being offered a contract
Never sign a document you haven’t read. If you are unsure about any aspect of the contract, or your rights and obligations as specified in that contract, seek professional advice. The Australian Society of Authors offers a contract assessment service while Arts Law can be contacted for legal advice and also publish useful sample agreements, guides and checklists.
Also make certain that if you sign a contract to also keep a copy for your own records.
If you are interested in self-publishing then you will also need to consider whether you want to self-publish in print, digital or both. You will need to think about how you want your books to be sold and by who. And you will need to consider very carefully how much you are able to invest in your project.
You may want to manage all aspects of the publishing process yourself or you may want to outsource some or all of these responsibilities. Be aware that there are many companies currently offering publishing support services. Be cautious. Before you commit make sure you have done your homework, compared services, secured quotes and know precisely what you can expect for your money.
Visit the Literati database if you are looking for an illustrator, editor and/or book designer to work with you on your project. And explore Our Member Organisations for links to service providers and small publishers who can support you in other aspects of the process.
Self-publishing in print with the added goal of having your book stocked and sold in bricks and mortar bookshops is the form of self-publishing that will require the greatest financial investment from you and therefore carries the greatest risk. Before you commit to that investment and risk, we encourage you to read the very thorough, step-by-step information detailed in Self-Publishing.
(NB – even if you are not considering the self-publishing path, these resources are worth reading for the detailed insight they provide into the typical stages of the publishing process.)
Also be aware that managing distribution to book shops is one of the biggest challenges to be faced and that there are currently very few distribution companies that will accept self-published work.
If you are committed to the idea of publishing in print form but want to reduce the risks associated with overprinting (underselling) and large-scale distribution, then a more economical alternative to consider is print-on-demand – where you have the ability to print small quantities or individual copies of your book as and when the demand arises. Companies such as Ingram Spark Lightning Source provide reputable services in this area.
Alternatively, publishing in digital format only may be the right choice for you. New technologies and platforms for digital publishing are emerging all the time. Some options that you might like to explore for publishing and digital distribution of e-books include Smashwords and Ingram Spark.
And if you’re interested in simultaneously building an audience for your work as you write it, then you might like to investigate platforms such as Wattpad.
Finding your way through the various publishing options available to you can be challenging. We strongly encourage all writers considering taking the self-publishing or assisted publishing paths to do thorough research before entering into any contractual agreements or parting with any money.