Publishing A Book – A Beginner’s Guide

Publishing A Book

So, you wrote a novel. Well done! Now, there is a hard task ahead of you and it’s time to make some decisions. You’ll spend a lot of time on logistics of the things to come – publishing a book. Brace yourself and once more, onto the breach!

Publishing a book is a long process that depends on your willingness to work hard and learn new skills. Whether you’ll go into negotiating with publishers or self-publish – you’ll learn a lot.

As I am preparing to publish, hopefully this year, I researched my possibilities and I must tell you, I am very strongly opinionated on the subject.

Publishing A Book – Options

Basically, if you are headed towards publishing a book, you have two choices ahead of you:

  1. Traditional publishing
  2. Self-publishing

We’ll discuss both. I’ll tell you what I think and you’ll choose the right path for you and tell me what you think!

These two differ in every aspect – to begin with editing process, then designs and finally marketing.

Before we begin, I strongly believe that it all comes down to personal preference. I know I have self-published and traditionally published authors among my readers and both groups do a great job.

Traditional Publishing

Publishing A BookTraditional publishing is a mainstream process of publishing your novel via a publishing company. It means you are selling the rights for your work to a company that chooses to publish your book.

It might be my need to have the control over everything, but I am uncomfortable with this. Of course, a publishing company isn’t an evil corporation that is out there to grab money on the expense of its authors and readers.

Publishing company, indeed, is trying to earn money but it’s the same with self-publishing only it is you who is out there to promote and earn.

The one thing you usually need to do when seeking a publisher is finding an agent who could negotiate a good deal for you.

Here’s how publishing works: you write a novel, pitch it to agents, one agent wants to represent it for a commission, agent sends it to a publisher, publisher decides to buy it, you get a paycheck and your book gets published. But, when publisher hands you five or ten thousand dollars for the rights, they sell the book at their pace and you get little or no commission from the sales until publishers earn the money they gave you.

First of all, finding an agent who has good contacts, likes your novel and wants to represent it is a long and tiresome process. I’ve been reading recently a lot of posts on being rejected – it happens. It’s not the end of the world but we all at one point hope the first agent we send our book to will fall in love with it.

After months and months of sending queries and on the brink of loosing your hope it happens! An agent wants to pitch your book to a publisher! Let’s say publishers love it at once and you start another process that takes months. Revising your novel to suit the emotional beats bound to have readers fall in love with your novel – your idea gets deconstructed and reconstructed to suit the market. That’s a good thing when you’re writing to sell (okay, I might be too harsh now).

And finally, your book is done and it gets published – you get a few deals to promote your book in bookstores and then you all sit down and wait.

The truth is, publishers have all the rights and their advertising consist of putting the book on shelves, covering their loss (the one they payed you) and waiting for the book to sell. You don’t have the right to publish a few chapters yourself to get the public interest. They won’t want to make you a star author – they have those already.

It’s not all so dark, you have a lot of help during the process. They will do the editing for you but the amount of things they’ll want to change can’t be forecast.

Once it’s published, you get around 25 complementary copies of books that are too expensive compared to Amazon. All the rest you need to buy at a discount (not at the printing cost).

Now, imagine being an author full-time and waiting to have your book bought!


This was a revolution in publishing. This way of business suits my personal taste of having the full control over editing (even if I mess up, I learn from my own experience), I can experiment, I’m in charge of designing and the most importantly of marketing my work.

Not everyone enjoys the idea of this, but after three years of studying communication, writing content and marketing it is my passion. Publishing a book was never as much designed for authors as it is today.

Once you’ve written your novel you have two options: pay professionals to edit your book, prepare it for publishing and design the cover OR you do it yourself!

If you ask a professional to do it, it costs more but it’s recommended. The beauty here is that you can get a free software to design covers, advertise on your website and via social media and have friends or followers read your novel, mark what they like and what they dislike and edit it yourself.

Amazon and their partners offer you possibilities and freedom in publishing a book.

I know it sounds like I’m advertising for them. If I did I’d have to tell you that, but I’m not, I’m just a fan.

First thing you should do when self-publishing a book is, of course, having a group of people willing to go through your novel and help you shape it a bit. But you don’t need to do it if you’re feeling avant-garde.

Then, use software to design your covers while preparing your audience for the big launch. Do the preparation for publishing (text alignments, breaking, etc) and just upload your manuscript, set the launch date and prices.

There are three major opportunities: e-book version, print and audio.

All three are free! Amazon and partners take a commission (30% usually, 50% for audio and 70% for e-books that sell for under $2,99). You get free printing on demand, free publishing on Kindle and free recording of audio version.

The only thing you have to worry about after all this is getting your audience to the book. And it’s usually done by publishing a few chapters, running a blog or a site and having social media presence.

