How to get a book published?

My 8-year-old daughter has decided to write a book. She started it this weekend (so far it’s really good!). She also plans to add illustrations.

She is interested in trying to get it published but I have no idea where to even begin. Can anyone point me in the right direction?

You need to define what you mean by “published.”

Do you want just a bound copy for your daughter’s enjoyment? Do you want a bunch that you can give out/sell to friends and relatives? Or are you talking about sending it to a real publisher that would put it in bookstores?

The answers would be very different.

Many places that can do printing and copying can make books of a sort.

There is also a thing called “self publishing” where you pay someone to publish your book. It may cost you about 5 bucks a book for 100 books. Prices get better as the quantity goes up. Anyone can publish their own books.

To get a professional company to publish your book is an entirely different thing. You can find a copy of “The Writer’s Market” at your local library (or book store if you want to buy a copy) which will list various publishers, what types of books they publish, and how to submit your manuscript. While anyone can self publish, it is very difficult for new writers to get themselves published. Not surprisingly, book publishers prefer to publish books from established writers who they know are more likely to make them a profit.

While it would be cool to get it actually published, and I think she is hoping to get it published and sell it in a bookstore , I really think she’d be just as satisfied to see it in bound form. As for self-publishing, I honestly don’t have 500 spare dollars laying around to get it professionally published (I wish I did!)

Do you mean someplace like Kinkos? She has illustrations too…would they be able to do something with those as well?

It’s a story about bullying and how a group of girls tormented by the same bully band together and become friends, then end up befriending the bully. (She was bullied by a girl earlier this year so this is somewhat theraputic for her, I think.)

If you want to make a copy, basically for yourself, I would consider or its various similar competitors. Most people use the service for photo albums, but it seems to me a children’s book is also a perfect application. Cost ranges from $50 per copy for 8.5 x 11 leather-bound hardcover, to $13 for a half-sized paperback. You can print one, or many, and you can save your layout for future prints as well, if you want more later. The printing is magazine-quality, and you won’t get that at a kinkos.

You would need to take hi-resolution scans of the pictures. Then upload them, place/edit them as desired, and add the text.

You’re using the word “publish” where you should be saying “print.” You can pay someone to print books for you. That isn’t publishing.

Publishing is where a company pays you for your work and sells copies. They also do all of the relevant tasks required to actually sell a book, including listing it in catalogs, shipping copies, managing returns, and on the rare occasion, spending money to promote it.

It seems this comes up about once a month, and folks in the business have said that the average self-published book sells less than 100 copies. I suspect that average is skewed by a few well-marketed folks who sell a couple thousand through a popular blog or a radio show, and that 90% sell a few dozen, mostly to family and friends.

If you want to help your daughter’s book get published, send the book to a few agents who specialize in children’s books and see if any of them think it could sell. I would wager that for this genre, few if any publishing houses accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Well, if you walk into a Barnes & Noble and look around at the children’s book section, how many of those were written by 8-year-olds? None, I’m afraid.

There might possibly be a chance at a local interest story about a young girl writing about bullies, but I’m afraid that happens all the time these days. It’s not big news unless you get very lucky.

There’s also the reality that she hasn’t even finished the text and hasn’t started drawing any of the illustrations. What if she gets distracted by the next project that comes along?

Unfortunately, there are few good services for printing a single copy of a book. A photo book service such as the one Hello Again suggested may work, but I don’t know how well they incorporate text. The final product also won’t look much like the children’s books she’s used to. The advantage is that you can use their software and not learn how to format a proper book and create a .pdf.

If you do know how to use Word or the equivalent and have the scanner, then you could probably create a book yourself (Word has a “booklet” function that sorts the pages into the proper order for printing) and take that to a local printer and have it printed and bound fairly inexpensively.

It might even be easier to talk to local parents or teachers and see if they’ve already done something similar.

But I’d wait until your daughter has a complete finished product. Maybe just doing the work herself would be sufficient and if not at least you’ll have the answers to questions (about number of pages and size etc.) that everyone will ask regardless.

It’s much easier and cheaper to self publish now than in the past. The 2 big sites are and Create Space which is part of Amazon. Both of them don’t require you to buy books , they are print on demand which means they only print when someone orders a book. Also the real publishers pay attention to those 2 sites to see what is selling and top sellers there can be offered contracts with real publishers.

I have heard good things about for the print-your-own route, and options start at pretty low prices.

Perhaps these terms are used differently in other parts of the world, but here in the UK there’s a big difference between ‘self-publishing’ and ‘vanity publishing’.

