To get started in publishing, aspiring authors should research the market for their work, determine the type of publishing they wish to pursue, revise their work carefully and submit their finished pieces to the most promising venues. When publishing, the most important decision a writer makes is whether to self-publish or pursue traditional publishing. Guidelines for publication also vary based on the type of work the writer wishes to create.
To pursue traditional publication for a fiction manuscript, the aspiring author should first edit her work until it is free from errors. She may wish to join a writing group or ask friends to proofread the draft. If she wishes to work with a larger publisher, the author likely needs to secure the services of a literary agent. To do this, she composes a query letter and sends it to various agents until one offers representation. The agent then contacts editors on the author's behalf. If the author prefers to work with small publishers, she can often query editors directly.
The process for non-fiction books is similar, but the author typically submits a book proposal rather than a query letter or completed manuscript. She does not write the book itself until she signs with a publisher.
If the author opts to self-publish, she uploads her finished manuscript to a publishing service and decides which formats to offer. Self-published authors often offer their work in digital format, and some also opt to offer hard-copy formats through print-on-demand or vanity publishing services. This option gives the author total creative control but also requires her to market her own work with no help from a traditional publisher.