Disclaimer: I'm not an expert on publishing. I just keep my ears to the ground and I hear stuff.
Chances are, many of you know a lot of what I'm going to be going on about, but there might be a few of you that don't. I'm hoping that the basic facts here will inspire whoever wants to get their novel, novella, short story, and poetry published to do their research before submission.
So. There are quite a few ways to get published now. You can go with the commercial publishers, the big press (usually prints and ebooks now) and small presses (there are quite a few epublishers now, so they generally do ebooks but a few of them have branched into print as well). And then there are the DYIs (self-publishing): vanity publishers, not-so-obvious-vanity publishers, and alternate resources.
The big press and small press are pretty self-explanatory. Examples of a big press are Random House, HarperCollins, Little Brown, Pocket...etc. Small presses? Ellora's Cave, Howard Publishing, Samhain...etc. How to reach those publishers? There are plenty of information on the internet now, but if anyone wants me to put up a flow chart, I can do that the next post.
But nope. This one is about self-publishing.
Self-publishing is rough. You don't have the marketing team backing you up and you basically have to rely on word-of-mouth and your own marketing skill to get the word out. There are a few instances where self-publishing is a good choice though: i.e. a book done for a niche group, a memoir that you want to share with just a few people...etc. There are examples of where people do "make it" as a self-publishing author, but those are few and far in between.
Vanity publishing is where you pay them to put together the book for you. Their bundles, from what I've seen, usually range in the three digits. The quality of the product and the service offered vary from publisher to publisher, but really, you don't get the backing as you would from any of the big or small publishers. They might offer cover art for you, but generally, the author pay for it out of their pockets. Some might offer to sell the books on their site, but to get it into the brick-and-mortar stores? That's all up to you.
The not-so-obvious-vanity publishers are the one where you should be cautious dealing with. They usually pass themselves off as a "traditional" publisher. Usually, these are the ones if you type in their name and "scam" on Google, results would come up with sites and pages dedicated to exposing them. You know how credit card companies have all those sneaky rates in fine prints? These are them. For example, they might charge you for a submission or a read (which, by the way, those commercial publishers don't). Or they might offer to help you edit for a fee (which should be done free if you have a reputable publisher or agent). Or they might accept your manuscript for publication if you get an editor that they'll recommend to you (that one is a bit of a gray area, but it can't hurt to be cautious).
The last one? We have places like Lulu.com where they use POD (print-on-demand). This is self-publishing without the bells and whistles of the other two, but also less messy to deal with if something happens. But here, you really are involved in every single step. You edit your work. You find a cover. You fix the placement of the cover. On the plus side, everything is pretty straightforward (although I have been hearing some things about Lulu lately).
Thing is though, whichever way or publisher you choose to go with: Do. Your. Research.Here's
a good place to check for whether or not the publisher you're looking at is reputable. It's a watchdog group and it certainly isn't federal regulated or whatever, but it seems pretty unbiased to me. In addition to publishers, they also have a list for agents and contests, I believe.
Anyway...hope that helped someone out there!