Self-publishing means you act as your own publisher, and publish books on a commercial basis. This may entail things like getting a book professionally printed, obtaining and applying ISBN numbers, promoting the book, then selling it and distributing it via various channels such as one’s own website or Amazon. This is a large part of my business and I’ve been doing it for over ten years (very profitably, I might add).

Vanity publishing means paying a vanity publishing company to print a small number of copies of your book for your own use, usually just to give away to friends and family.

Sometimes in vanity publishing there is an element of pretend evaluation involved. The VP company places ads that flatter the ego of wannabe writers and offers to ‘evaluate’ their work. John Wannabe sends off his manuscript and x days later the VP company automatically writes back and says ‘It does have merit, and you should consider getting some copies printed to show to people… oh, and by the way, we’d be happy to take care of that for you at very competitive rates’.

It does seem that the OP actually refers to getting a few copies of this book printed in bound and readable form, rather than securing a deal with a publishing company. As several Dopers have pointed out, there are numerous ‘small run’ and ‘print on demand’ printers that can take care of this.

I came in to recommend Blurb. I’ve used it a few times (for photo books rather than text) and found the service excellent.

We’ve used both Lulu and Blurb to print books with a combination of text and images. The pricing structure and format availibility of the two is a bit different, so the least expensive option varies depending on exactly what you’re trying to create: text v. images, colov v. black-and-white, page size, cover material, binding, book length, etc. However, as an example that’s probably similar to what you’re after, we got a 28-page softcover 8" X 8" full color book for around $15.00 (for a single copy) from Lulu. The quality probably wasn’t quite what you’d get from a bookstore-book, but it was pretty decent and well worth the cost.

The most distinct difference for us was formatting: Blurb has their own formatting program which is fairly easy to use, but is somewhat constraining and geared toward picture album type books. With Lulu, we could format the book ourselves in Word (somewhat tedious, but more versatile) with whatever mix of picture and text, and the company turned it into a pdf and printed from that.

In any case, I think going with one of these printing companies or a similar competitor is the way to go. As Exapno Mapcase says, the chances of actually getting published by a reputable company as an eight-year-old are somewhere between zero and infinitesimal, and would certainly require a lot of work for very little chance of success.

Lulu or Blurb or the like give you a finished product for not much money, and also offer a marketplace where other people could purchase the book. You’re pretty unlikely to actually sell any to anyone you don’t actually know, but it’s a fun perk that might make the book “feel” more official than a one-off from Kinko’s.

Those two sites are what I was looking for…thanks so much!

Actually, vanity publishing is much worse than that.

A vanity publisher convinces naive wannabe writers to sign contracts running into thousands and thousands of dollars, promising to edit, print, promote and distribute their books. This usually involves giving the author grossly unrealistic notions about the book’s prospects.

The editing service consists mainly of eliminating the most obvious spelling, grammar and syntax errors and giving the book a quick check to make sure it doesn’t say anything that might get the publisher sued.

The contract will specify a number of copies to be printed, usually about three or four thousand copies, but the contract only requires the publisher to print them, not to bind them. Only a few dozen copies will get bound.

The promotion will consist of a tombstone ad in, for example, The New York Review of Books, which will simply list the author’s book together with a dozen or two dozen books by the publisher’s other clients, perhaps with a brief line of description, as well as a listing on the publisher’s website. Book reviewers know the vanity publishers and know their product is crap, so review copies will get circular-filed rather than read and reviewed.

Book sellers also know who the vanity publishers are and know their books will most likely only take up valuable shelf space without ever selling a copy, so it is extremely unlikely that the author will ever a see his book for sale in a book store.

For all this, you’ll pay about seven or eight thousand dollars, maybe even more than ten thousand dollars.

Self-publishing is fairly respectable by comparison, so long as the author understands that the prospects of even modest success are remote and is still willing to invest time and money in the project.

Thanks, Polecat. Very informative… I obviously wasn’t aware just how bad the VP industry can be! However, I have a quibble or two about this…

First of all, why the ‘fairly’? I’ve been self-publishing for 12 years, and I don’t think there’s any part of what I do that isn’t eminently respectable! I’m running a successful business, helping others to do the same, paying my taxes and having a great time. What’s not respectable about that?!

Secondly, you’ll forgive me if I differ slightly about the ‘prospects of even modest success’, given that self-publishing has given me a very nice lifestyle for the past ten years.

The first point I would make is that whatever the chances of success may be, they are far better outside of the publishing industry than inside.

