A writer gets a book published by finding a literary agent who submits the work to publishers, sending the book to publishers directly or self-publishing the book. Agents and publishers accept only a small percentage of submitted material, whereas self-publishing ensures book publication as long as technical specifications are met.
A writer finds an agent by querying individual agents or agencies with a book proposal. Agents market the book to publishing contacts and typically take 15 percent of the author's advance and royalties for the life of the book contract. Some publishers only consider book proposals submitted through an agent. However, many publishers accept directly submitted book proposals or complete manuscripts. Sending the book straight to publishers for consideration helps the author avoid the ongoing payment of the agent's fee. Writing an effective query letter and proposal or synopsis is an important step in catching an agent or publisher's attention. Because the process of landing an agent or publisher is so highly competitive, attending conferences, seminars and book festivals to meet agents and publishers in person is often helpful.
There are a number of options for self-publishing a book. Many publishing houses are set up with services to assist a writer with self-publishing, but these companies usually charge a significant amount of money for their help and do not typically assist the author with marketing or distribution. Other distributors and publishers, such as Smashwords, CreateSpace, Kindle Direct, Apple iBookstore and Nook Press, publish and distribute books for a percentage of sales, without upfront fees, as long as the writer supplies print-ready digital files.