I’ll go in depth about Amazon and partners later. This is all you need to know for now about your possibilities in publishing your novel.

Good luck and keep writing!

Author: Mladen Reljanović

Mladen Reljanović is the founder and lead writer at Writer to Writers. He is the author of Oaktown stories, senior student of communication and a pianist.

27 thoughts on “Publishing A Book – A Beginner’s Guide

  1. Thank you for opening my eyes to the publishing process! I am in the early stages of writing my first novel and I know it’s a long road ahead. I guess the decision of traditional or self-publishing will come down to how big my blog/social media presence is when I’m ready to publish. I enjoyed this informative read 🙂

    1. I’m very glad this helped you. I’ll dissect the self-publishing process step by step during the next few days so stay tuned for more.
      I wish you the best of luck with your novel 🙂

    2. I am looking forward to reading more about self-publishing as well, since I am likely to go that route in the future. Thanks 🙂

  2. Very informative article. I’m starting to explore my options on the publishing route and this definitely helped shed some light!
    Keep up the good work.

  3. What are your thoughts on hybrid publishers like Page Publishing? If you are unfamiliar with them they help with what a traditional publisher would, but you retain the rights and pay them upfront instead of a traditional advance. You then get to keep 100% of the royalties.

    1. It’s probably an interesting concept in the western world but it’s the only way publishers do business in my country (except when an author is awarded free publishing via competition). It devastated the state of publishing. Not only do we have highest taxes on books in the region so no one will buy them first hand (not even libraries, they import books to save money) but authors cannot publish because they truly have no money.
      I think it’s a good idea to work that way in a country where authors can afford it and can know their books will sell. In my country no one can predict sales.

      But that’s an interesting question. What do you think? 😀

    2. Right now that’s the route I’m going with my first novel. They offer a rather affordable package that is broken up in chunks (I’m in no way uber wealthy, but tanking the bottom of middle class) which does make it more of an attractive pull for first time authors. The part I like most about it is the editing services (part of the package) and marketing, both skills I’m found wanting in. It’s not that much more than you’d pay a professional cover artist and editor plus there are a lot of really good additional little bonuses.
      Overall, it was a hard choice. I shopped my novel around to agents for well over a year with only a lukewarm response and self publishing seemed the best option at the time until I came across this. It really is the best of both worlds.
      Where do you live, if you don’t mind me asking?

    3. I’m glad it works for you and if the editing is affordable and you keep 100% of commission that’s awesome (here they even take a small portion of sales after you pay them upfront).
      I live in Bosnia and Herzegovina – a small country between Croatia and Serbia, by the Adriatic See. We have really bad policies concerning books and publishing so the public interest in reading is low because of the prices (I mean, to be fair, books are all around $10 but that’s much higher than people can afford and much higher than in neighboring countries).

    4. Yeah, I have family in Croatia, so I know where you’re at and the situation. Considering that, I see why you’d be leery of my choice and spring for self publishing.
      When you publish, do you only do locally or internationally?

    5. Ha, it’s a small world! I’m going for international publishing now – I’m writing in English then rewriting extensively to improve it as much as possible. I didn’t have much luck publishing here as I can’t really afford it. It’s much safer to find an editor who can go through my novel before I publish and make sure I have good stuff to publish, then to pay a large sum of money to get published here and then sell nothing 😀

    6. Isn’t that just always the way 😂
      Best of luck to you, though. I really like your blog and have been reading past posts, good stuff! Thanks for visiting my sporadic attempt at a blog as well.

  4. Hi.
    For me, it was always going to be the self-publishing route; the idea of handing over any of the rights to my work brought me out in a rash. It’s a hard and very long road but worth the effort, if not for the potential financial reward, then for the satisfaction of being in the driving seat for the journey. There are plenty of free tools that can help you take a story from your brain to the printed or digital page, and produce all the tinsel you need to throw at it too, like book cover design, creating a book trailer, etc.

    The only aspects of publishing my novel that I handed over to someone else was editing (you do need someone else to glance a critical eye over your manuscript) and audiobook production, and they’re not cheap if you want it done well. ACX (the Amazon arm of audiobook publishing) do have the option for royalty share between author and producer (the one who narrates the book for you), but personally I would steer well clear of this option, because you will find it next to impossible to take your finished audiobook away from the Amazon ecosystem—and the chance of an unknown author managing to get a producer to agree to a royalty share is unlikely anyway. I forego buying a new car and instead used the money to pay a very talented voice actor to produce my audiobook for me via ACX.

    My advice is to self-publish and have fun while negotiating the learning curve 😉

    1. That’s a good piece of advice! Thanks fir sharing that and I agree, it’s a hoot. I love the idea of doing it all by myself (except editing but how will I pay for it I don’t know – I’ll probably just send it out to as many people as possible to get feedback).

What are your thoughts on this?