Getting Published: Commercial Publishers

Authors have two avenues available to get their work published: using a commercial publisher or self-publishing. When going the commercial route, the author attempts to attract a commercial publisher to take on the project, where the publisher pays the author an advance (typically quite small – a few thousand dollars), and then edits, designs, produces, distributes and promotes the book.

The commercial publisher provides the author with credibility and wide distribution, and assumes the costs and risks of production, distribution and marketing.
But there are downsides to using them. The book publishing industry is struggling, making it difficult for a first-time author to find a publisher. And an agent is required, since most commercial publishers will not consider a book proposal without one. Landing an agent is itself a difficult and time-consuming project.
After the author submits a manuscript, a wait of six to 12 months for the book to be published is common. And the publisher may try to influence or direct the book's content in ways the author disagrees, setting up potential areas of conflict.
In addition, publishers are notoriously lazy marketers and typically expect the author to take on much of the marketing responsibilities. Publishers look for authors who have: well-trafficked blogs or websites; multiple public speaking engagements; columns published in large-circulation magazines, newspapers or websites; or appear regularly on radio or television.

In fact, if you don't already have an audience to whom you can directly sell the book – a "platform," in industry parlance – it will be tough to land a commercial publisher, no matter how strong your book idea.