Creative Success, LLC

How to Publish a Real Book

Kristin Marquet

So many of you are looking to get published and the landscape keeps changing. Here is an excellent overview by a player in the field! Great information here!

Creatively yours,



How to Publish a Real Book

As a leader in your field it would be remiss of you not to share your thoughts and expertise with the wider world by producing an exceptional book simply bursting with ideas.

Contrary to popular opinion, finding an audience for your book is not the challenge it once used to be. Whether you are a whizz at restoring mid-century modern furniture or an expert on the history of a small sea-island, the internet has opened a direct channel to finding people who want to learn what you know. The real challenge is getting your book into their hands.

There are essentially two options available to you: self-publishing and traditional publishing. While there are many, many differences between the two routes, the most obvious one is bookshops. If you publish your book through a traditional publisher it will be available in bookshops. If you self-publish, it most likely will not.

Here is a quick run-down of the processes for both self and traditional publishing to help you decide which route is best for you:

Traditional Publishing

This is arguably the simplest option, but also the most competitive - think getting into Harvard versus going to the local community college. If you can get a traditional publisher interested in your book, then that publisher will take all the work of book publishing off your hands, leaving you to focus entirely on creating the best possible content. However that is a really big "if."

The number of traditional publishers is dwindling fast, and in reality there are only six "big" publishing houses left.


  • A publisher takes on most of the financial risk.
  • Your book will most likely make it into physical bookstores.
  • You will receive an advance.
  • Your book will benefit from the focus of years of expertise in book editing, design, production, marketing and publicity.
  • Your book will be published in both print and all relevant digital formats, with no extra effort on your part.


  • To have any chance with the big traditional publishing houses you have to have an agent.
  • The publishing process can take one to two years from the time you submit your manuscript.
  • Unless your agent gets you a very good deal - unlikely for a first time author - your royalties will be much lower than if you self-publish.
  • You give up the rights to your content.

How to do it:

Non-fiction books are much easier to take through the traditional publishing route than fiction, for two reasons. Firstly, niche-audiences are highly attractive to book publishers, and secondly, you don't actually need to have written the book before you approach a publisher (not so with fiction).

The single most important step to getting published by a traditional publisher is to get an agent. Landing one, however, is not easy. The process is similar to job hunting, but instead of a resume and cover letter you are sending out a query and book proposal. For some great advice on writing a query letter and book proposal that will grab an agent's attention check out this advice straight from the horse's mouth.


Touted by many as the future of book publishing, the first thing you should know about self-publishing is that it is a lot of work. In fact, it can be a full-time, 60-hour-a-week job. Of course there are middle-men and women out there who will take certain parts of the process off your hands (for a fee), but ultimately you are taking on most of the work.


  • You get the highest possible percentage of sales.
  • You can usually make updates and changes to your book relatively easily.
  • You retain control over the pricing and marketing of your product.
  • In most cases you retain full rights to your work.


  • It is very time-consuming (did I mention that already!?).
  • Your book will not be sold in stores unless you pay to print them yourself and arrange distribution personally.
  • You have to market your book entirely on your own.

You can self-publish in print and in digital format, the former option obviously costing more money. If you are going the self-publishing route, many of the steps for digital and print are the same, just with different outcomes. My colleague Chris Wallace wrote this great post offering an overview of digital publishing, last year. While a few of the options have changed, most of this advice is still very pertinent.

Choose your self-publishing platform

Subsidy Presses / Print on Demand

A Subsidy Press or POD is a company that offers authors the ability to have their book printed on demand, i.e. when someone orders a copy. The subsidy press takes a cut of each book sold.

Createspace is the leader in this field. Owned by Amazon, Createspace touts itself as a fast, easy and free way to publish your work. It offers free tools, quick turnaround times and great reach through its connection to and Amazon's European websites. It also links into Kindle Direct Publishing, allowing you to create an e-book for the Kindle at the same time as your print book.

Other popular POD options include Lulu and Lightning Source.

Vanity Press

Essentially just a small-scale publishing house, a vanity press is a lot less selective in what it publishes, as it requires the author to pay for the majority of the publishing and printing process. Vanity presses are an expensive option and traditionally provide little to no support for marketing or distribution. This is really only a good option if you know you have 1,000 people lined up who want to buy your book - or you have an awful lot of storage room in your garage...

Whichever option you go for, make sure you choose one. Publishing a book has to be one of life's most satisfying experiences. Even if it's only your mother who reads it!

Allison Rice is the Marketing Director for Amsterdam Printing, one of the nation's largest providers of promotional products for businesses large and small. Amsterdam specializes in custom engraved pens and other items such as calendars, bags, and water bottles. Allison regularly contributes to the Small Business Know-How blog, where she provides actionable business tips.