The second is that I don’t think such a sweeping assertion is either accurate or helpful. Let me offer you this comparison. Most business books will tell you that 90% of new businesses fail within the first year (or some similarly high and intimidating percentage). This is incorrect. Of those new businesses that are badly thought out, dumb, lazy, reckless-rushed-into or wildly impractical, sure, 99% of them will fail, and they will utterly deserve to. However, if you look at those who have a practical idea, keep their feet on the ground, start small and conservative and work up, have realistic expectations, a genuine willingness to work and a cautious attitude towards expenditure, I should imagine 95% succeeed. The joy is in the details, and lumping them all together doesn’t help anyone.

It’s the same with self-publishing. If you offer something that people want and if the product is good, then only massively rotten bad luck can stop you being a success.

As an aside, I have a question.

When someone is considered a ‘published author’, does that include self publishing and vanity publishing?

If you’ve only been self published can you call yourself a published author? Or is that meant to be commercially published authors?

What about vanity published authors? Can they call themselves ‘published authors’?

It depends on who you mean by ‘someone’. You can go down to the local print shop, have them bind something up and then call yourself a ‘published author’, if you want. But no one in the publishing industry, and no one who knows anything about publishing, would consider you published.

Vanity publishing is basically an expensive version of the local print shop. That’s exactly how the industry sees it. It’s not a publishing credit.

The odd thing is that, as far as I can tell, the only people who ever feel the need to call themselves ‘published authors’ are vanity-published. I can’t think of a situation in which someone who’s commercially published would use that term. If someone asks, ‘What do you do?’ you’d say ‘I’m a writer,’ not ‘I’m a published author.’

I disagree a little. The big problem with self-publishing, as far as I know (never done it), is getting your book to readers, without the traditional distribution channels that big publishers use. It doesn’t matter how good the book is if no one knows it’s there.

I think that should probably be ‘If you offer something that people want and if the product is good, and if you work your arse off learning the business so that your product is visible where it needs to be, then only massively rotten bad luck can stop you being a success.’

From everything I’ve heard, self-publishing is not for the half-hearted.

You can call yourself whatever you want. Who’s going to stop you? The question is what others think of you. And then the question becomes which others.

If your friends and family want to think of you as a published author, they will. It’s much less likely that a professional writers organization will accept you for active membership, however, because that is almost always limited to commercially published authors. (This has become a huge and contentious issue in certain areas, so it really is important for some, eclectic wench.) Those in the middle will probably judge by whatever their standards are and on a case to case basis. ianzin would likely be known as a published author, although I don’t think he would qualify under current rules for, say, The Authors Guild.

Just as he claims LonesomePolecat is too sweeping, I say he is too narrow. Current estimates are that 100,000 self-published books appear in the U.S. every year, a number that keeps rising. The estimate is also that they sell a combined 10,000,000 copies. (That’s less than James Patterson by himself.) At 100 copies average per book, you cannot say that self-published books as a category create published authors in even the loose sense.

A few self-published books and authors do very well, of course. But that doesn’t elevate the category. You could always find a few vanity press books that did very well and nobody accepts that those elevated the category. Vanity publishing is not publishing even though some people made money off of it.

I’m self-published myself for certain books that have a specialty audience so please don’t think that I’m in any way knocking the model. They are very good books that look and feel as good as most commercially published books and a whole lot better than many. But I’ve been published commercially and these are extensions of my earlier career. I hope to publish commercially in the future as well. There is a difference. Maybe some day that difference will vanish or maybe a third middle category will become defined. We aren’t there yet. There’s a stigma against self-published books as a category that is legitimate and deserved. Individual cases are exceptions, but that’s all they are for the present.

I have done it, for over ten years, and there is no problem at all.

I could sell through bricks and mortar book stores if I wanted to, but I choose not to because there’s very little profit in doing so.

I sell books via Amazon, via my own personal website, and via SPWs (single product websites). My books are on sale, quite literally, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and anyone can find me or my work via Google or any major search engine in a fraction of a second. I have sold books to customers in over 60 countries around the world last time I bothered to count them up. So all in all, I don’t see that distribution is any sort of problem at all.

As for ‘people can’t buy it if they don’t know it’s there’, this argument applies regardless of which distribution and sales channels you use. You could have a copy of your book in every book store in the world, but so what? Perhaps it would just get lost amidst all the others.

Promoting a title and building awareness is a task to be faced no matter whether you sell via book stores or online, but it’s far easier to tackle it successfully and efficiently online. I can find the people who are likely to be interested in a given title very easily, and target my promotional efforts very accurately, without ever spamming and without ever paying a single penny in advertising.

What’s more, promotion is only important to secure the ‘first wave’ of sales. After that, if your work is any good, word-of-mouth will do the rest.